Part 1 - PreludeEdit
Celondosse gasped as Gwydion’s blade slid across his throat. Awoken from his trance, he reacted immediately, turning his body imperceptibly but with lightning speed to ensure the knife hit collar bone rather than aorta. Within a heartbeat he was on his feet, his own blade pointed at his assailant’s throat.
The half-elf sighed as he remembered his betrayal outside the town of Summerton those many months ago. He had been attempting to commune with the Spirit of Summer as the battle had raged around him, hoping for some kind of intervention that might prevent the needless bloodshed and seeking guidance on how the parched land could be healed. Just as he had thought he had broken through to the ethereal being, he had felt his comrade’s blade against his neck.
Even now as he rode up the steep, wooded mountain path he did not understand what had motivated his rainforest kin to attack him, nor why he had chosen that exact moment, just as contact had been made with the spirit. He had received clues though.
In the moment that Gwydions knife had touched his skin, Celondosse had received a flash of visions. They came and went like the roar of a hurricane, flashing with images of blood yet to be spilt. At the time they had come too fast to make sense of, but since that day he had often awoken in the middle of the night, filled with the terror of their premonition.
In his dreams he saw humans fighting human, the dead rising to pull down the living, the forces of chaos growing ever more powerful and above all, the blades, spears and arrows of the Vanwarim piercing the flesh of all those around them. One elven warrior stood, taller than the others, dressed in black armour, his face shrouded in darkness. In his hand he wielded the Menelmahtari, and in his eyes gleamed the need for slaughter. Whether the blade had been corrupted by the desires of the elves who had found it or whether they had been corrupted by some dark force within the blade itself, the result was the same: It now called for and drove the elves to destroy all humanoids not of their kind.
In his dreams Celondosse saw human villages set upon by his elven kin; he saw the burning, the torture, the slaughter of babes, and the defilement of the women’s bodies as they were used for the amusement of their attackers, but what scared him the most was the joy and madness in the eyes of his half-brethren. A fanatical zeal seemed to have overtaken them, how else could he understand their ability to commit such atrocities. This was not simply execution, but the taking of pleasure from the pain and suffering of others.
While he felt that these were visions of the future, he was not certain. Maybe it was simply a sign of his own madness; brought on by the deaths he had himself caused on the battlefield coming back to haunt him in the form of these nightmares, somehow given strength by his brief contact with the Spirit of Summer. This was what drove him now; he needed answers and hoped to find them in these mountains.
After the attack by Gwydion, Celondosse had left Summerton with all haste. The visions had left him with the impression that he needed to leave and leave immediately. After seeking healing for the cut across his neck he collected his belongings and had left the town. After a month of travel he had returned to his ancestral home in the great elven city of Bael'atir.. Here amongst the tall white towers he had sought the home of his Grandsire Tilanreial
Tilanreial was the logical choice as confidant to the young half-elf for his woes. He had been like a father to Celondosse as he grew up, due to the absence of his human father, just as Xantia his Grandmare had taken the place of his mother when she had died in childbirth. Together Tilanreial and Xantia had done their best to impart a sense of honour, duty and humour in their young charge as he grew up in a world that he never completely fit into. It had been his uncle Benoeth who had taught him the sword and given him his adult name; Celondosse “Boulder in the Stream”. But this had not been a time for Benoeth’s martial council; this was a time for the wisdom that only Tilanreial could give.
And so Celondosse had sought out his Grandsire and had learnt of his ancestors’ part in the loss of the Menelmahtari. Tilanreial told of the great shame of the family line, of Ranos and Ramereia, the warrior and the seeress who had secretly worked to destroy the Menelmahtari. At the time of their treason their adult children knew nothing of the work they did, one of whom was Tilanreial’s own Grandsire. Little was known of what they did in the time of the Great Division, but Ramos and Rameria disappeared shortly before Menelmahtari did.
Celondosse had at first been angered by this news, as his Grandsire had known he had joined the Vanwarim in search of the very blade his ancestors may have had a connection to and yet had said nothing of this earlier. Only when Tilanreial explained that this had been a recent discovery was the young half-elf placated. It was the next part of Tilanreial’s tale though that shocked Celondosse to his core.
An historian and archaeologist with a close connection to the Dragon King had recently discovered evidence about of a group who had called themselves the “Guardians of the Dawn”. Apparently this had been a group of elven heroes who had joined together in the time of the Great Division and fought for the protection of the innocent. The existence of this group had come as no surprise as they had been recorded in the histories, it was their connection to the disappearance of the Menelmahtari which had come as a shock and the evidence that Ramos and Remeria had been members of this mysterious group. The pieces finally fell into place as Talanreial explained how in the lead up to her disappearance Ramereia had apparently reported visions of blood and the same dark figure Celondosse had seen in his nightmares, wielding the Menelmahtari and bringing destruction to all the non-elven races.
