Morgolic passes on to Liope the Essence and the Stones
| Chapter 1 Encounter
Scene 1 of 1 Olivia and Miranda lament death of Cracious.
Atop the knoll stood a "Hard Spot" as they were called in those times. It was a small fortification with an outer earthen berm and wood palisade. Within was a circular tower reaching to a great hight. This inner structure, known as the "Keep," was where a small garrison was quartered on the ground floor. Inside, a circular stone staircase followed the curve of the wall upwards, comprised of three flights of stairs. The first brought one to the administrative level which contained the garrison commander's quarters, arms room and storage facilities used in the event of siege. Continuing to climb the next level housed the Scry Staff, adolescent elven females who carried out the communications function. At the very top was the Scrying Platform. This upper most promontory was surrounded by battlements and offered a commanding view. It provided an unobstructed line of sight view for many miles in all directions. In the center was a hollowed granite obelisk rising up about five feet and scooped out at top. Inside the basin held a froth of shiny fluid that looked like mercury. This is the Scrying bowl.
As Miranda reached the top of the keep the fog was rolling in obscuring a carpet of green forest far below. It was chilly and the middle aged woman was distraught. She mounted the platform and stared down into the bowl. Her accolades joined hands and slipped into a trance. Vacant eyes rolled back into their sockets and looked pale white as they began performing the ritual of extrasensory communications. The shiny liquid in the bowl swirled, became placid and suddenly an image appeared.
Olivia recoiled in shock. Scrying into her bowl the Witch saw the puffy face of Miranda looking back at her. Her favorite cousin rocked back and forth in tears.
"Cracious is dead, Cracious is dead," she lamented.
"Oh my god it can’t be true," Olivia gasped.
"It's true, it's true," Miranda wailed, "set upon and murdered by the Republic."
"I can't believe it. I simply can't believe it," answered Olivia in shock. “Does Malcolm know?"
"My husband's disconsolate."
"How in god's name could such a thing happen?”
"A battle in the Gorge, set upon by Guardsmen."
Olivia slumped…. Bright eyed little Cracious…. Not so little any more, the pride of his father…their firstborn son.
"He’s dead, he’s dead, my baby’s dead," Miranda continued, her lamentations growing ever louder.
"How did you get word?" Olivia asked, hoping the source would prove uncertain.
"The Simian Girl, she was the beacon... sent the final message. Said they were overwhelmed and death was imminent... That the Sword and Scarab had been entrusted to Morgolic. He had escaped and was in route to Listeria, through the Valley of the Men.
"I’m so sorry my dear Miranda…so sorry! You must keep me abreast of further developments. I’ll pass along everything you’ve told me. Give my love to Malcolm. Pray our woe is premature."
The bowl went blank and Olivia, Patron of the Tristerian and Nobowian Elves, immediately set about trying to get in touch with Gabriel. Gabby, as she was called, was Matriarch of the Coven, Steward of the Nirvana line and Patron of the Valley Men. Her Aunt, however, was old and her daughter Cateyln, when she was around, did most of the scrying. Their bowl was located in a temple that was often unattended. Most of the time they lived at a cabin, North of the Silber Stahl Lode. There, they employed a more primitive means of scrying, using crystals. This worked after a fashion, but not nearly as well as The Bowl. After several attempts she gave up. Rogoletti walked into the room and noted her distress.
"What’s wrong?" he asked and she told him what had happened.
Scene 2 of 1 Liope takes a walk, imagines herself beautiful Witch.
It was the fall of the year and Liope felt a compulsion. To her it was akin to Spring fever but the timing was all wrong. She smelled the scent of fresh cut hay, faint but distinct. It was a fragrance she was especially fond of and the young girl breathed deep of the aroma. It wafted in the air, growing stronger as the breeze drifted down from the High Pasture. At length, the weight of household chores gave way to an adventurous spirit and with glad heart she gathered her wrap and horn, took her basket, and set off for the foothills.
She was a peasant girl, daughter of the village blacksmith, descended from the Wood People. Life in the Valley was hard work, but being young gave her a zest for life that emboldened a sense of adventure. Thus, she resolved to take advantage of the beautiful day. As she walked along, dark clouds began to form and she was tempted to turn back, however, the compulsion grew keener, like an unseen hand tugging at her awareness. A foggy mist began rising up from the river.
