The Village of Corwyl and the Ancestral Speaker of the Asrai
He went like one that hath been stunned
Following the stick took them many days. Tûd and Kamilata eventually gave up worrying privately and made clear to Forgileill their concerns about the level of supplies remaining to them. At first, she was thinking “Why are they telling me?!” but then remembered that as their Lyio, feeding both them and their rocca was actually her responsibility. But that did not exclude delegation. She was about to order a camp from which they would hunt to re-stock their provender, when they came upon Corwyl.
The Asrai are a nomadic people within the Vesve. They move around depending on the season and the availability of the resources upon which they subsist. They have, in all that land, only one permanently occupied settlement. Corwyl was created for the simple purpose of tending the memory tree of Erolvin Cor, the last king of the Asrai before Corellion himself appointed the first of the High Kings. If it is the same tree it is over twelve millennia old.
Somewhat predictably (Corwyl had been very close to lands governed from Iuz during the PEP) the dwellings were flets or telain amongst the branches of the trees themselves. There were also trees that apparently had deliberately grown hollow in order to provide accommodation for the Galadhrim who lived there.
They were met by the council of three, who bade them all welcome and then extended their sympathies to Forgileill and went on to speak with her at some length about the connection between the scions of Feanor and the Asrai. Evidently there was some wriggling on Forgileill’s part going on. Tûd caught the words of a severe looking woman telling her that “She who spurns all criticism is forsaking an opportunity to better herself.” Tûd could see that this went down well. He felt a sudden shock of pity for Forgileill. She was experienced and skilled beyond her years. She kept the appearance of a teenaged girl (now in armour, with ilin at her back) and yet many people still spoke to her as if she were a mere child.
Decided then, he walked his horse forward and apologised to the council for interrupting their conversation. He bowed his head to Forgileill “Lyio, your ilin hunger and their rocca are getting cold.”
She excused herself from the council and returned to the others to see to their camp, something of which they were more than capable of doing themselves. Tûd gave her a sly wink and she tried not to smile.
Provisioning ceased to be a worry. Waybread was provided for their onward journey and stores were made available to supplement their rations that evening. They had obviously been long expected. Quith was produced and all of the ilin spent a pleasant evening meal chatting with the residents of Corwyl, who had come out in numbers to be with them. Initially, the Galadhrim sat around watching the ilin, conferring amongst them selves. Eventually they spoke with their guests, although only through Forgileill, Thranduil and one or two of their own who spoke Flanne. Yes, they confirmed, the village rarely entertained visitors. Music began and with it, the occasional dance.
Forgileill learned that the Asrai had an Ancestral Speaker. As the merry making commenced, she tried to explain the significance of this to her ilin.
“Many people claim that elves walk ways unknown to mortals, they say that Elven paths veer far from the fields we know, onto other planes. Some even say that elves do not really live in mortal lands at all, but that all their forest homes, isles and cities exist as an expression of some deeper truth. Certainly many things are different therein, for example cold winter besets Hisra and yet here we feast amongst the trees without discomfort.
Like all elves, the Ancestral Speaker is as much spirit as mortal; unlike their brethren, they are able to turn their face away from this world and to perceive the far reaches of space and time. They learn the paths between the stars, those trodden by our ancestors. Thus they are able to find sacred places where these ancestors may be contacted.
This is a very rare talent. The last one I know of lived here over a thousand years ago. This is an omen in itself. It is both fortuitous and disquieting.”
They returned to their feasting.
One young elf came to Thranduil and beckoned him to follow. Forgileill saw him led away. The Gwathló claim to fame is that they, of all the Nostir, were the only people ever to out-sneak the Galadhrim in their own forest. Of course that was just legend and was obviously not a thing for a guest to try at a meal held in her own honour. Especially as these people had seemed forewarned of their arrival; and numbers and even taste in food and drink.
Thranduil was introduced to Glorianna Deloryl. Initially the meeting the albino pernostir adolescent in this place had been a surprise. That she was the Ancestral Speaker even more so. Thranduil, knowing what was expected of him [his account of his religious travails], instead chose to speak of what he liked. He elaborated on the theme that he had been an apt pupil of the white order and was disappointed that their path was now closed to him.
With a seriousness and understanding disconcerting coming from one so young, she asked him what it was he missed. He thought and then delivered his answer. Purpose. The honing of his skill towards some higher goal, some benefit which whilst it might well be intangible to him, was nonetheless real to those on whose behalf he used those talents.
She leant over and kissed him. For a moment his mind went back to Kilena. He returned the kiss. There was a roaring within him and the forest seemed to rush past. Forgileill [who had indeed stolen away to spy on Thranduil] saw the white witch kiss Thranduil and then he collapsed backwards and lay on the floor unmoving for many minutes whilst she watched him. She felt a movement behind her.