Talanreial told of how the historian, Thalien, had uncovered a lead that suggested Ranos and Ramereia had intended to travel with other members of the Guardians of the Dawn into the mountains of Halsedia, for some unknown purpose. Thalien suspected that they had intended to find the Anvil of Corovax, the site that it was rumoured the Menelmahtari had been forged, in the hope that they might learn a way of unmaking the sacred blade. Thalien had put together a party of the Dragon King’s best warriors and set out to follow the trail. This had been two months earlier and no word had come from Thalien nor his party.
Thrilled by the thought of not only finding out about Ranos and Ramereia, but also to chase a tangible lead on the location of the Menelmahtari, Celondosse set about planning his journey. Through discussions with a boyhood friend who was now working in the Dragon Palace, he was able to learn where Thalien had intended to start his search. Apparently there was a cave network near the village of Qel, in the Halsedia Mountains. So it was that Celondosse had begun his journey into the mountains.
Part 2 – The Mountain PathEdit
Celondosse had now been traveling for three weeks and was hoping to reach Qel later that night. He shivered under his green cloak. Autumn had come to the lands and up here in the mountains this meant that snow had already begun to fall. He pulled his cloak tighter, trying in vain to fend of the bone-chilling wind. He had hoped to reach Qel before nightfall, but had been held up when he had to find another way over a river where a bridge he had intended to cross had fallen. It had been yet another example of a once magnificent elven structures that had crumbled to ruin through neglect brought on by a declining population.
The darkness didn’t bother him overly as while he may not have pure elven blood, his bright blue eyes could see much in the moonlit landscape. Confident in his woodsman skills and his keen ears, he rode on aware of the sounds of the forest around him. He was tired from the day’s riding and was struggling to keep his eyes open, the rhythmic swaying of his mount as it made its way along the path. He couldn’t say how long his eyes had been closed but suddenly he heard a monstrous roar off to his right and up ahead.
He was instantly awake scanning the forest in front and to the right, looking for signs of movement. His horse maintained its head despite the fear it must be feeling: he could almost feel its heart beating against his leg. That was when it hit.
As if from nowhere, a massive white shape slammed into the left side of the horse taking it to the ground. If not for his elven reflexes Celondosse would surely have fallen under his stead, but instead, launched himself into the air, landing clear of the carnage. The moon light and snow illuminated the beast: a white lioness, almost as tall as the horse and twice as wide, sinking its teeth into his stead’s throat, ripping the life from it in a savage tearing motion. The beast laid its eyes on Celondosse , its first target no longer a threat.
As it raised its eyes to meet Celondosse’s, he was already in motion and a flash of moonlight on something silver in the air between them was all that saved the cat from immediate death. Celondosse had used this move so often it was simply a reflex. As soon as his feet had touched the ground he had drawn one of his short gold hilted throwing knives and sent it sailing towards the lioness’s eye, hoping to end the fight before it began. The lioness was fast though and the glint of the moon was all that it needed to avert the full impact of the strike. Not enough to avoid injury though, the blade slicing across the beast’s left eye.
In the moment it took for the lioness to reel away, Celondosse drew his sword, a fine blade that had been in his family for generations and raced to his fallen horse, loosening his shield and pulling it free. The action happened just in time to stop a swipe from the giant cat’s right paw. Seeing the lioness’s bleeding left eye, Celondosse circled to his right. She swiped again with her right paw gouging his shield, but not knocking him from his feet. Tentatively he tested her vision on her injured side with a quick strike at her left shoulder. The blade bit and he pulled it clear just in time to avoid her teeth closing around the sword as she lunged in response to the sudden pain. Her reaction confirmed it: she’s was blind on her left side.
Sensing her weakness Celondosse repeated the action again and again, each time creating shallow cuts in her left shoulder and each time withdrawing his blade just in time to avert her bite. On the sixth strike however he slowed his withdrawal, allowing her monstrous jaws to seize the blade. At that moment he smashed the sharp pointed corner of his shield into her right eye, while drawing a second gold hilted dagger. The now blind lioness reacted, lunging back toward where the shield had been only a heartbeat before. In a single fluid motion Celondosse ducted under her lunge and came up again on her left side, planting the silver blade deep in her eye socket. This blade did the work the first could not and the suddenly lifeless form of the beast collapsed into the snow.
Adrenaline pumping, Celondosse exhaled as he began to take in just how close to death he had come. The white lions of the Halsedia Mountains were renowned for their ferociousness. The military order of the White Lions, took its name from the creatures and rumour had it that to become a full member of their order a warrior had to slay one of the beasts. This was no small feat, especially as the beasts were known to be able to destroy whole caravans of travellers. The thought stuck in his mind for some reasons… beasts… whole caravans… the white lions fought in packs…the first roar had been to the right… the attack had come from the left…
Celondosse turned just in time to see the monstrous shape bounding towards him, moving faster than the wind. The male lion slammed into his shield, knocking him backwards through the air and into a large boulder. Dazed, he had just enough time to realise his shield was ruined and he couldn’t move the arm bound to it before the beast was on him, pinning his sword arm with its paw. Its huge maw dripped with saliva, its breath stunk of rotted meat. Seeing its prey immobilised, the lion roared again triumphantly. Knowing his death was upon him, Celondosse reached out with his mind as he had done on the battlefield near Summerton, hoping for something, he did not know what.
