The Rain Pours Down
Many of the leaders of the Elven (ilin) High Clans and other Nostir noble houses, those who have the wherewithal to travel by other means, arrived at the defiled glade to join the Asrai in their assault on the Hant. The lords and kings buried in the serpent mound meant that most nostir nobles have a few relatives in there. The grey robes sicken and choke as the flows rip asunder. The Hant, as provoked by Iuz the Old, pay a high price for their trespass. Jadhrim runs straight into the tomb after Forgileill, her white mare rearing and rolling her eyes before bolting off into the forest.
Tyralandi Scrimm sat on a smoking log near the centre of the trashed Hant camp. There were small groups of Asrai moving through the area, looking for live orcs. She waved Erlini over.
The Greyrobe came over and joined her on the log. Tyralandi spoke to her in Aerdy "What do you make of all that then?”
The rain pours down, hammering spring’s new leaves and creating new streams where once there were deer tracks. It is as if Ghia wants the residue of the maggot folk washed out of the Vesve. The Asrai provide a guide for Forgileill’s party to Imladínen. Forgileill takes her still distraught cousin away to recover in private. Thranduil seeks out Fienthin.
As they talk night falls and still the rain comes down. A fire is laid and lit in the heath behind them. "Heralar, you are looking for fault where none lies. Iuz the old, Iuz the foul, lays his own plans and nothing that Forgileill has done provoked him to send his agent to the Vesve. Iuz has always sought to ruin this land; your friend has done great service in countering his machinations."
"Forgileill has shown tact and sympathy; her respect for the remains of the unicorns and their recovery has greatly eased the pain of her cousin. I do not think that she had realised that her cousin is a Silver Maiden. So the Asrai are flushing the last of Hant out of the forest where Hisra’s ilin have mustered to hunt them down. Hopefully precious few will survive to make it back to the Howling Marches. Inevitably some will. Which is just as well; they will carry news that the Empire holds no welcome for their kind."
Thranduil nodded. Fienthin continued: "I have spoken with Kcasamenzay. She requires her weapon to return to Saironost and continue her professional qualification. The Princess could take her Greys with her. It never hurts to have a few more friends around. And they may stand between her and an assassin’s knife, which would serve some purpose."
Fienthin pours out the last of last year’s quith into two cups and hands one to Thranduil. "But tell me more of King Bog One Eye. What happened when you cornered him in the shrine?”
"Well, Forgileill had saved enough Gûl. I could have leapt behind or onto the creature but hesitated whilst she cast her enscorcelment. But she did not. Apparently, when we spoke afterwards, she did not cast for fear of hurting me with the spell as she had expected me to close with the creature." He drained his cup. "Eventually we managed to syncopate our efforts but it vanished from the world we know before we could vanquish it fully."
Fienthin considered for a moment. "Guidance will come, Heralar. But you both have to want it. You both have to accept it. The Seldarine is ready for you both, but you both have to be ready for the Seldarine. Patience, Heralar, all will become clear in time."
"And then you will not be invincible, but at least you’ll have a clear idea of what you are doing."
Thranduil looked expectant. Fienthin watched him as his eyes implored her for more. "Do not forget that you are a Heralar. An Apostle of one of the Seldarine. As well as your duties, don’t forget that such a position has benefits as well."
Thranduil looked her in the eye. "There’s more isn’t there?”
Fienthin nodded. "The Seldarine are generally kind and generous. But I have consulted the Lore of Labellas." There was a long pause. "Do not look for thiramin, Thranduil. You may be disappointed. There are other forms of love; alas, none of these is as great a gift."
Fienthin finished her drink and turned to Thranduil. "Now, eternal student, it is time to meet your next teacher. It is time for you to go up in the world…"
He stood as she did. She made a little fuss over the fine detail of his attire and hair, straightening him up a little and lastly smoothing down the Griffin feather he wore with a slight smile. "There." She said with an air of satisfaction. "Follow me."
Anar and Ryzaim walked along the trail after the rest of Forgileill’s party with the gravitas and air of authority that a Greyrobe had every right to display. Ryzaim’s imp walked directly behind him, aping his mannerisms to the continuing delight of curious Asrai observing from the depths of the forest.
Ryzaim had engaged Anar on the ancient carvings on the Elven barrow. Although that conversation was over, he was unwilling to allow the communication to die, as Anar was the hardest one of his colleagues to get to talk. "I have learned that our mistress is to return to Saironost. She is to take the tests."
There was a long moment of quiet. "Do you think she will pass?”
