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Khadein and the Star Tree Part One: Blood and Fury
Gather round, you bearers of the old blood, of our glory, of our legacy. Gather round, here to the Mistress’ Throne, where the full moon turns the very land into liquid silver. Gather round, and hear of the days of legend, the era of unrest…
Gather round, and know of the Star Tree and of those faithful enough to restore it.
In the beginning of all things, in the world we of the mortal coil know as Arkei’a, the land was one with the races created of old. In those days, men and Urkæ and dragon walked in peace and serenity. In the exact centre of the Earth stood the Star Tree, the most glorious of all creation; the heavens orbited in its adamant broths, the marble roots keeping the ancient ties anew, the silver trunk bursting with luminance. The few fruits of the Tree fell, treasured beyond price, and so the Seeds of the Star Tree came to be, seven for the world to guard and nurture, that the Light would sustain Arkei’a. But it was not to last.
For soon thereafter Sch’ar’kha, the greatest of the Div?a, the angelic beings from the divine realm of E’ichjar’ga, descended and seized the Star Tree, for he lusted to, by robbing it of it’s power, would then strip the Lord of his throne, and reign in His stead. But the Tree wouldn’t yield to the darkness, and so was destroyed in Sch’ar’kha’s wrath. Freed of the roots, the land scattered across the sea, seeking to flee the might of the Void. Thus the five continents were born; Khaigen to the west, X’uruthe’a to the east, with the A’ertigoes Isles off its shores, Drak’uir to the south, and Avanuur to the north. Together with the Seven Great Demons, the greatest of the fallen angels who descended with him, the world would have fallen to the ravenous hunger of the chthonic forces unleashed.
But the Lord was not idle. The universe was not alone.
For the guardians of the universe and the Star Tree, the firstborn of the Dragonkin, the Eldar, stood together now to fulfill their purpose. Incarnates of the aspects of the universe they were bound to control, they were Var’duin, The Vanguard of Order; Reja’lyx, The Maw of the Chthonic; L’vraon, The Claw of the Corporeal; Gateoix, The Eye of the Spatial; Kroinalynd, The Weaver of the Temporal; Xuiad’a, The Keeper of the Ethereal; and Tynaudïi, The Giver of the Vivacity. United, they fought against Sch’ar’kha and withheld the Seeds from the fell one’s greedy, filthy hands.
Yet Reja’lyx betrayed his brethren, stealing four of the seven Seeds, and bestowed them upon the Forsaken. Five thousand years have past since the Eldar have vanished along with the Great Demons, with only one of the Seeds recovered. Since then, all the tales and battles over the trees have been viewed as myths. We were sure that the evil had past. We were sure that the demons and the Eldar didn’t exist.
Alas, we were wrong.
It was in the year 212 A.D. when Avanuur was struck. The Giant’s Hand, the ring shaped mountain range, guarded the crystalline capital city of Uidys. Here dwelt Jardin Avanuur, the oldest yet mightiest king our nation has ever known. Born with Br’aithain, the sword of his father, in the palm of his hand, Jardin took the throne while still but a lad, as his father died in battle against the darts of winter. The fifty years he has reigned on high, Jardin proved his mettle as a wise ruler and a dangerous warrior. Only the Maükhar, the great sabre toothed tiger that haunts the wastes, could have matched our king in combat; it is an old legend that the king had found a Maükhar and stood his ground, fighting hand versus fang. The Maükhar lost its life, while the King, tireless, rent the massive fangs from the granite skull, and howled to the wind his superiority, claiming the name of his foe. No Maükhar has come hither since. All who fought our nation fell at the feet of either the weight of Jardin’s blade or the frigid grip of his tactical intellect. The nations Khaigen and X’uruthe’a tried time and time again to crush his spirit; neither had prevailed. Yet that fateful year, the noble son of Itykur found his defeat at the hands of the void itself.
For one day, in the middle of the harvest, the men heard the sound of rustling thunder through the woods. Before then, no one had seen anything of curiosity except Rarth’eon Ebontooth, the great self-proclaimed guardian of the mountains. He was one of the Urkæ, the men-beasts who shed the stability of humanity for the might of the Wild. A being ursine in either shape, the great golden being turned to a bear big enough to put human dwellings to shame. He came, strutting through the forest as if it belonged to him.
