Samsarras

The Coming of the Astar Uln, Part 9

Echos of a song ran through Mishtil’s head. The words and melody were far away and it seemed she forgot more of it with every fleeting moment. The child god’s eyes were closed against the light. It had flared unimaginably bright for a moment and created an impossibly loud boom that seemed to split the very sky asunder. Everything was disorienting and she could no longer feel Yurilda. It was as if some sixth sense she has always had but never recognized was suddenly gone. A surge of anxiety welled up in her throat.

Then she opened her eyes.

Gold, red, and yellow displayed themselves against a pristine back drop of blue. Autumn leaves swirled and leapt through the air, creating a dance Mishtil had never before seen. The ground was cool and muddy beneath her, though the onslaught of rain had ceased. The pounding sound of the storm and the waning song was replaced by a cacophony of birds sounding their calls. It was one of the most beautiful things the Goddess had ever seen.

“Tadis, oh Tadis! Isn’t it beautiful? You must be so happy!”

Mishtil scrambled up, ignoring the mud that clung to every part of her. Her eyes took in her surroundings, verifying why there was no reply forthcoming. The child did not see any of her companions. She was alone is the strange wood.

“Oh, worry. Where have they gone? They must have followed me! Drugar wouldn’t have let me come alone. Tadis! Druhaus!”

One by one, she yelled the name of each of the Astar Uln. The only response she received was a strange sniffing grunt. She turned to see a small animal with a grey pelt and white stripped face waddling toward her. It stopped a short distance away to scratch in the dirt and extract a plump worm into it’s mouth.

“Hello, little friend. Have you seen anyone else around here?”

The badger looked up with a curious glint in it’s eyes. It sniffled a few more times before waddling over to Mishtil, butting it’s head into her leg. The Goddess began to giggle.

“Oh, you’re silly. I bet Tadis could speak to you. Come on, help me find them.”

Mishtil scooped the badger up into her arms with a grunt. The animal was quite hefty, looking well fed with a pudgy belly. It placed it’s little arms over her shoulder, distributing it’s weight across her chest. The Goddess giggled again as it continued to make it’s little grunting noises in her ear.

“You’re going to need a name. Hmmm… I think you remind me of Drugar, so I’m going to call you that. He’s big like you. You’re not as angry, but that’s okay.. Do you like that name, Drugar?”

Wormchomper the Badger grunted contentedly, rubbing her head against Mishtil’s face in response.

“Well, then. Let’s go find my friends.”

With that, the pair set off into the woods.

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Samsarras

The Coming of the Astar Uln, Part 8

It had been a ten day and the winds would not let up. Qua’ Jon had not been permitted to leave the cave in that time. The mage had spent as much of it as he was able trying to teach Eernon anything about magic, but it was hopeless. Her mind was very regimented, the hallmark of a good warrior. Magic could not be taught through practice and study alone, however. There was a certain weaving of reason and belief that was a necessity. It was not enough to know how a spell would happen, one had to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that it would indeed happen.

Staluv,” she said, her hands tracing the same path they had fifty times before. She thrust her right palm out from herself as if she was throwing a punch. Qua’Jon was glad she wasn’t, as her strength was quite formidable. She tried to make up for what she lacked in technique with ferocity. Fighting was deep in her blood.

“I swear to you, little Elf, if I find that you have been holding information from me, I will kill you slow.”

Qua’Jon shook his head. “Eernon, there are many secrets in magic. Each spell is like a dance. You can put your body through the motions, but it is useless without soul. One of my greatest students was a master of dance long before I met them. It is motion and sound, yes, but it is also belief and heart!”

“My tribe would have long ago gutted your dancers. No matter. Show me again.”

Again, Qua’ Jon repeated the motion and said the word. He had run out of energy much earlier that day so he was unable to cast the actual spell, but still he went through the effort. His shoulder was moving much easier now, the wound having done some significant healing the past ten day. He worried about the dampness of the cave, but the fire burned near constantly, dispelling the clamminess.

Staluv!”