Ryzaim considered his response. Behind him, the imp pantomimed his ponderings, exaggerating the gestures for comic effect. "If she does not, then we are no worse off than we were a year ago. Better off, in fact. We have the hunting lodge as accommodation, are sufficiently geographically removed from our late masters’ foes to be relatively safe and moreover have accumulated no small pool of resources with which to continue our works."
He left a long pause for Anar to similarly expound:
Ryzaim continued, "If she succeeds, she may, in fact is almost certain, to sponsor us when we take the tests."
Anar raised an eyebrow. But said nothing, so Ryzaim continued.
"Having us as quartet of qualified magi would be a feather in her hat. And we would be better able to provide the level of service our mistress expects."
"You presume that an Imperial Princess needs another feather in her hat? And that she does not see ambitious Greyrobes as rivals, rather than assets?”
Ryzaim suddenly looked up at Anar as these ideas churned around within him.
Anar smiled inside, careful not to show Ryzaim any hint of the joke.
Ryzaim walked on in unaccustomed silence for a while.
"There is no immediate threat to us from our patron. So until we learn anything to the contrary, we must assume that our wellbeing lies within her wellbeing. For her to fail the tests might not be a disaster, but would not be at all beneficial. We will have to good enough to prove ourselves invaluable, but not so good that she becomes jealous or suspicious."
Anar walked along in silence.
"We should go to Saironost with her. We should not even try to assist her in her trials, (for it would lead to our immediate demise) but should be able to keep any trouble away whilst she prepares."
Anar walked along in silence, but allowed Ryzaim to follow his gaze to Erlini.
"Yes, yes, I must let the others know." And of course he would be within casual strolling distance of Ianval’s tower.
Valarwen travelled back to Corwyl. The Asrai were certainly pleased to see her. All of them from the settlement came out to see her, smiling in silent benediction as they took her hand or some of the children just touched her clothing and shied away. She could hear the whispers. They thought her god-touched. She was holy to them. The ruling council of the village turned out to formally greet her. The Mind, Heart and Spirit of Corwyl. There the Spirit of the three directed her out towards the little hunt. In the lengthening shadows, she found the ancestral speaker in the shadow of one of the rock formations.
"I sang you to me" said the albino girl. Valarwen just waits, the ancestral speaker is only semi-conscious, obviously mostly in the otherworld. After a while, as dawn breaks, the pale girl sags. Valarwen feeds her waybread and wets her lips with quith. "Welcome to the Vesve, gods daughter. What do you know of the two wolves within little sister?”
"The two wolves who fight?" The ancestral speaker nodded.
"One is anger, fear, arrogance, conceit and the other is love, respect, tolerance and truth?" Again the ancestral speaker nods. "And the one who wins…." Began Valarwen.
"Is the one you feed" ended the pale girl. "That is your lesson Valarwen."
"It is one that I have tried to learn. One I have striven to bring into my daily conduct."
"Ah yes," The ancestral speaker took a larger draught of quith. "But what your ancestors tell me is that you are no longer the pupil. You are now the teacher."
Valarwen paused for a moment. It was not entirely obvious who her student was to be, but what the Ancestral Speaker said next confirmed it was to be Forgileill.
"She is a weapon, Valarwen. Her people, your people forged her from the best materials they had to be an engine of destruction. She is a sacrificial weapon; that she is potentially the best of our kind (at destruction) and yet is abandoned to fate makes her feel very alone and her kin very sad. You will see the sorrow within them when they see her."
"But the keenest arrow from the mightiest bow is wasted if it is not aimed true. That is your purpose, Valarwen. It is why the gods caused you to be born."
The ancestral speaker withdrew to a byre that formed spontaneously around her as she sought to lie in a juniper bush.
"I will sing you to me when you need to know more, Valarwen,"
Valarwen stood and turned to leave.
"Remember. The friends of prophesied heroes lead short but interesting lives."
Tyralandi Scrimm continued her discourse with Erlini LeSú. The two Imperial Aerdy women had a fair amount in common, being a priestess of the Aerdy Goddess of magic and a Greyrobe respectively. Madmwazäl Scrimm was very interested in Erlini’s time studying under master shapeshifter Scarlú. And then her flight following his murder. Madmwazäl LeSú was equally enthralled by Tyralandi’s work as a Witchwarden. Expanding their discussion to include Erlini’s peers and their mistress, it became evident that there was a great deal of existing ability as well as future potential. It would not be unreasonable for a servant of the Goddess of Magic to become involved. Her assistance (and spiritual guidance) would surely help them and she would be furthering the work of the Goddess.
Priestesses of Weejas [Wízhas; ‘Ouijasse’?] had been in Saironost fairly regularly over the years, but there was no formal embassy there. To be inside for a while would certainly be a feather in her hat within the church.