Savage Tundra Expansion
Te... ... g.... Tes.... ... Tess... ... .. ing... Test... Tes ... ting. Testing thought crystal. There we go. This is J'ayana, High Shardmaster, and Advisor to our Queen J'orea. I am preparing to depart with our Queen on her diplomatic mission to meet with the leaders of both the K'thir and Ironfist regions in the hotlands beyond the Barrier. They have been informed of our arrival via the messenger phoenixes I created for our Queen earlier today. I will be recording my observations during our journey using this crystal. The thought crystal has been disguised as a piece of jewelry so that no one but Our Queen and I know of its presence.
J'orea is arguing with Juya White-Eyes over the size of the guard that will be accompanying us. Our Queen wishes to have less numbers, to better avoid appearing as aggressors. However, Juya , concerned solely with the safety of our Queen, insists no less than twenty of her Frost-wings should assist us. They've been debating for almost an hour. Regardless I should go check to see the status of our mounts for the journey south. We shall be traveling on giant frost owls, four in total, which are currently being prepared in the rookery.
Our Queen has reached a compromise with Juya. Thirteen Frost-wings shall be accompanying us.
We are at the edge of the Tundra. Our capitol of J'Keinha has been out of view for many days now, but it seems that most of us are just now starting to feel the separation. Some of the Frost-wings seem wary about leaving our home, but dare not question the journey in the presence of Our Queen. J'orea it seems, has remained of sound mind and strength. Her grace and majesty uplifts our spirits.
Our newly acquired view of the Forest brings us many shades of green. The elders do not lie this place the hotlands. The sun shines for nearly half the day, and the heat of it is exhausting. We're all trying to adapt for the sake of our country, but even she has been complaining of the warmth. Either way, our journey is just beginning so we will have to get used to it.
The elves are an interesting people. They adorn elaborate robes and put on a face of civility, however, I can see in their eyes that many of them, especially those who did not know of our coming, judge us harshly for being here. It seems that news of our planned arrival was not made public. We are lucky I think, that our owls were not shot out of the sky. The elves seem slightly frightened by their size, the owls of the forest being significantly smaller. Our Queen has ordered some Frost-wings to stand guard with the them not entirely trusting the elves' intentions it would seem. They will not be alone though, as it appears that the faeries of the Forest have quickly taken to the owls. They are tiny winged creatures; smaller even than a shard phoenix. Of all that we have encountered so far, they seem most comfortable with our presence.
As we walk through the forest, the elves appear to act very respectfully to our procession. Some even bow as our Queen passes through. Still I do not think that they are not being completely truthful about their feelings. Earlier I overheard a group of elves speculate on whether our presence here is sacrilege. Another inquired with a whisper if we were to be cut open, would our blood would run blue. Still our purpose remains, we must meet with the leader of the elves to discuss the relations between our peoples.
We are being taken to a grand meeting of what the elves call "The Eternal Circle". Perhaps after five days of empty courtesies and excuses we are finally going to have an audience with the leaders of the elves.
The sheer number of elves that have arrived for this grand meeting is staggering. The scale of it all is surpassed only by the place within which they have gathered. "The Eternal Circle" is both a political entity and a structure built from concentric circles in the form of a giant tree bigger than even our largest pyramids. The eldest of the elves stands in center of the tree, while the members of the other circles stand upon the tree's enormous branches. The Queen and I stand on one of the middle branches with an elf who calls himself Darius. We have been told that the circle to which he belongs is from the inner ring, apparently of great renown, but not the top. It would seem that the elves do not see fit to treat our Queen with the respect she deserves; J'orea does not seem to share my concern.
The eldest elf has just stepped forward and asked for silence. Within moments the echo of his voice through the branches is all that breaks the silence he requested. I shall focus my thoughts on his speech:
"The threat we face is beginning to grow in numbers and in strength."
It seems that J'orea was right. Our arrival is not the sole purpose for this meeting having been called.
"New strategies must be enacted to help us in this fight!"
As if on cue, many of the elves in the assembly turned their gaze to Darius' branch, eyes fixed upon us.
"Our brothers of the Forest, the Garu, have been a great help in this battle but -"
The great elf has stopped speaking to listen to a young messenger who just moments before ran up to his seat. He nods his head, and turns his attention back to the circles.
"Regretfully...this meeting will have to be postponed to a later time. Members of the war council please remain for we have much to discuss."
Darius apologizes to our Queen and has asked that his assistant to escort us out of the circle. So much for our meeting with the elves.
On our way out from the meeting we were approached by an aged elf wearing purple robes with long silvery hair. It seems as though he was waiting for us, wishing to speak to Our Queen in private. J'orea requested that the Frost-wings and I accompany her in this meeting, but the elf would only allow one additional guest. J'orea has chosen me, citing that she feels an advisor will be of greater help than a guard in this situation.