Maerin Deloryl had wisely stood out of reach of the dagger that would have taken her throat. She was obviously the mother of the Ancestral Speaker. “Right now, he is at one with Corellion.” Forgileill understood then. Thranduil’s epiphany. The thing that he had, quite literally, been waiting all his life for (so far). For an instant she was a little put out. He was her ilin. She was related to the ancestor god of an entire empire. And his epiphany was triggered by a kiss from another (a different) spell-weaving elf maiden? Wasn’t she good enough ? She dismissed that question from her mind. The possibility of an unpleasant answer was almost more than she could bear. She bit her lip and looked up. A raven sat in the tree branches high above her. It cawed and winked at her, as if to say ‘no matter what the others think, I still like you’ before flapping off. Glorianna was linked to the Seldarine through the spirit world. Forgileill was an arcanist. It was that simple. Of course his epiphany would come through the Ancestral Speaker and not through herself.
If the Ancestral Speaker could speak with the other world then there was a good chance that her mother may well already know what this performance was all about. Maerin bowed to Forgileill and backed away. That the Asrai had an Ancestral Speaker at all was news indeed. And if she became a friend, then this was yet another potential source of information. Forgileill turned back to watch. Thranduil, apparently with great effort, struggled to his elbows.
Forgileill stepped into the clearing as Glorianna stood up. Thranduil slowly got to his feet. She and Glorianna exchanged mutual bows. Glorianna waved her arm in a slow arc towards a nearby furry oak. “Come, I have vacated my home tree for this night to grant you privacy.”
His voice faltered as he groped for words. None came and he looked somewhat embarrassed. Forgileill grinned as he squirmed. He looked anywhere but at either of the girls before him. This appeared to be somewhat a surprise for the Ancestral Speaker of Corwyl. The look she wore, the inflection in her voice and the manner of her carriage all indicated that she had presumed that they were lovers.
There was a moment’s hesitation from all of them; Forgileill’s hand darted out into Glorianna’s. With her other hand, she grasped Thranduil’s wrist and placed Glorianna’s hand in his. The Ancestral Speaker and Falliarochben hesitantly turned and began to make their way into the depths of the tree. Thranduil glanced over his shoulder and was rewarded with his Lyio poking her tongue out at him. The slightly sadder princess stared at the opening for a few moments before shaking her head and climbing up to the talan.
The next morning the village and its guests broke their collective fast together. All eyes were towards Thranduil. Evidently in this place, there were no secrets. All eyes were waiting for him to say something about his life’s purpose. His epiphany.
The council appeared. Quiet descended on those congregated. Halsekka presented Thranduil with a blue jacket, edged with silver. It was fantastically embroidered with metallic threads, with a spread hand-sized design of two swords over the two moons. Thranduil bowed to the Spirit of the Three as he accepted the gift. He showed it to Tûd and Kamilata.
“This is a religious vestment. It is a garment of the apostle of Tethrin Veraladé, the shining one, the master of blades. It is mine now.” He carefully folded the jacket and set it down on the log next to him, he reached for his ilya, untied it and stood up.
Forgileill also stood up as he stepped towards her. He knelt and bowed his head, offering up the ilya with both hands. Blinking away any sign of a tear, she slowly reached out and took the travel worn white strip from him.
Kamilata nudged Forgileill, trying to lighten her mood by saying “Looks like you be needing to find another protector, then.”
There was laughter annoyingly similar to the pealing of silver bells. It was of course the young Ancestral Speaker, again all in white.
“Thranduil was never her protector. His connection to the Princess is altogether more subtle. The princess has been watched over by the Raven Spirit, both here and in the other world. But for what purpose, the Raven has so far kept to himself.”
Slowly, all the elves in the gathering followed the gaze of the others until Tûd felt that everyone was looking at him. They were.
“You must have known.” Glorianna said. She glanced at the others, who all looked either blank or bemused. “Surely it has been obvious all this time that you had picked out by destiny as the young raven’s protector.” Tûd looked at the strange girl before him (who he had not seen before) and was distracted by the fact that her eyes were almost devoid of pigment. Glorianna hesitated. “You have been guided by the Raven Spirit, haven’t you?” He nodded, vigorously. Oh yes, he’d been guided by the Raven Spirit alright. Almost every night, it was something he worried about constantly. And now it appeared that there was a reason for it. He glanced at Forgileill, who like everyone else was still regarding him as one might a performing monkey or other curiosity. He shifted uncomfortably; they were all still looking at him.