She began playing a game, learned in her childhood. She imagined herself a beloved White Witch, commanding the world around her. She broke off a twig of willow and pretended it was her wand. In her fanciful mind birds flew behind, holding the hem of her dress as butterflies fluttered about, tying ribbons in her hair. A horse came up to the fence as she walked past.
“What a fine and handsome knight you are,” she complimented.” Is there a boon I can grant you?“
The horse whinnied and she waved an enchantment about his head…It was exactly the right thing to do and the handsome knight bowed graciously, eyes filled with adoration and love.
Along the way her gathering was unexpectedly bountiful. There was abundance of mushrooms and despite an inexplicable need for haste, her basket was full. It was a carefree and happy time for the young girl who at eighteen years stood in the fullness of womanhood. She savored the moment, not realizing that something was about to change her life forever.
Scene 3 of 1 Discription of Snagar
The Snagar were cat creatures, Cryo-spawned in the breeding pools of the Republic. They were feline hunters, who could stand erect or run on all fours. In close combat, their saber teeth and sharp claws made quick end to all resistance They were partly mountain lion, some human and a lot of other dark things besides. Like hounds, they hunted in packs and their quarry was Elves. They were bred largely for this purpose and the smell of the wood creatures, put them into a high state of excitement. They had been surprised at finding the trail of an adult male so far from where they normally hunted. Indeed they had been on their way back to Corinth when by the sheerest of chances, happened onto the ground trail. What at first was a lingering trace, gathered continuity and hung in the air with maddening temptation. Moving cautiously they followed as the scent grew stronger. Then it sprang to life, crying out with invitation. Sensing closure, they bounded forward with a single minded purpose. Whiskers twitching, they reveled, as the smell of desperation grew stronger and the gap between their prey closed relentlessly. The thrill of the hunt ran hot, and their strides quickened in anticipation of the kill.
Scene 4 of 1 Morgolic on the run
Morgolic was an Elf. When he first sensed the Snagar on his trail, a panic washed over him. It grew fevered as he realized his escape plans were not working. His backtrack along the river had failed and the attempt proved to be a waste of valuable time. Now he was hemmed in and there was no way to go but East. He had been on his feet longer than he cared think about. After the initial panic his emotions subsided into a nagging and visceral fear. The prospect of his life ending was becoming a distinct possibility. With this realization came unexpected clarity of mind and peace to his spirit. Still, his legs were weary and he feared that before long they would begin to cramp. That would be the final insult to everything else going wrong in his life. In this state of mind he put a whistle to his lips, and sent a signal to the Galreath.
Scene 5 of 1: Discription of Galreath and flight with Morgolic
The Galreath were birds of legend. In the lore of Elves, Dwarves and Men, they were accorded frequent mention and it is even said, they could speak the Elven tongue. They were huge and one fully matured could carry a grown elf, not far mind you, but for a short distance. Fortunately for Morgolic, it was a full grown male that responded to his call and came skimming low over the valley. His name was Condor and he spotted the elf loping along, in that characteristic and untiring stride. Flaring his wings, he checked momentum, stalling out at the last moment, before dropping to earth. His talons raced along the trail, in short jerky steps, before slowing to a stop. The Elf raced towards him and leaped onto his back. Reaching beneath the feathers he took tight hold of the leathery skin. No sooner had Morgolic settled than he felt the bird's powerful legs accelerate them down the path and with a surge the Galreath bounded as two great wings bore them skyward. As they gained altitude the valley spread out below. It was bounded to the North by desert and to the South by glacier. On each flank rose the steep mountains of Nogarth. Below them, ran a fertile river valley, home of the Wood People.
The respite gave Morgolic time to think and the seriousness of his plight became increasingly self evident.
I must prepare for the transition, before they catch up with me, he thought. This is a fine mess I've gotten myself into. I’m trapped. Can't go North or South because of the mountains.... Can't go West and I'll never make it to the border before they catch up. Even when they lose my scent, temporarily, they'll still know my only escape route leads East. That's the direction they'll follow and it won't be long until they catch up.
What's your name? Morgolic telepathically asked the bird.
Condor, answered the Galreath silently.
Condor, you must not bear me far… You must conserve your strength to save yourself…. You will carry my scent and the Eagles will hunt you as the Snagar do me.
“True," Condor replied, You are heavy and this will not be a long flight.