After following the elf for quite some time now, we have come to a great canopy near a small brook. Underneath the boughs of a tree are two stone pillars that look nearly as old as the Forest itself. The elf has directed me and Our Queen to stand in between them. J'orea is doing a noble job indeed of putting up with all of these rituals. The elf is chanting some sort of prayer now and -
This isn't where we just were.
The elf has introduced himself as Menalaus. This name is not familiar to me, but seemed to catch the ear of Our Queen. He explained to us that the stone pillars are actually an old relic of the Forest, which can be used to "transport" people. He tells us that we are in a secluded region of the forest many weeks to the south of where we just were. He seems to feel much more comfortable her and he has important matters to discuss, so I shall transcribe:
"I can tell from your poise that you wish to waste no time, so I will skip further formalities. The Eternal Circle meets at this present moment to discuss plans and strategies for dealing with the spawn of the pits that have recently opened into our Forest. They are powerful demons indeed-"
Our Queen interjects. "But you do not feel them to be of greatest importance."
"It seems that your people have not abandoned their elven awareness. Yes, I do not believe they are the biggest threat this Forest faces."
The elf flashed the first sign of true worry I have seen him give thus far.
"There is another force that looms outside our borders. When it chooses to begin its assault upon us, we will be slaughtered if we are not organized. However, since this threat has not yet made its presence clear to the Forest, it has been foolishly ignored. But all things will reveal themselves in time; this will not be the last surprise. The Eternal Circle is beginning a campaign against the demons that will use up every resource we have. They wish to use the heritage they share with your people as leverage to enlist your aide against the demons. This cannot happen. You must conserve your forces for the True danger that lies ahead."
Our Queen seems contemplative, and speaks with grace, "Menalaus, while I understand your concerns, I must wonder if it is not in my people's best interests to help fight these demons, lest they reach our own borders."
"The demons will be sufficiently controlled. The creatures of the Forglar Swamp have been hit by the demons as well, and have allied with the Forest against them. While the Swamp has been known for its desire to remain isolated from conflict, they have never been attacked so directly. In any case, the combined forces of the Swamp and the Forest should be enough to stave the demons forces until the true threat arrives. At which point the demons will be of no concern. I tell you all of this as I know that the circle wishes to enlist your armies to help stave off the threats from the depths."
"I have much to consider, Menalaus. But I promise that, I will give your words the thought they deserve."
"I know you will. The gate outside should still be active. It will return you to the north." The elf pauses and looks warmly at our queen, his eyes sage-like in appearance. "I am glad to see your people are alive."
Our Queen nods and turns towards the port - A giant bear-like monster has just entered this place haphazardly. He looks angry, and even more primitive than the elves, but Menalaus remains nonchallant. Draped over his shoulder is what appears to be the corpse of a small, wrinkly creature.
"Godwin, what matter of trouble have you found yourself?" speaks Menalaus.
Tossing his prey to the ground the bear-man speakshis voice deep and powerful, "Here is more proof of the threat you refuse to accept, Menalaus."
J'orea signals to me that it is time to leave. As we continue toward the gate, a debate begins between Godwin and Menalaus.
We are flying westward now from the forest over K'thir towards the Kingdom of Ironfist. As we cross the Centaur Plains between the two kingdoms, we can see a battle being fought below. Large scaled monsters fight mercilessly against those the elves called centaurs. Afraid of being confused as reinforcements J'orea commands that we take to higher in the skies, just as the serpentine forces begin launching volleys of arrows into the sky. One of our Frost-wings, A'jennis I think, is hit and is falling to the ground. The others look to J'orea for leave to save him, but she yells that we climb higher. We cannot afford to stop here, there is nothing we can do to save him. Curses upon these hotlands.
The kingdom of Ironfist is truly war-torn. The buildings we pass are only shattered pieces of their original form. Corpses of both dwarves and the scaled creatures, the Draksar as we have learned, are littered throughout the land. Going by numbers alone it would seem that the dwarves are losing more than they kill.
Giant pieces of rock and metal cover the outer walls of the Ironfist Stronghold. It is clear that the protection of this place is of great importance. Even as we land, we can see dwarves tending to the fortress. Massive living creatures of stone - similar to our own ice-shard creations - carry immense rocks, under the supervision of a dwarf. Among the golems and the dwarves, taller, more defined figures scale the hills. Everyone seems very focused and content in their work. Like us, it seems their spirit is indomitable.
This small, skinny, black-bearded dwarf seems quite nervous. He clearly places great importance on our arrival. Unlike our appearance in the Forest, the people of this land were well informed we would be coming. However, while their politeness feels more sincere they are not letting our presence distract them from their work. The nervous dwarf has introduced himself as Feofil, assistant to the King. He has informed us that our owls may use the stables usually reserved for their own birds of travel. As several dwarves come to take them, I am surprised at how naturally they care for our owls despite their difference in size. The owl's seem pleased to be here.
"It's good to finally meet you, J'orea. I could use some extra company right now."