Eernon held her outstretched palm in front of her, a look of awe on her face.

“I felt something! Yes, that was it! I must be getting close! Tell me little Elf, did you see it?”

“That is it! Yes, keep practicing!”

He had not seen it, but if she kept practicing he could rest. The Elf sat against the stone wall as she repeated the word and motions a dozen times. Qua’Jon watched the others out of the corner of his eye.  Vanlaug grew restless, for which he blamed the mage. He had come to this land to pillage and kill, yet he had done nothing but gamble and repeat the same stories. Often, he looked at the elf with contempt, picking his fingernails with the long slim blade of his knife.

He has met the others as well. Melin seemed to be friends with Vanlaug. While not as hostile, she seemed to share his wishes of plunder. She spent her time practicing her sword work, which was impressive. It was unlike the elven movements Qua’ Jon had watched his entire life. Her sword strokes were more direct, relying more on ferocity and speed than the misdirection that Elven sword work entailed.

Then there was Ingdol. He spent the most time out of the cave, leaving in the early morning. He’d return with freshly killed game and whatever other food he could scavenge. Eernon spent each evening in council with him, sketching out crude maps in the dust. From what he could tell, they were scouts for a much larger force. If this larger force was on their shores or not, Qua’ Jon did not know.

Finally, there was Gwenich. She was a curious sort. The girl had hardly spared words for the elf, but he often caught her watching him. Once, when he had made his way to the back of the cave to relieve himself, Qua’ Jon had seen her stacking rocks in a strange formation in a dark hollow. He watched for a while, her face never turning to see him. Try as he might, the Elf could not ascertain meaning from the pattern.

A bolt of lightning flashed close to the cave entrance, followed by a clap of thunder that gave everyone pause. Qua’ Jon stared in awe at the mouth of the cave as the rain started to blow into it.

“You watch the storm often, elf. Did you make it, eh? I bet you conjured it to follow us, I bet you did.”

Vanlaug looked up from the bone dice he held in his hand and pointed to Qua’ Jon as he spoke. He then looked around nodding, as if agreeing with himself on everyone else’s behalf.

“No, no, no. Even my queen didn’t know who created the storm. She knew it was big, however. Very big. It stretches to all places at once. They watch the very same storm back in Mirlethia! Even the dwarves feel it under their mountains! It will tell us it’s story when its ready. Yes, yes!”

“Ah, Eernon, he’s broken in the head. Let me run him through and we can go back to filling our purses.”

“He may be mad, Vanlaug, but you saw him disappear just as I did. You saw the white bolts that struck down Old Markin. If I learn this, Vjorn Germain will make me her second! If not her, any Vjorn would gladly take me on.”

“Aye, but what if the cost of learning it is your head? Keep it on your shoulders, Eernon. Vjorn Germain will reward you most for gold and silver. Bring her spices and Elven weapons. Fill Yarrloth’s pits with the screaming dead for her. She does not want witchery.”

“You think small, man. Do you think to carve out a new empire with that knife of yours? The elves have land in abundance. The floors of their forests are fertile and rich. Clear cut the trees and put in fields. Bring over cattle and let them graze on the planes. The Sylvan lands could belong to Mirlethia, Vanlaug. ”

Qua’ Jon ignored the conversation. Instead, he has walked closer to the mouth of the cave to stand in the oncoming rain, initially unobserved by any of the Mirlethians. His mouth hung open in awe and joyful glee. He could feel the air charging. The wind howled through the opening, assailing his ears.

“Ay, Mage, come away from there!”

He couldn’t hear them and would not likely have moved if he could. It was time. He could feel it in the hairs on his arm which stood on end. The storm that touched all realms was about to impart its gift. That which he did not know, that which he waited for, was coming.

“Ay, Elf, I said get away from there!”

Vanlaug grabbed his wrist, intent on dragging him back into the cave. Before he could, however, the sky exploded. A jagged bolt of lightning crashed into the heart of the forest, followed by a blinding flash of light. The sound deafened everyone in the cave, even as they shielded their eyes from the intense light.

Then there was nothing but silence.