The lion roared again a final sound of vengeance and glory and its eyes locked on its prey’s. At that moment something silver flashed in the moonlight and suddenly Celondosse was showered in hot blood as it pumped from the cloven skull of the lion. The body of the beast collapsed on Celondosse , covering him and pinning him to the ground.
“Ho, are you alive under there?” came a voice thick with the accent of the mountain elves.
Stunned and unable to breath, Celondosse did not respond. It was not until the beast was pulled clear that he saw who stood before him. Not one, but five tall, broad shouldered elves stood around taking in the scene of carnage. All but the one before Celondosse wore cloaks of thick white fur, and all wielded long axes with vicious looking silver blades.
“I believe this is yours” said one of the white fur clad warriors handing Calendose the gold hilted dagger that had been embedded in the white lioness’s eye socket. “Nice work, for a city elf.”
“Wait” said another, placing his hand on the chest of his companion “he’s no city elf, look at his beard. He’s human.”
“Half-human actually, my mother was of the House of Ellen Galad” responded Celondosse .
The elf to call attention to the beard simply grunted, crossing his arms.
“Well any half-elf that can slay a white lion single handily has more than enough elven blood in his veins for my liking”, stated the first white clad warrior as he extended his had to Celondosse , helping him out of the snow, “and probably would have finished the second one too if you hadn’t got here in time to claim your kill hey Davrus!”
The warriors’ eyes all turned to Davrus, the young mountain elf wearing the grey furs. “No Caldur, we both claimed our kills as was predicted by the Star Seer.”
“Indeed” said another warrior, stepping forward and nodding in agreement, “the Seer had predicted that Davrus would find his lion tonight, but that he must share his glory with another of brave and noble heart.”
“Come then” said Caldur, “lets away to Qel. The night grows colder and our new half-brother is soaked in the blood of the lion”.
Part 3 – DefilementEdit
Celondonsse, rubbed his shoulder as he walked through the night. The ache of the healing's after-effects reminding him of his close call with death. He was no longer as cold in the mountain air, the mountain elves having made him a coat of white lion fur, from the beast he had slain. The elves had welcomed him into the village of Qel, and while making him a fine coat to keep out the chill, had not ordained him into their order. That honour was reserved for those who dedicated their lives to the White Lions. Nonetheless their respect for him was evident and he had enjoyed the warm welcome of their fires and their company.
The people of Qel had much to share with him about his quest, telling him of how Thalien's band had passed through the town four weeks earlier and how no word had been heard since. The young warrior Davrus had acted as their guide however and knew of the cave they had sought out.
Davrus walked aside Celondosse now as they strode through the snow flurries. He too wore the skin of his slain white lion, but where the City Half-Elf wore a simple fur jacket, Davrus wore a magnficant white fur cloak, one of the great beast’s paws reaching over his shoulder. He strode proudly, using his great axe as a walking stick. Davrus said little as they walked, focused on their goal and using words only when needed. This suited Celondosse as he had much to consider about the path ahead.
Was it his destiny to climb into these mountains, or was he chasing some fool delusion, planted in his mind by a malevolent spirit? One way or another he would soon find out.
"The cave is just ahead" said Davrus, pointing ahead to a rockface that was just visible through the trees and falling snow.
"Will you accompany me into the cave Davrus?" Celondosse asked again. Davrus had simply replied "If the stars will it" every other time he had asked.
Davrus suddenly unburdened his pack and knelt in the snow, gazing up into the low cloud that surrounded them in the chill night. With his arms outstretched he began to hum, a deep low hum that seemed to reverberate into the stone that lay beneath them. Suddenly the clouds parted revealing the constellation of the Hunter in the sky above them. The Hunter's arrow was pointed straight towards the cliff face.
"I will accompany you" he said, collecting his pack from the ground. Celondosse nodded and made his way towards the entrance.
A large overhang jutted from the cliff face and through the gloom Celendosse could make out the dark entrance to the cave, it was maybe 10 paces wide and at least 7 high.
Once again Davrus put his pack on the ground, reach inside and withdrawing a clear glass jar. In the half-light Celondosse could just make out that the jar was full of a clear liquid, but nothing else. Davrus suddenly shook the jar and it instantly lit up with an ethereal green yellow glow.
“Glow worms” said Davrus “the motion excites them and their light will last far longer than any torch. We can feed them while we travel in the darkness and have no concerns about losing light”. Davrus placed the jar inside a round wicker lantern and held it aloft, illuminating the cave entrance.
While the opening was no doubt natural, the stone was worn smooth as if through many footfalls. “Pass me the lantern. With my shield broken my left hand is free and I’d rather you had both hands on that axe of yours” Calendosse remarked with a grin. Davrus nodded and passed the lantern. Now that he held it closer he could see the small iridescent worms in the liquid, the light they gave off was impressive.