Morgolic pointed ahead. Up ahead, by the clearing will serve. There are measures to take and I must reconcile myself. You’ve given me an hour and for that you have my gratitude.
Condor glided down to the clearing and began stepping fast as the ground came up. Due to the weight he was forced to run a considerable distance before he could arrest the momentum and come to a stop. As he did, Morgolic slid to the ground.
Gods keep you, thought the bird.
And you too my friend, channeled the elf.
Two strides and a strong flap, took the Galreath upward. He climbed East and was soon out of sight.
Scene 6 of 1 Encounter between Liope and Morgolic
From across the clearing Liope saw the Galreath swoop low and in her curiosity yearned for a better view. She had seen the winged creatures on high but never so close. As the great bird ascended once more, the shadow of it swept over. This distracted her from something else, moving stealth-fully through the high grass. She strained but saw no more of it and wondered if it had been her imagination. The mist from the river rolled towards her, along the ground, like a carpet of fog. She could feel the approaching warmth but despite the effect, she shivered.
Oh my goodness, “she wondered, clapping her hands in delight. I 've seen up close one of the great beasts of legend. The thrill of it was almost too much to bear and it caused her heart to race with excitement. Imagine that, she thought to herself, will anyone believe me when I tell them?
Probably not, came words uninvited to mind.
She whirled around, shaken by a vision rather than an actual voice and heard only the silence of the clearing.
Could it be I imagined it? she wondered.
I hardly think so, a wordless voice answered.
Frightened, she cast about for the source and taken with panic began to run for home. As she did a presence rose up and she ran head long into the elf. The momentum carried her into his arms, pushing him backwards.
Morgolic was shorter and the top of his head came hardly to her bust. He had characteristically pointed ears, and was dressed in woodland garments of brown leather and green flannel. He wore a shoulder halter to which was attached an enormous two handed sword with jeweled hilt. Releasing her shoulders, he stepped back, hands up, speaking slowly.
“My lady," he said, arms extended and hands open. "Have no fear of me.... only the great danger that follows."
"And what should I fear?"
"The Snagar, " he answered. "They'll soon be upon us."
A hot flash brought sweat to her brow. The mists were rolling about her ankles and rising up. The humid presence was oppressive and her lips tasted bitterness. She struggled deciding what to do next.
“Best take your horn and sound the warning,” spoke the Elf , as if reading her mind.
“Yes the alarm… of course,” she answered, struggling with fear and confusion. Raising her horn she blew the Call to Arms. The sound of it blared loudly and reverberated across the valley.
"Well done," he complemented, "But there's no time for laurels. Forgive me my boldness, but I'm in bad need of help. Say NO if you wish, but please listen."
"What do you want?"
He stared intently into her eyes. I must give you some things for safekeeping. One of these you will find alarming.
His words seemed to form inside her mind rather than entering through her ears. They were vivid and commanded her attention.
“I will do what I can.” she replied, "but speak plain.“
I will, he answered telepathically.
Perplexed she scrutinized him closely. Suddenly the realization hit her, He speaks with wordless lips.
Very observant, thought the elf.
“What must I do?” she asked.
“Ah yes,” he answered, “We come to that most delicate of parts... the matter of what needs to be done. First of course there is the issue of the stones. They are jewels more precious than anything you can imagine."
He drew his sword and began removing the gems encrusted in the hilt. Many were already missing, but those that remained were faceted and gleamed in the sunlight. From the base of the handle he removed a red one. Placing them in a pouch he drew the string tight.
"You must keep these hidden, concealed about your person. With the stones you will know my people. Someday they will find you, and repay in small measure, the gratitude of my debt."
He placed the long string of the purse about her waist. The touch of his fingers about her hips quickened her breath and she withdrew reflexively.
And what else do you want?, she wondered.
The weight of the pouch seemed to excite an intuition forming in her imagination. It seemed to answer the very question she was afraid to ask. Her awareness was illuminated with what he expected, but while the image was fuzzy, the underlying message was plain enough and she translated it in the only way she could. Her heart raced with a blend of fear and foreboding. The hot vapors raising higher took her breath and beads of sweat ran down her forehead.
Shaking his head the elf channeled.
It is something akin to what you perceive but not nearly as threatening as you imagine.
Clearing his throat he continued verbally. "I've been given a Scarab of great antiquity. It is an heirloom of the Witches that once inhabited this valley. If the Snagar take me they will hand it over to the Republic. The loss of the jewels and the relic would be a grievous setback."