The Council of Three then presented gifts to the descendant of Feanor. They were two puppies, a Cooshee and Kannershee, named Ruom and Ranor, saying, “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.” Despite the fact that these hounds had a fearsome and noble reputation, the two tiny puppies just looked helpless and very, very small.
Forgileill looked around. All the Asrai were looking very pleased with themselves. Evidently this bequest of magical dogs meant a lot to them. She glanced over at the Ancestral Speaker, who appeared to be in some sort of shallow trance. Glorianna spoke out “They are your friends, your partners, your defenders, your dogs. You are their lives, their love, their leader. They will be yours, faithful and true. To the last beat of their hearts. You owe it to them to be worthy of such devotion.” There was a rushing surge then. Kamilata thought he picked up a faint note on the air and a subtle scent of strawberries. Several of the wood elf elders (and Thranduil) blinked and swayed a little. Forgileill buckled at the knees and only just caught herself. That’d be wood elf magic then. He watched her kneel as the two tiny puppies ran over to her as fast as their poorly co-ordinated legs could manage.
The two puppies, one fat and one gangling, looked up at their new mistress. Hesitantly, she reached down and scooped them up, scowling as they both tried to lick her face.
Thranduil would go with them to Ulria. He was now a mendicant and therefore no bandit. And besides, he had a Princess of the Gwathló to vouchsafe for him. And perhaps she could make use of a spiritual guide, one of the Asrai had suggested. As target practice, suggested Kamilata. T?d laughed, but no-one else did. Perhaps Galadhrim humour didn’t extend to ridiculing their holy men.
Their camp was struck and one of the Asrai guided them back to the road. This only took one day. When questioned as to why it had taken four and half days to get there and only one to get back, their guide could only shrug, she had no explanation. The wood was at once Seelie and Unseelie, and all should make of it as they would.
Back on the Tîrgu Road, they were back in the real winter, their guide waved farewell and faded back into the forest, disappearing far too quickly for rational explanation. Kamilata regarded the two young dogs, gazing up at their new mistress in the way that dogs do.
Thranduil saw the blank faces of his travelling companions staring back at him. “It’s mmmmaaaggiicc.” He added, pulling a wide eyed face and waving his hands in a charade of mysticism, “It’s all to do with the Ancestral Speaker tying those elements of the flow that reflect these dogs to those parts of the flow that reflect Forgileill. It’s very hard to manage – it’s why Glorianna Deloryl is the Ancestral Speaker for her people. She’s innately connected with not only the flows but also the worlds which lie beyond them.”
“What about all that apostle stuff ?” asked Tûd.
“Tethrin Veraladé, the shining one, the master of blades is supposed to be the lover of Kirith Sotheril. She occupies a position in the Seldarine analogous to Tethrin Veraladé, the shining one, the master of blades, but dealing specifically with what is perhaps best described as the act of casting spells; as opposed to ‘magic’ in a more general sense, which can mean many things.” Said Forgileill.
Thranduil took up the explanation. “There appears to have been an assumption in Corwyl that as Forgileill is a spell caster and I am a swordsman and that we have been journeying together for a couple of years, that we are lovers.”
Forgileill broke in again. “And now that he is the apostle of a power, he should be addressed as ‘Heralar’ which is an ancient title for the chosen of Tethrin Veraladé, the shining one, the master of blades.”
“Legends tell of the Ohtar who lifted their blades against the primal darkness. They are spoken of as if they were separate beings, perhaps with some spark of divinity left over from the birth of our race. These individuals were fierce in war and unafraid to stand toe to toe with the mightiest of enemies. They fought with grace, skill and spell against foes whose very appearance would freeze the blood of mortal man.”
Forgileill was grinning wildly as she spoke, whilst Thranduil slowly drained of colour.
“They stalked the ancient world, wielding bright blades against dark things. They lifted their voices up to the heavens and cried defiance into the night. But they are not alien to the Nostir, in truth they came from those of our people who refused to leave others to their fate. They took up arms where others were afraid, standing with the forlorn and desperate, never forsaking any.”
Forgileill had ceased grinning. “They represented hope where they was none, walking into darkness for others, trusting to fate that their deaths were not in vain.”
The companions looked then at Thranduil, Heralar. He shifted uncomfortably in the saddle.
“ And we might call you ‘Zivorn’ then, princess ?” quipped Thranduil.
Tûd and Kamilata politely refused to acknowledge their Lyio’s embarrassment. “Very well,” asked Tûd, “But what does it mean?”
 Sylari, ‘the Mind of the Three’, Delon ‘the Body of the Three’ and Halsekka ‘the Spirit of the Three’. A council, unique amongst the Galadhrim, set up to both reflect normal Galadhrim leadership ideas and also to provide a point of focus for the unusual permanent village in which they live.