The lantern held before him Celondosse stepped into the gloom of the cave, feeling suddenly naked and vulnerable without his shield. Against the advice of his teachers he had always relied far too much on it in his fighting style. He made a silent prayer that he wouldn’t pay the price for that this night.
The cave progressed deep into the mountain side, widening as they went. After some time they noticed that the rock walls and ceiling seemed to be smoothing out. Not through the careful sculpting of elven stonework, but through something more primal. Where elven lines tended towards smooth organic shapes, these seemed to have more ridges, giving the impression that they were moving through the inside of a monstrous creature. The impression was given weight as the cave opened up into a much larger space, filled at one end by a massive edifice.
It must have been 20 paces high, towering above them, the unmistakable golden head of the great dragon Corovax. The head was frozen in place high above the ground, the fore legs planted like pillars, supporting a body that disappeared into the stone. It took Celondosse a moment to realise that what he was looking at was actually the front of a temple and not the giant dragon himself, the detail on the edifice was breathtaking. The dragon’s scales glittered with gold and gems, the dazzling eyes of the dragon surely made with sapphires larger than a troll’s head.
The pair stood mesmerized by the temple entrance, marvelling at its beauty. The only warning they had that they were in danger was the whoosh of the arrow before it struck the wicker lantern in Celondosse’s hand. Broken out of his trance, he dodged to the side as another arrow passed through where his body had been moments before. In the gloom, off to his left, he saw them, smallish hunched humanoids, maybe a dozen or so, pouring out of a side tunnel. Then next arrow flashed towards him and this time he easily sidestepped the incoming shaft.
The moment their stench touched his nostrils Celondosse knew what they were facing – Skaven, the rat people must have a colony in these mountains and had found this sacred site.
Celondosse launched into motion, darting towards the opening at blistering speed, seeing Davrus ahead of him, his axe held ready to spill the vermin blood. The blade of his great axe met no resistance as he swept it in a horizontal arc cutting clear through the bodies of two of his foes and embedding it in the body of a third. Calendosse joined the fray, dispatching another two with quick strikes that severed a head and cut the leg from another.
The ratmen squealed in terror and swept out around the companions, creating space between each other and forming a wide circle. Another arrow flashed in the green yellow gloom and Davrus angled his axe blade just in time to deflect it harmlessly to the ground. Another sliced through the air towards Celondosse, who ducked just in time. Not waiting for further attacks the pair of elven kin charged the last archer and were on him in a moment, Celondosse’s sword slicing across the vermin’s body from groin to shoulder while Davrus’ axe clove into the Skaven around him.
The fray descended into chaos as the ratmen turned into a seething mass of moving bodies, darting in and out in the blink of an eye. As far as humanoids went, the Skaven were one of the fastest and most agile, but this was nothing compared to the speed of the elves. Sword and axe met serrated blade, spear and claw time and again as the ratmen failed to score damaging hits on their surrounded opponents. A blow scraped off Celondosse’s golden vambrace, another off his pauldron, while a spear head failed to penetrate his shining mail. Each blow that hit him was returned with fatal efficiency.
The dance of Celondosse’s blade and Davrus’ axe shimmered in the light around them as they dismembered the ratpeople’s bodies. What felt like a lifetime but must have only been minutes passed and the last Skaven fell, the butt of Davrus’ axe slamming into its head and sending it reeling back onto gore covered floor.
The pair took a deep breath then looked to the cave entrance. A slightly larger, white furred Skaven stood, holding a staff with a large blue sapphire at its head. The staff was unmistakably elven but the small bones and skulls that hang from it where obvious Skaven additions.
“Defilement” it screamed “Elvsess and human stink elvses! How dareses you defile the great Harashanara!” pointing its staff at the great dragon head. More Skaven poured out of the tunnel behind it and the shaman suddenly began to chant.
Celondosse felt the chill run across his skin as he always did when somebody was channelling magic and without thinking drew a knife from his boot and sent it flashing towards the shaman. The blade took the creature in the throat, the golden hilt glinting in the dim light, the red blood staining its white fur. The chant ended immediately and the other Skaven fled, disappearing into their tunnel, not bothering to check on their leader.
Part 4 – SufferanceEdit
With the Skaven dead or fled, Celondosse had a chance to again take in the majesty of the room they stood in. The Golden structure in the likeness of Corovax was unlike anything the young half-elf had seen. It had been no wonder that the ratmen had worshiped it as a deity. The stone seemed to come to life as the light reflected and refracted off the detailed surface of its body.
Celondosse stooped to retrieve a Skaven shield. It was iron bound, circular and in a state of disrepair but it was better than nothing and he still couldn’t believe he had done without one during his fight with the ratmen.
“This staff is of elven make” said Darvus as he pulled the shamans trinkets from the sapphire topped staff. “Great power lies within, I am glad the rat priest did not bring that to bear on us” he continued.
“Indeed” replied Celondosse, his eyes drawn back to the golden temple, “but where did he find it and what of Thalien and his troop?”
The two moved between the forelegs of the giant dragon and notice the large gilded doors set against the wall. It appeared the Skaven had been placing offerings before it, with piles of food and animal sacrifices strew about the floor, their foul banners standing aside the great archway.