"What's a Scarab?"
"It's an insect, said to contain the essence of one of the four Heroes of Old... one of the Great Lords that gave his life for the cause and died protecting the refugees that fled before the rape and pillage. The claim is that he left a part of his essence in a Scarab, gave it to his wife and rode off to war."
"A remarkable tale," she answered. "But how does it work?"
"It's a Blood Scarab." replied Morgolic, surprised by her lack of knowledge. "Have you no idea as to their purpose?"
She searched her mind for an explanation but it came up blank. Then she saw in the Elf's awareness the exact nature of its intended purpose. Her jaw dropped open. To her understanding there was but one way this could be accomplished. As he unbuttoned his tunic his actions bespoke an intention she found unnerving.
Could it be he intends to force himself? she thought to herself. Does he take me for a fool? Her breasts began to heave, wet with perspiration.
The elf shifted to telepathy. Telepathy is new to you, " he said. You read my mind in the context of the knowledge you have. What I must ask is something for which you have no experience or understanding.
She watched as he unbuttoned his shirt and bared his chest. There, in the indention, of his solar plexus, she noticed a large black spot. On closer examination it appeared to be an insect, trapped in a lattice of finely wrought gold bands. It reminded her of a roach but it was rounder in shape. Its body was swollen like a ticks and threatened to burst the restraints of the gold filigree that contained it.
This is what you're referring to? she thought in wonder.
It is indeed." he answered silently. This is the Scarab.
She moved closer for a better look. The beetle like creature was tethered by a silver chain but it was not the necklace that held it. Rather it adhered to his skin like a leech. He took it firmly, twixt finger and thumb and began twisting back and forth on its setting. Suddenly it came free but not cleanly. Flesh hung to its underside and the removal left a bleeding wound and small strands of hanging gristle.
Exactly…. It's good that we can dispense with speech... but do not think of it as your worst fear. Words don’t communicate easily what I must ask of you. Under other circumstances, a peasant girl would be out of the question. Such a course would transcend all belief. Unfortunately I'm faced with extraordinary circumstances and I pray you forgive what must appear a most unwelcome request. However, I must ask you to consider my plea and decide quickly.
This is simply awful, Liope told herself, and then with a second thought, but it could be worse.
"You want me to wear that thing?" she asked .
"Not right now.” he answered. " but If no one shows up to claim it, a little nourishment from time to time wouldn't hurt."
"Are you saying it will bite if I put it on?"
"It will sting at first but the pain will pass. Once it becomes attached you'll hardly notice it's there."
I really believe that..," she thought to herself, unconvinced.
He chuckled softly, extending the Scarab, alive and wiggling from its chain.
"Open the pouch and we'll put it with the jewels."
She untied the chord and opened the purse.
"Please," he whispered, "there's little time." His plea was compelling and with misgivings she extended it saying, "Go ahead."
With that he dropped the Scarab and chain inside. She could barely see the Elf now, so thick were the clouds that swirled about. The moisture clung to her like steaming vapor. The acrid smell assailed her nostrils and her throat burned. His thoughts were speaking from within her head and what began as wordless images were accompanied now by a melody of song. In the music of her imagination his concern soothed her fears as her mind expanded into his.
I wish it might be otherwise," he thought, in the silence of a haunting and lyrical melody. The song brought urgency to parts never before experienced. She could feel the throb of her pulse and the beating of his heart in a synchronous harmony. His thoughts were as clear in her mind as they were in his. She saw beneath his eyes a reservoir of sadness and they spoke without words, filling her memory with admonitions, never to be forgotten.
Keep the Scarab and the gems safe. They will reveal a world you never imagined possible. Sadly, I will not be able to redeem your trust but others will come in my 'stead. Until then, keep secret these tidings and all they portend. Know that as my essence animates the Scarab, that the scent of my spirit is upon you. Take care now, for with this power, 'oft comes blessings sweet and ill tidings of the worst sort. Flee now to your people and take refuge until the danger passes. She felt in his body a great weariness; In his heart she read anxiety, in his mind she could see the coming conflict and in his resolve, the determination to face it.
Placing his hands on her shoulders he turned Liope about.
Flee, to the Palisade... and may the gods go with you, he whispered on a thread.
And you too. she answered with a prayer.
With a push of his hand, she found herself racing down the trail.