 

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Samsarras

The Coming of the Astar Uln, Part 7

Somewhere, a distant tide crashed upon the shore. Qua’ Jon was vaguely aware of it, the rhythm of the waves matching the blood pulsing in his head. Each set of waves surged behind his eyes, increasing in pressure, never easing but only doubling their efforts with each contraction of his heart. Even more so, it started to become apparent in his shoulder, as if it wanted to burst out of his skin.

His eyes opened to a blurry world, the fire burning beside him more like a fog of light. The mage’s brow was soaked with sweat, yet a chill ran through his body. Outside of the cave’s mouth, the rain continued to pound down, having increased from when Qua’ Jon was last conscious to witness it.

A hard point was suddenly pressed against his throat. His vision cleared, letting him see the lanky Mirlethian man bending over him. His greasy blond hair hung down in front of his face, almost obscuring his toothy grin.

“Awake, huh, Elf? Maybe I put this point in your throat and you don’t wake up any more? I’ll do you just like you did Turgin.”

The pressure increased enough to puncture skin, allowing a slow trickle of blood to make its way down the blade. Qua’ Jon dare not answer, as any movement of his jaw would only push the point in further. It suddenly abated, however, as the boot of the large Mirlethian woman crashed into his ribs, sending the lanky man sprawling across the floor.

“What did I say, Vanlaug? I have plans for this one. You’ll leave him alone or I’ll be sticking you with the point of that knife.”

The man who must have been Vanlaug scampered off the floor and stood tall. It was apparent he didn’t want to lose face, but the woman loomed over him in an obvious display of dominance. She made no move for her weapon, but instead leveled her gaze unflinchingly at him.

“One day, Eernon, you’ll push me too far. Thats when I’ll push back, I will.”

He turned and walked away deeper into the cave to sit with one of the others. His knife point started scratching the ground, creating a constant scraping sound. He made sure not to look directly in the direction of Qua’ Jon or Eernon, instead starting a hushed conversation with his other companion.

“Little Elf, Little Elf,” she said mockingly, squatting before him “I have so many questions for you.”

Qua’ Jon propped his head up weakly, glancing around the room. “Where is my Queen? What did you do to her?”

“You must be half mad, Elf. You were alone in the wood. There is food and water by your side.”

Qua’ Jon didn’t see Wormchomper anywhere. He imagined that she must have gotten away. His shoulder hurt, but it had been bandaged. He could only guess why they were keeping him alive. It was obvious that they didn’t all share the same opinion on the matter.

His curiosity played itself out across his face. “Why have you kept me alive? Why am I not in a pot? The storm is coming. If I am not dead, I should be getting ready.

She stood back up, the fire casting a large shadow as her bulk blocked the light.

“I saw what you did in the woods, little Elf. I want you to teach me magic.”

 

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Samsarras

The Coming of the Astar Uln, Part 6

Qua Jon wandered alone with his familiar through the forest, the increasing winds rattling the tall pines around them. Fat drops of rain had started, slapping against leaf and pine needle alike. He drew his tattered and worn green cloak tightly against himself, drawing his hood down low over his eyes.

Despite the worsening weather, the man had a wide grin on his face, like a child in awe of the unexplained. He even giggled slightly, drawing attention from the badger that crept around at his feet. Wormchomper stared for a moment, her head tilted to the side. Appeased that the noise did not mean anything immediate, she went back to shuffling along the ground, rooting in the soft decomposed pine needles and sniffing the air.

“There is a wind, Wormchomper. It is a wind that goes through all places. A storm can be big enough to cover the entire world, or more! Is that not wonderful? Think of all the places you’ve never seen. What would grubs taste like in the demon realm? Pray you never find out, Wormchomper. But no! Pray too loud, and perhaps the demons would hear you. It might bring them back to Samsarras. ”

Qua Jon looked as though he considered the notion for a moment. The demons that had created the world had been absent from Samsarras for a long while. The wood elf had spoken to a creature in the mists some time past who told him that the dark ones warred in the heavens against each other, too distracted by their struggles to pay the mortals much heed. Qua Jon was not sure if the beast was truthful, but he was thankful for the absence none the less. Even Thathtil Grog Mezzserin, Demon of Madness of whom he had been favored, had not made her presence known. 