Approaching the door it was apparent that opening it may have been beyond the rat creatures. The door was a motif to dragon and elven cooperation, scenes of prosperity, unity and war depicted in its golden surface. Set in the middle of the door, the fissure running between them, were two hand prints. It was these that told why no rat had passed this way. The hand prints were set into the metal, and the charred flesh of a rat’s paws could be seen stuck to the surface. These were meant for elven hands, not Skaven.
“Best I try this” stated Darvus “my line runs pure to Ranos the Griffon” as he walked to stand before the door. Celondosse said nothing, not feeling this was the moment to discuss their shared ancestry.
Davrus placed his hands on the door, and it immediately began to hum. Slowly it opened outwards, dim blue light spilling from within.
As they stepped over the threshold the doors began closing behind them, the hum continuing until the great doors shuddered to a stop. The tunnel ahead was carved intricately with similar features to the passage outside, but now more deliberate. Ribs and arches lined the ceiling and walls while the floor was again smooth. On the walls hung brackets with glowing blue crystals, each throwing their own eerie light down the tunnel.
The two advanced deeper into temple, their own light now hidden from sight, their feet treading softly on the smooth stone floor. Ahead, they suddenly heard a scream echoing down the tunnel. Celondosse, started to rush forward, but Darvus placed a hand on his chest.
“Caution, my friend” he whispered “we may be about to learn of Thalien’s fate, and he had many more warriors with him than us”.
Celondosse nodded and they both advanced along the passage, the half-elf with his sword drawn, the White Lion with axe held ready. As the crept they passed other side passages, but all of these were smaller and were not the source of the scream that had drawn the pair onwards.
Light ahead gave them warning of the chamber ahead, and a second scream told them of the closeness of the scene of violence. Another passage went off to the right, circling up in a tight stairwell.
This way Celondosse indicated with a movement of his head, Darvus following him up the stairwell.
They emerged onto a low balcony and below they could see what had become of Thalien’s group. The chamber was large and circular, the walls a bright white marble, covered in similar motifs as had been laid upon the golden door. At the opposite end stood a shrine to Corovax, including a statue of Guar’an accepting the Menelmahtari. Behind the shrine stood a glowing blue wall of energy, a glyph to stop the progress of the unworthy.
It was the elves in the room though that drew their attention. On a white marble alter they could see the naked body of an elderly elf, his white hair and pale body stained with blood, his hands and feet bound at either end. Above him stood the lithe form of a female witch elf, her dark hair falling to her shoulders, her ornate black, silver and purple leather armour hardly covering her body and seemingly placed to entice rather than provide protection. Off to the side of the room the bodies of another half dozen elves lay, all naked and all dismembered, cruel cuts worked across their flesh. Around the alter stood another five dark elves, each in black and purple plate armour, each with two swords at their sides.
“I tire of our little game Thalien” she said in an almost sing-song voice, “tell me how to dispel the glyph”, she continued, gliding a wicked curved blade almost tenderly along the inside of his arm.
Straining, he replied “I have already told you hag, one such as you can never pass the glyph. The first layer cleanses the soul of the taint of chaos, the second judges the character and the third only allows those of a particular bloodline to pass.”
“I don’t believe you old man” she whispered back, the words only just audible to Celondosse and Darvus’ ears. “We both know there is a place for some object of power set in the stone before the shrine. What is it and where can I find it” her voice rising as she digs the knife into his arm.
Thalien screamed again, his body arching in pain. “I know not of that object, the texts only mentioned the layers of the glyph.
Nodding to each other the White Lion and half-elf knew their chance for action would soon be gone. Celondosse indicated to the mountain elf to stay on the balcony, while he attracted them to the tunnel entrance. Darvus place the elven staff they had found earlier against the balcony wall while he readied his axe.
Celondosse made his way to the bottom of the stair well, shuffling his feet as he strode to the chamber entrance and started laughing.
“What a sorry sorry scene this is, surely your tainted kind has learnt by now that you rarely get any decent information through torture…”, one of his gold hilted dagers catching the first dark elven warrior in the eye as he turned to see the cause of the ruckess.
The others responded with lightning speed, dashing at Celondosse dual blades drawn in a heartbeat. The half-elf had hoped for this bracing his feat against the stone, assuming the stance that had given him his name “Boulder in the Stream”. The first to reach him never expected Celondosse’s his low held sword to dart out, finding the gap between greave and knee cop nor the shield blow that smashed into his chin, sending him reeling back into his bretheren.
None of them expected what came next. From above Darvus fell onto the last two to reach the entry way, leaping from the balcony his boot finding the face of one, while his axe nearly clove the other in two, plate armour and all.
The second struggled to reach his feat, having been knocked back by the first, but Celondosse swiftly dispatched him before he could rise, with a back hand cut across his face. Without breaking stride, the half-elf finished the first who was still stunned on the ground. Darvus two finished the dark elf he had booted in the face, taking its head off as it too tried to rise.