Patrols of soldiers were sent to detain him, the Wild reborn, to continue the iron extracting process. They might as well as chain the winter, for all were either killed or sent flying down the mountains. None could tame him, and no weapon could bite him. He even dashed many of the outskirt villages to fragments, ending the lives of many a man and beast. Immune to reason and ethics, he succeeded all the same; Jardin ordered a hiatus from further operations concerning the mountain.
A few days hence, the pheasants near the mountain came on the wings of the wind, proclaiming that the sounds of battle rung from within the forest. The roar of Ebontooth made the very stones flee down the mountains, where the crops were in danger of being buried. Trees flew, tossed by the gale wind force of the Urkæ’s blows. Then all was silent. The wind itself stood still. The hand of fear choked the land; the end was near.
More patrols, not unwillingly, crept into the wild one’s realm seeking to discover who or what had merited such vehemence. The patrol never returned. Jardin sent still even more patrols, one after the other, and each and every time the soldiers vanished as if they never were. And so Jardin withheld his forces, saying in his heart,
“Good men have lived and died on the plains of war for the continued security of their country and kin; but I will ask no man to throw his soul ignorantly into the maw of the void. When the few have died in the shrouds of the Forsaken’s wings, shall I now toss the whole of Avanuur to the pit? Rather let the foe make him known. We are here; we will wait and by acting thus, we will thus ensnare him, in the net of his own casting.”
With this decree in effect, the warriors turned to their barracks, seeking the sanctuary of battle against fellow man. And so there was peace… during the day. The first night the sun went down, the very hills screamed their terror. The cries of birds, beast, and man heralded from the forest. Curious as Jardin was, his own fear of the destroyer stayed his hand from sweeping the land.
In the time of need, however, the Silver Hawk, the young Gaulden Hallwinder, freshest of the knights of Avanuur, dared to for take the recon. Three of the eldest knights, stricken with shame and concern for Gaulden, accompanied him into the evergreens. The minute they stepped past the incorporeal boundary marking the wild territory from the tamed world of hardened warrior men, the world halted. The trees appeared to reach for the veterans trespassing their sacred groves, the trunks twisting in response to Gaulden’s every moment, as if pleading him to leave. The darkness of the forest shrouded their souls, a bitter anticipation lurking in wait.
They traveled the length of the day towards Fort Harristein, the industrial encampment processing the iron from the ore within the mountain, when suddenly the horses, noblest and most loyal of all beings within the Wild, struggled to flee from their masters and friends. Even Huvar, the fleet stallion bearing the weight of Gaulden, reared in fright, his nostrils flared in offense of the evil reek within the garrison. Only the steady hand and healing words of Gaulden suppressed the fear of the animals, guiding them back to the fort. By the time they passed through the outer gates, Gaulden halted thunderstruck.
The fortress was destroyed beyond repair. The houses themselves were tossed hither and thither in shattered pieces as if picked up and tossed by a giant. Those not smashed were wide open and rotten, decaying in the manner of a corpse. A dark, miry layer cloaked everything in the vicinity. The corpses no longer had evidence of human existence, savagely torn, a black blood like mark choking the entire body of the victim; those with faces intact, without exception, were twisted and transfixed with a banshee’s scream frozen on the lips. The inhumanity of the enclosure struck the men as uncanny, the work of a heinous entity from the dark abyss. They turned their steeds to depart and report to the king.
But they were not alone. The Shadow had arrived, feeling the blood running through their flesh, marking them among the living. It crawled through the brush, taking down trees, stones, and all animals in its path. The darkness of its aura was cast like a javelin before it, touching the horses. In panic, they fled, taking their masters with them.
Gaulden jocular manner melted before the frozen mask of fierceness he now wore. The spear in the stirrup fluidly materialized in his right hand, the light from his grey eyes scorching the walls. Not for nothing was he the Silver Hawk. The elders felt the stirring in their blood for combat, the cry “For blood and ice! For glory! For Avanuur!” reverberated across the plain, to where the king stood on his balcony. Immediately he set for the field, taking his guard with him.
In answer to their battle cries, the forest shrieked. The trees and plants nearest the ditch shriveled and died; the darkened presence of death hung heavily in the air. Something approached from within the brush and fell into the ditch.