“Yes, Wormchomper. It is best to be silent about such things. Do not pray about grubs for any reason. It is better safe than sorry, is it not?”

Wormchomper stopped digging in a particularly fruitful patch of dirt and waddled back over the the mage. A long and plump earthworm dangled from her mouth as she pushed onto her hind legs, her fore paws coming to rest on Qua Jon’s shin. She slurped it up and made a sort of cooing noise, her face rubbing up against the bottom of his knee. He crouched to run his fingers through her oily hair.

“You are wise, Queen badger. Perhaps more so than me. I am glad to have your council.”

Without warning, he flopped backwards onto the ground, his arms and legs sprawled to his sides. The rain had intensified now and it took advantage of his prone position to soak every part of the mage. The Badger also took advantage of it and leaped upon him, rolling joyfully over his torso as the mage continued to giggle.

“We should not play, Wormchomper!” he spit out between giggles. “This rain, this wind… it ensures me that it is very serious! Look how quick it comes! There is lightning on the horizon, but it moves swiftly in our direction. Perhaps it is a gift?”

The badger scampered off of the mage and let loose a guttural hiss. Qua Jon, alarmed at her sudden change in nature, quickly propped himself up on his arm and looked about. The woods had grown dark, but his Elven eyes were adept at sight under the night sky. The five humans creeping toward him did not escape his notice.

The demons may have been gone from the world, but enough of their minions remained.

“Elf, elf, get the fire lit

we’ll put your bones upon a spit

you’ll make a disappointing roast

not fit to serve a proper host. ”

The woman’s voice was gruff, but the accent placed her as Mirlethian. Those barbaric humans had recently discovered sea travel, and with it, a pathway to the elven lands. Unlike the Dwarves, who were easy allies, the Mirlethians wished for nothing but death and plunder. Qua Jon wished to give them neither. Slowly, he stood up as they came out from behind trees into full view.

“You should leave, humans. These are my lands and the lands of my queen. She seems to have already taken a dislike to you.”

“Elf, Elf, into the stew

On your bones, we all will chew

Too little meat, and tough at that

Give me a cut with a bit more fat!”

She smiled at her cleverness as she beat her hand axe against her shield. The weapon looked like a toy in her meaty hand. The other four begun to fan out around them as the badger hissed again in warning.

Qua Jon stayed calm, moving slowly and deliberately. He purposely slowed his breathing, allowing his mind space to think. He could feel the almost pricks of electricity in different parts of his brain as he mentally wove pieces of the spell together. A faint dark purple light started to bathe his hands, almost invisible against the dark night.

The mage heard the jangling of metal behind him as one of the warriors decided to advance. His sword cut through empty air, however. Qua Jon looked down at him from the tree limb he had teleported to. He cradled Wormchomper in one of his arms, using the other to stroke her fur. Teleportation always left her disoriented.

The warriors looked about themselves in confusion. They looked behind bushes and around trees, but none thought to look up. A frantic energy infected their movements as they sought to reconcile the passing seconds in their minds.

“Witch’s work!” yelled the oldest of the group. He grabbed at a shock of his long grey hair as he said it, his eyes wild. “It was a ghost of the wood! We can not rob a ghost!”

The woman who had sang did not seem convinced.

“Demon spawned elf! If you give us those pouches you wore, maybe we’ll let you go. Yarlloth has had plenty of other sacrifices by our hands today. What cares he if one gets away?”

As if in answer, a host of glowing white balls of energy shot from the trees. Even as the elder turned to yell an alarm, he was struck down as one collided with his chest, rendering his leather armor useless. Two of the others fell prey to the other two balls. The remaining warriors looked up as one to see the source of the magic. Qua Jon stood in the tree, smiling down upon them.

“I liked your song.”