Both advanced on the witch-elf, Celondosse could feel the tingle on his skin that told him of the power she must be drawing around her. With a swift motion he sent another of his daggers flying towards her.
This time however she simply swiped her hand in the air, knocking the blade to the side. The witch elf laughed "after such an impressive display of martial talent, that was so mundane."
She drew back her hand and then sent a ball of energy hurtling towards Darvus as he charged towards her. The ball collided with his chest throwing him back against the hard marble wall. He didn't rise.
Celondosse leapt into action dashing at the seductive witch, but she held her hand up and he slammed into an invisible wall. She turned her hand and the half-elf felt an invisible grip tighten around his throat. He could just breath, but knew that he was at her mercy.
"Hmmm a half breed", she moved her hand in the air and Celondosse head moved with it, allowing her to inspect his features. "This is just what we need to test you theories Thalien. While I'm sure the first layer of the glyph won't bother him, who knows about the second, but I'm sure the last will find his impure blood unworthy.
Celondosse suddenly felt himself compelled by an unseen force towards the glowing blue glyph wall. As he approach the field seemed to crackle with energy. As he approached something inside him screamed to be away, desperately fighting against the magic that urged him forward, but it wasn't strong enough and before he could take a deep breath his face touched the blue glyph.
Part 5 - AncestryEdit
Instantly Celondosse felt a world of pain, he was surrounded by scorching blue flames, burning with an unimaginable heat. He felt some being writhing inside him, it sent him the same images it had on the battlefield outside Summerton, then was suddenly ripped free of him. The fires followed it, leaving the half-elf unscathed. In front of him he watched as an avatar of the corrupted Spirit of Summer burnt away to nothingness before his eyes. Somehow part of it must have latched onto his soul, but this purifying magic had now freed him from its influence.
He no longer felt the power of the witch elf, but he felt a new hopeful compulsion to continue. Stepping forward a flash of light blinded him and when he opened his eyes he was standing in a circle in a room that seemed to stretch on into infinite darkness. Surrounding him were nine figures clad in grey robes, aged elven faces staring at him out of their hoods.
"You stand before us in Judgement Celondosse, you have no need to speak, we can see what lies in your heart." One figure stated, another taking up his sentence and finishing it for him.
"You are young and brash, and risk much with your passion" said another.
"But you are also noble, brave and above all else, dedicated to the protection of innocents" continued a fourth.
"... for this we will let you pass and send you forward with our hopes for a brighter future for not only the elves, but all the civilized races..." echoed all of the nine surrounding him.
"A word of caution though, 'don't be blinded by your passion'" said a last solitary voice.
A flash of light and Celondosse was standing before the final layer of the Glyph, the one the witch elf had expected to bring about his demise. Emboldened by the words of the elders he stepped forward.
This time there was no flash of lights, no burning flame, he simply walked through the blue field unscathed and stepped into another chamber. This one was larger than the last with no visable ceiling. In the centre of the chamber was a solid block of metal, several paces wide and tall. It glowed with it's own ethereal light. The forge of Corovax he realised. Above it hung a ball of blazing white energy: a fount of pure magical power, somehow held in check above the sacred block of star metal.
He turned back thinking of his fallen comrade, currently at the witch elf's mercy. No he thought to himself, he still had no way to combat her power, he needed to find something in here to help him overcome her magic.
That was when he noticed what lay beyond the anvil. Some kind of shimmering white block; inside he could see the form of a woman. In front of the shimmering block he noticed a small stone pillar and through that pillar a small channel of energy flowed, connecting with both the block and the blazing ball of light that hung above the anvil. Celondosse moved closer, noticing a hole in the top of the stone pillar and without quite knowing why, he slid his ancestors sword into the opening.
Instantly the channel of energy stopped flowing into the cube and it disintergrated as if a thousand bubbles had been popped. The woman was unscathed however, inhaling a breath as if asleep for a thousand years.
She opened her eyes and instantly Celondosse felt the prickle on his skin as she drew magical energy into herself. She relaxed though as she saw who stood before her.
"Ah the half elf, I see you have awoken me as foreseen" she stated. "May I ask your name?"
"Excuse me" he said, backing towards where his sword had plunged into the stone pillar, "but who are you and why were you expecting me?
"I am the seeress Ramereia, and in our time of despair I chose to be placed in stasis, awaiting the time of the return of the Menelmahtari. You have still not answered my question."
"My name is Celondosse" he replied.
"Do you have my staff and where are the Seers of the Griffon?" she asked
Not quite sure what to make of this, Celondosse's mind switched track, remembering his imperilled companion and the aged historian. "I need your help, on the other side of that glyph is a psychopathic witch elf who is torturing my friend, we need to stop her, how do I get back through the field?"
"You can simply step through, the Glyph only affects those passing into the Chamber of the Anvil, but wait, take these..." she beant down and Celondosse noticed for the first time the silver helm and blue shield. The helm shone in the bright light, a crest along its top, a winged crown about its brow. The shield displayed the heraldry of a Griffon, the symbol of the Guardians of the Dawn. "These belonged to Ranos, your ancestor, they will guard you against evil."