What this Dwarven King lacks in height he makes up for in stoutness. It's hard to discern through the thick grayness of his massive beard, but the way he moves suggests he is carrying much weight. One of his hands wears a mailed glove of armor, the other is bare. Our Queen speaks.
"But that is not why we are here, Rugolth."
"Of course not. I'm just speaking from certain parts of me that want to be heard." Their King quickly changes his pose to take on a more serious demeanor. Neither pose seems contrived.
"As we flew here, we saw much of the plight that faces your land; even losing one of my own guard."
Their King begins to grind his teeth. "My apologies to you my lady, but those damn Draksar are putting up one hell of a fight. It's been by the grace of the Holy that we've been able to hold out as long as we have. They've pushed us much further north than I would have liked, but we seem to have them in a deadlock here, thanks to the mountains and the 'Barbs'. But we need more allies."
"I assumed as much from the way the bird-riders you sent to our kingdom conducted themselves."
"Well they were that, and also to learn more about the land outside of ours. We need to know what's out there. And further, who's with us, and who's not."
Their King is stroking his beard with his ungloved hand. He is smiling now.
"But we'll talk more about this soon. It's time for dinner now. It's gonna be a great feast in your honor queen J'orea." Turning to our procession he says, "You're all invited, of course."
Their King is looking at me and chuckling. "Even the silent one without the wings."
Our Queen looks slightly concerned. "Rugolth, it is perhaps not the best time for such a feast. The issues we need to discuss are great and-"
Their King interrupts, "J'orea, it's always a good time for dinner. We will talk afterwards, I swear by the Holy."
This dining hall is quite extravagant. I theorize that the Dwarves have made this place elaborate in an effort to counter how their life looks outside of these walls. There are rows of tables, and more food than I imagine even all who are present could eat. Dwarves of all sorts are gathered at the tables, drinking and laughing. There are even some of the barbarians that Rugolth referred to off towards on of the great fire pits. It is so loud in here, I am beginning to have trouble hearing myself think. Hopefully this will not have negative effects on the recording.
We are sitting with their King at the head of the largest table. The dwarf called Feofil sits immediately to his right. Unfortunately, there are not enough seats for the all Frost-wings and thus many are eating with the barbarians. They don't seem to mind, though I catch them glancing to Our Queen from time to time. Ever the watchful guardsmen.
Their King has just stood up and grabbed the large stone hammer that resides next to his seat. He slams it to the ground, causing the entire room to rumble, as the clamor of the guests gives way to silence. He talks after clearing his throat.
"We have here the great Queen J'orea from the tundra to the north. She is a powerful leader, and her people have a great spirit. They are our guests tonight, so let us show them that our spirit is just the same!"
There is a great cheer from the hall, as the sounds of the feast resume.
We have arrived back outside their Kings quarters. J'orea and I shall now be able to get to finally talk abou -
"J'orea, I'm afraid I'll have to request our company consist only of you and I."
He is looking at me. Our Queen looks as though she is in disagreement.
"Rugolth, I do not see why my advisor cannot join us. She poses no threat."
Their King chuckles. Despite this, his eyes seem to be showing his seriousness. "I've been around too long, J'orea. I know that this wee one is doing a little more than advising."
It seems I shall be left out of this meeting.
I am sitting outside of their Kings quarters awaiting the end of the meeting between him and Our Queen. The dwarf called Feofil is in the hall with me, pacing back and forth, tugging at his black beard. He is small in comparison to most of the other dwarves, especially their King. I suppose I am small in comparison to the Frost-wings. However, it is not as though - Our Queen has just exited the room. Their King seems happy with however the conversation went. Our Queen has asked me to make a messenger phoenix to send back to our Capitol. We shall be returning now.
Our Tundra is a most beautiful sight. Everyone in our party seems in great spirits now that we are back in the snow. We are watching a group of Lonx return to their home in the shell of an artic tortois- Another messenger phoenix? This one from the capital with a slight red glow, signifying it was made in haste. Upon hearing the message J'orea commands that we change course and fly with great haste towards the Western Gale Towers. She has not confided in me our purpose for doing so.
We have been informed that a dark army of some sort has begun to invade our northern shores. We are entering a medical tent where a young Frost-wing is being held. We have been told that he saw the army. I am slightly nervous of the Lonx that accompany us, but security for Our Queen has been rigidly upgraded since this news.
The young Frost-wing has woken up, and seems very nervous. He is trying to defend his actions. Our Queen seems none too concerned with that at the moment. She has asked for the Frost-wing to tell us of what he saw. What he is describing seems to be worrying even J'orea. They do not seem to be the demons that are invading the Forest, nor are they the scaled creatures we saw. They are an entirely different threat. Walking dead men conjured from thin air? Surely he must be wrong!
We have been out of the view of the world for so long now, it is hard to imagine what this army would want from us. All through this trip, I had hoped that our isolation from the rest of the world, and the Boundary would protect us from the types of brutal situations we saw through our journey. As I look at the worry of Our Queen, I cannot help but think that, despite our best efforts, we will become like everybody else.