Qua Jon began to speak words in a language not many knew. It was the language of magic, a language that the mage himself had discovered. Qua Jon was the first mage of Samsarras. It was he who found the very thread that held the world together and learned how to harness its power. He had taught others, but their number was very few. Little did he know how soon he would have another pupil.

He was mere seconds away from finishing the spell when the axe connected with his shoulder. The warriors aim had been off; she was trying for the elves head. He stared at the wound for but a moment before falling from the tree, the impact with the ground rendering him unconscious. The other Mirlethian rushed forward towards him, his two handed sword poised high above his head.

“Wait,” said the woman. “I have other uses than the stew pot for this one. Bind him and treat his wound.”

She strode over to him and knelt, staring at his pale face. She traced his tattoo of a tree limb from his jaw to where it disappeared beneath his collar, wondering at the runes drawn along it’s length. “I have more in store for him than death.”

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Samsarras

The Coming of the Astar Uln, Part 5

“And if you lose em, don’t bother coming back. Bunch of damned fools that should know better. Who the hell would leave paradise? Everything you need, and you all run off to some demon spawned shit hole”

Drugar looked over his creations, pride showing on his face despite his bluster. The gods had gathered on the edge of the storm and had split off into two groups: those that would go and those that would stay. For those that would leave, Drugar had crafted a gift to help them on their way. He presented them, one by one.

To Mishtil, he gave a bag of seeds so that she may spread the healing herbs of Yurilda where ever she went. As she excitedly accepted the pouch, he produced a helm he had hidden behind his back, sized for her small head. It would allow her to hear the thoughts of those she gazed upon, so that she may diagnose diseases of the mind as easily as those of the body. Mishtil accepted it with a squeel of delight.

To Silwyn, he gave shoes made of the softest leather. They would be comfortable across one million miles,  yet never would she feel a single stone beneath her feet. She would be able to stride long and fast for all of her days. She accepted it with her head bowed down, her cheeks flushed.

To Druhaus, he gave a pouch, tanned and seamless. That which went in it would never be that which came out. She accepted it and immediately begun to inspect the small sack. She turned it over and over in her hands, occasionally bringing it to her nose to sniff the tanned leather.

To Venul, he gave a perfectly round sphere of lapis. When it caught the light, it appeared to hold all of the night sky in its infinite reach. When anyone gazed upon the bearer of the stone, they would be filled with such vulnerability that they would never be able to raise a hand in anger. She accepted it from Drugar as he knelt before her in subjugation despite himself. He shed a tear when her soft hands brushed against his.

To Tadis, he gave a mask and a spear carved from the very wood of the Tadilisus tree itself. The mask would allow Tadis to become any beast they lay eyes on in this new world. They would be able to speak as the animals spoke and understand their words. The spear was that of the hunt. It would never miss its mark when thrown, providing the company with food for their journey. Tadis lay down their  sickle and basket before Druhaus so that they may accept the new items. They seemed to shed age as they did, their feral aspect seeming more animal than plant now.

Markkesh strode in front of them and crossed his arms, standing proud. His gaze was stern, though not unkind. He looked from one to the next, as if taking their measure. His eyes lingered on Tadis. He spoke to those assembled, his voice unwavering.

“I do not agree with what it is you do. Samsarras already has part of us in it’s seas and forests, in its black smiths and lovers. It also has death and disease. It has war and apathy. There are dark thing there that will want to hurt you, children of Yurilda. Know that I am in every drop of water. I will see you. I am master of the storm and wave and they are master of me. I will keep you safe, if I can. When you understand the nature of your folly, you will return home to us. I look forward to that day.”

Markkesh embraced them each in turn. His arms were cold and strong. When he reached Tadis, he hesitated for a moment. The nature god pulled him close, holding the back of his head with surprising tenderness.

“To you, I wish love, Nature god. If Venul deems you find such amongst these elves, I bid you stay in that strange place forever. May the beasts and trees sing of your coming.”

The gods broke off into groups of twos and threes. Each said good byes in their own fashion. The gods of Yurilda were close before they ever came to Samsarras. There were tears and gruff words, handshakes and embraces. Though many thought it foolish to go, they still loved their fellows.