Celondosse accepted the gifts, the shield almost identical in shape to the one he had lost to the lion. A thought occurred to him. "Does your staff have a large blue sapphire at the apex?"
"Indeed it does, I left it behind as a means by which the Seers could communicate with me through the Glyph, I had hoped they would accompany you" she responded. "Do you know of it?"
"My companion stowed it upon the balcony in the other chamber, hiding it from the dark elves. We took it from some Skaven who had been worshiping the motif of Corovax."
"Excellent, I can summon it, once we are through"
Celondosse nodded, affixed the silver helm to his head, the shield to arm and charged back through the Glyph.
Part 6 – HistoryEdit
Darvus slowly became aware of the world around him, opening his eyes just in time to see Celondosse disappear into the third layer of the glyph, vanishing as if he had never been.
“Well that was unimpressive, no scorching, lightening or burning flesh, simply nothingness, how very unimaginative“, the witch elf sighed. “Either way the danger is apparent. Thalien, it is obvious you are lying to me, tell me of the object I need to pass the glyph.”
Darvus stired, about to rise to his feet, but the witch noticed him, holding her palm out, slamming him back against the wall with an unseen force.
“I don’t think so, young lion”, she snickered, walking over towards him, her hips swaying seductively, a sly smile on her lips. “A young White Lion, what a delectable prize! Oooh I’ll have some fun with you.” She paused as if considering something. “Just what were you and that half-breed companion of yours doing here? Do you know anything of the object I seek? She bent down over him, her lips not far from his, her near naked flesh sending a chill across Darvus’ skin.
Darvus said nothing, holding the witch elf’s gaze with stoic resolve “I’m sure I can get you talking” she said turning her head towards the entrance tunnel where the sound of heavy boots could be heard. Within moments another half-dozen black metal clad elven warriors came storming into the room, weapons drawn and ready to do violence.
“My lady we heard the sounds of battle”, said a silver haired warrior, his eyes lingering on his fallen soldiers. “Is everything under control?”
“Yes captain, this one here, put on a very impressive display of acrobatics and butchery” the witch elf said, pointing to the remains of the dark elf who had been carved head to hip, “and his impure companion was more than happy to test out that nasty blue glyph for us. It was quite disappointing actually; I expected something more spectacular for the death of the half-breed.”
“Hold him” she said walking away from Darvus, the force holding him against the wall relaxing, only to be replaced by a kick from a dark elven boot and strong arms pushing him into the stone floor.
The witch elf wandered over to the blue glyph inspecting it, possibly looking for a sign of the magic that had consumed the half-elf. She turned her back on the field about to say something when a figure charged out behind her.
He was wearing a silver helm with blue and gold wings, golden pauldrons and on his left arm he bore a blue shield with the image of a golden griffon. His shield smashed into the witch elf, sending her careering across the floor, her head slamming into the stone alter where Thalien was bound. From behind him emerged a blonde female elf. She wore the garb of a seeress, the fabric blue, silver and gold. She strode confidently into the room, her arms outstretched, magical energy crackling from her palms.
With a single motion Ramereia, summoned the staff hidden on the balcony down to her, the sapphire alive with energy as it flew through the air. She deftly caught the staff and instantly turned it on the silver haired dark elf, bearing towards her, lightning catching him in the chest and sending him to the ground.
Celondosse, moved to intercept the next two warriors, his blue shield catching the blows of the first, his own golden hilted sword deflecting the rain of blows that came from the second. A third dark elf charged him from the side, only to be caught moments before impact by another of Ramereia’s lightning bolts. Moving his blade with lightning speed, he snaked it through the defence of the warrior on his right, drawing the tip into the unprotected flesh of his opponent’s underarm. The dark-elf backed away, blood spurting from the severed artery.
One of the dark elves holding Darvus, turned and rushed to the aid of his brethren, With only one holding him down, Darvus smashed his elbow back into his captors face, and launched himself to his feet, the dark elf reeling from the stunning blow. Without hesitation he grabbed the elf’s head, smashing it hard against the wall, a trail of gore staining the marble as the warrior slid to the floor.
Darvus snatched up his axe and charged into the fray, taking one of Celondosse's two attackers in the back, his axe biting deep through metal and flesh. The other dark elf turned to face this new threat. This was all the distraction Celondosse needed and dispatched him with a slash across the back of his neck.
Celondosse looked around and found Ramereia standing above the witch elf, her eyes closed engaged in some kind of chant, his skin prickled. The witch elf stirred drawing a dagger from her boot, Celondosse was quicker though, another of his gold hilted daggers flying through the air to find her heart before she could strike. The witch slumped backwards and Ramereia emerged from her trance, seeing the dagger in the hand of the witch elf and the golden hilt protruding from her breast.
“Thankyou” she said taking a step backwards. “I had hoped to bind her power and interrogate her, but had thought her still unconscious.”
Celondosse strode over to the alter, withdrawing his knife from the witch elf’s breast. He wiped the blood from the blade on her leather armour and then cute the bindings holding Thalien to the stone block.