“Remember the agreement, sister. Bring them magic, but do not impede upon their choice. They can use it to lift themselves up and instill order, or to break things apart. I know that which you desire.”

Druhaus stared back and Mugan, nodding her head incessantly.

“Yes, yes, yes, yes. That is it, Mugan. If they have choice, it is already chaos. We are twins, but I am still older by moments. Remember that.”

Mugan sighed in reply and embraced his sister. She stiffened up at first before relaxing into his arms.

“I can’t exist without you, Druhaus. Be careful.”

“You are a small part of me, brother. You’re always with me.”

A series of quick claps got everyone’s attention. All eyes turned to Brenisch, the source of the noise.

“It is time now, I think. Yes, I feel the song in me. This will be my best performance. You will all weep with its sound, to be certain. It bubbles up warmly in my heart into my throat.”

Brenisch raised the wine skin to his lips and drank deeply. He let out a satisfied sigh as the burgundy liquid dripped through his short stubbly beard. He raised his arm to dab at it with the sleeve of his loose tunic and watched as the five of them prepared to go into the storm.

The first few notes were soft and slow, striking a somber tone. They were simple, but powerful, almost silencing the storm itself for a moment. There was a long moment of quiet as the last one settled in before he began building the melody in earnest. Brenisch sang of ancient times that had not yet come to pass and the last light of the sun. He sang of what would be when the first Tadilisus tree died and the seed it would leave to start again. His song was older than any whose ears it reached, yet it had never been sung before.

Many secrets were woven into its lyrics, though any who heard them understood them not, even he who recited them.

Mishtil jumped first with a slight squeal of glee. The companions watched as the wind caught her and threw her into the storm. Try as they might, she was soon lost from sight as the grayness of the maelstrom obscured her small body. All knew she was safe, however, for Brenisch’s song did not waver.

Venul was next. Perched on the edge of the void, she spread her arms wide, leaving herself completely open to it. It imbued all who saw her with a sense of loss and pain to know that she would soon be gone. Without looking back, she simply fell forward, her arms still spread like a bird who wanted to take flight. Then she too was out of view.

The somber mood was suddenly broken as Silwyn came running through the assembled gods. The Goddess of Travel pushed Drugar out of the way as the rest of the gods laughed in astonishment at the display. She never broke stride as she lept from the edge into the swirling winds and rain.

Tadis and Markkesh stared at each other for a lingering moment, their hands folded together. There was much the two gods had never said to each other, but this was not the moment for that. Silently, they both feared that perhaps it never would be. Without a word, they released the others hand. Tadis walked backwards, their eyes never leaving the assembled gods as they stepped off the edge of the cliff.

“This is it, sister. You are the last one.”

Druhaus stared at the storm, and uncharacteristic look of terror in her eyes. Her mouth moved up in down in time to the rhythm as she chewed her cheek. She ran her fingers through her short blue hair.

“It calls to me, Mugan. I can hear it’s whispers.”

A rye smile appeared on his lips.

“Come now, sister. I’ve never seen you afraid before! Brenisch can not waver. You watched the storm since we began. Go to it now. It is time.”

“Yes, brother. You are right about that. It is time. Good bye.”

The Goddess of Magic shuffled up the the storm, using her staff as support. She looked frail and old. The air suddenly hung thick with anxiety as a sense of dread pervaded the assembled mass. Brenisch sang now of stories half finished and journeys never completed. He was nearing the end of his song.

Suddenly, the God of Poetry’s voice wavered and produced a single jagged note. He struggled to regain the melody as Druhuas stepped from the ledge.

Mugan was already in motion, running to his sister as his fingers traced arcane symbols into the still air. His words clashed with the song, creating dry dissidence and unexpected harmonies. He reached her moments too late, his hand sweeping downwards to grab hers, but returning empty. He hesitated for less than a second before jumping after her, his spell never ceasing. The winds caught them both, ripping them every which way.

They would never reach Samsarras. ‘

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