“Where are you injured?” he asked the old historian, while withdrawing bandages from the pouch at his hip. Thalien indicated the wicked cut that ran along his outer arm, another on his back and the missing toe on his left foot. Celondosse set about cleaning the wounds.
When he had done, Ramereia pulled him back and began to chant, a glowing golden light emanated from her hands as she spoke. Moving her hands in intricate patterns and then laying them on each injury in turn, Celondosse and Darvus watched as the lacerations closed, leaving unblemished skin; the missing toe grow back as if it had never been lost.
“Who are you?” Thalien asked as he sat up on the alter, rubbing the newly healed skin on his arm.
“I am Ramereia, and Celondosse here has released me from my slumber. I am a Seeress and member of the Guardians of the Dawn.”
“You are the Seeress Ramereia? How could that be, you lived in the time of the Great Division! How could you be here standing before us? And the Guardians of the Dawn, that hasn’t existed for over 1,000 years” exclaimed the historian.
“I along with a number of other magicians of the Guardians of the Dawn, cast a spell that put me in stasis, drawing on the power font above the Anvil of Corovax to sustain the magic throughout the ages. We too, created the Glyph knowing that a distant descendent of Ranos and mine would one day seek us out. I had foreseen this and foreseen the return of the Menelmahtari to this time.”
“We journeyed here with the Menelmahtari shortly after it had been tainted with the blood of Queen Andu'Alora. I had a vision of the murder before it had happened but was too late to intervene. In my visions I saw what would happen if the blade was again wielded at the head of an Elven army. It would insight not brotherhood and civilization, but rather a ruthless fanaticism that would drive the elves to unite and assert their dominance over all other races.
“My visions showed me a number of possible futures: one where the blade was destroyed using the Hammer of Per’Andriel and smashing it on the Anvil of Corovax; one where it was purified, although that vision was hazy and the method unclear; and one where the blade inspired a tide of slaughter.
“The Guardians decided that the first possible future should be pursued. In the chaos that ensued around the palace after Vandis had killed Alora, we were able to sneak in and steal the blade. We came here hoping to find both the Anvil and the Hammer. Instead we found the chamber of the Anvil empty, the Hammer missing.
“At this moment we were set upon from behind, a ruthless group of Dark Elves having followed us from the city. They trapped us in the tunnels we now stand in. Ranos died fighting them and when they brought his body too me, another vision told me of another possible future. It was unlike any vision I had had before, but it offered hope. It showed the sword disappearing into a time vortex and emerging in the distant future, and it showed a young half elf of mine and Ranos’ blood seeking out the Menelmahtari, the desire to do good for the world burning in his heart. I also saw Ranos’ sword in his hand and a dark shadow attached to his soul, some tainted spirit that must have been slowly corrupting him.
“It was evident that if we created the time vortex, we could send the sword forward and that it would re-enter the world at the time this young half elf lived. We could prevent the sword falling into the hands of our enemies now and have an ally to find the blade in a world changed by ages past.
“Drawing on the power of the font above the Anvil of Corovax, we created the ritual and sent the Menelmahtari into the distant future.
“I then set about designing the Glyph so that it would cleanse the half elf of the taint of the corrupted spirit, test him on his honour and allow only he of the blood of Ranos, myself and a human to pass. The other magicians and I then began the stasis spell, binding me with the helm and shield of Ranos to be frozen in time. The sword of Ranos would be the key to unlocking the stasis, so I passed it to the others, requesting they deliver it to my son. My staff, I also passed to them, asking that the Seers of the Griffon keep it in safekeeping, guarding the chamber and using it to commune with me through the Glyph in times of need. The absence of the Seers I assume is connected to the remarks you made about the Guardians no longer being in operation."
"This is incredible" stated the historian, "you must return with me to Bael'atir".
"That may be wise, I have much to learn about this new time, and we must track down the Menelmahtari. It must be cleansed or destroyed before its taint can rain suffering down upon the world".
Epilogue - AutumnEdit
Celondosse rode alone down the leaf strewn forest path, the sunlight glinting through the red, orange and brown leaves. He had travelled far since he had left the cavern in the Halsedia Mountains and thought much about what had transpired there.
The half elf had journeyed back to Bael'atir with Ramereia and Thalien, learning much of the legendary Guardians of the Dawn, and now as he rode alone he thought of how such a band could be formed. There was certainly need of such heroes in this troubled time, perhaps he could seek out those who were noble of heart, brave of spirit and dedicated to the protection of the innocent.
He considered his Vanwarim kindred and wondered which of them would be interested in joining such a group. Some surely not, their hatred of non elves would never be overcome, but there were others who considered humans to be worthy of trust and protection.
If he were to work towards building this league of heroes, he decided he would need humans and members from the other races. For the civilized races to stand together they needed a body that represented them all, the Guardians of the Dawn must live again.
And so he rode on to meet his brothers and sisters of the Vanwarim in the town of Autumn, his future and that of the Menelmahtari yet to be decided...