Kudzu

Dreamers Apart

Siriin – Dream of Mist

Her Dream was beginning. She had never experienced anything like it, yet she knew it by… instinct? Yes, that’s the word. Anything she looked at, she instinctively knew by name. Until she looked beyond the forest. The world outside was shrouded in fog, the lands, creatures and people unnamed and unknown. The mysteries frightened her, seemed to drag her away from the sanctuary of the great Pale Tree she had found herself under. She sensed that the world beyond the sanctuary was full of dangers unknown not only to herself, but also to the creature that had spawned her. But just as the pull bordered on the irresistible, she felt another presence beside her. On an impulse, she looked to her right to see another creature holding her hand. It was shaped like herself, but the colours on its skin were noticeably different, even through the curious lighting around her. Compared to the power of its presence, the dangers and mysteries pulling at her awakening conscious abated. As the Dream began fading around her, the creature spoke, though she could hear no sound. It was like it spoke directly to her mind.

“Dohar.”

It was dark around her. She was curled up on some soft surface, knees up close to her face and arms wrapped around her legs. Beginning to experimentally move her limbs, her joints ached with the unaccustomed effort. One of the petals of her flower-cell folded away, filling the new world around her with a soft, golden light. Through the hole she could see that she was moving downward. After a few moments the pod stopped softly as it reached the ground, and something she knew to be a sylvari like herself came into view. The other sylvari called her a ‘sapling’ and eased away the last petals of her pod that were still standing. Retrieving something from a satchel on its waist, she could see an image of a sylvari with blue skin and light-blue frond-hair on the objects surface. The yellow eyes looked about inquisitively, and seemed to be following where her own eyes looked. The other sylvari called the objects a ‘mirror’ and said that the image was of her. So that was how she looked. The sylvari introduced itself as Lorrana and asked her if she remembered anything from her Dream, if she had a name of her own.

“Siriin.”

Siriin got up from her sunlit cot and grabbed the shoulder-bag she had made from a gourd. Soon after she had Awoken, she had been surrounded by a number of other sylvari, poking and prodding and asking all sorts of questions that she had no idea how to answer. All of that had stopped when one among them had called for silence. She later learned that particular sylvaris name. Kahedins, Firstborn and Luminary of the Cycle of Dusk. Leaving the communal house she had been assigned to, she emerged into the Garden, it being the lowest level of the Grove. On the day of her Awakening, after the crowd had cleared out, Kahedins had approached her and presented himself. Told her he could help her make sense of what she had seen in her Dream, and that she should come see him when she had had a few days to get used to life. It had been a week since then. At least, she thought as much. She was still getting used to keeping time. The light radiating from the Pale Tree above the Grove occasionally made it difficult for her to tell when dusk was falling. The first couple days had been spent with a group of other ‘saplings’ and a teacher, trying to ingest all the knowledge their young race had gained about the world around them. On the teacher’s insistence, she had sought out one of the wood-shapers that crowded the Terrace, and quickly found that shaping wood and vine came naturally to her. But despite all this, she felt no closer to understanding what she had seen in her Dream before she Awoke. So now she was hoping that the Luminary could spare her the time of day so she could find some clarity on her supposed future.

The Luminaries all lived in the same place in the Grove, a massive petal-covered plant close to the stem of the Tree. It was called the Firstgrown, almost in jest, as it was said to have been grown specifically for the Firstborn shortly after their own Awakening. While it had been made to house all 12 Firstborn, not all of them lived in the Grove so some of the rooms within had been given over to administrative sections of the growing sylvari society. As Siriin brushed the fronds hanging across the entrance away, she quickly found the entrance-hall to be full of other beings. One silver-skinned sylvari was talking to 2 humanoids in heavy armour, while another sylvari sporting all the colours of autumn was going over a list while discussing the contents with a group of diminutive creatures with ears larger and longer than Siriin’s hands. Wanting to avoid undue attention, Siriin asked a paper-shuffling sylvari with a head distressingly like a mushroom where she could find the Luminary’s living quarters, and was quickly pointed to a large open doorway above the hall. Giving a quiet thanks back, she moved around the talking groups and ascended the fibrous ramps leading upwards. Unlike the entrance to the Firstgrown, Kahedin’s chamber had an actual door, made of tightly woven vines and large blue shards of some blue glass or crystal, that was currently open. Looking in, she could not see anyone inside, so she tapped gently but firmly on the glass-door. After a few moments of waiting, the chamber’s inhabitant came out to greet her. The Dusk Luminary had light-green skin like the leaves of spring and summer, but his hair resembled the leaves of autumn more than those of spring. His clothes were practical rather than decorational, and so held numerous wood-shaping tools and pens. After but a second his eyes lit up with recognition. “Ah, Siriin, was it? You’re one of our newest.”

She was glad he recognised her. No fellow sylvaris she had met over the last week had known her beforehand, and she found she enjoyed being recognised. “Indeed, Luminary. You yourself insisted I should visit you when I had some time to accustom myself to life outside the Dream.” As she took a few steps into Kahedin’s room, she quickly discovered that almost every furnitured surface was covered in parchments, plant-models or other materials. The Luminary was hastily clearing a couple chairs and a small table over by one of the windows facing the Pale Tree. “Ah, good of you to remember. I make that recommendation to every sylvari who awakes from their Dream, but not all of them remember much from their first tumultuous hour.” As he rolled up the last few parchments on the chairs, he motioned for her to sit. While she gratefully sat down in the springy seat, Kahedins plucked a few globular fruits from a small plant next to the door and placed them in a bowl on the table. Turning to face her, Kahedins spoke. “Now, the matter of your Dream. If you would please tell me everything you saw.”  As the Luminary sat down, he leaned forward and steepled his fingers in front of his mouth. “Leave out nothing, no matter how insignificant it might seem.”

So Siriin did as he asked. She told him about how everything seemed strange yet known to her, how the world outside what she now recognised as the Grove seemed blurry, undefined and menacing, but also mysterious and exciting. Explained how all this menace and mystery seemed to fade away when something like herself had appeared at her side, how one word seemed to explain this being perfectly. ‘Dohar’. When she was finished, she felt utterly famished, so began eating the fruits from the bowl. They had a bitter yet fresh taste. Through it all, Kahedins had not said a word nor moved a limb. “When we the Firstborn Dreamed, we also saw the world as an undefined mystery. We are yet a young race, and even the Pale Tree knows little of the world beyond the Grove, so it is not uncommon to feel endangered by it.” While the other sylvari spoke, Siriin had finished most of the fruits, and felt stronger for it. Wondering aloud, she asked him a question. “So all sylvari Dream like that?”

“Yes and no. It is common in Dreams that the world outside the Grove is blurry, undefined with a distinct feeling of danger. But only rarely does it exert a pull like you described. I assume your teachers have told you of all the Firstborn?” Siriin nodded. All 4 Luminaries were Firstborn of their respective Cycles, along with 8 other Firstborn born later. Only about half of them still live in the Grove. “Good, then you will have heard of Caithe and Faolain. Both Firstborn like me, but both felt the same pull to the world outside the Grove. They followed that call before anyone else, and both yet live to tell that tale.” Standing up, Kahedins picked up a parchment from a neighboring table and put it in front of her. On it was drawn a vast winged shape, each of its wings twice as long as its serpentine body, its face crowned with horns and a sense of malice palpable even through the simple drawing. “I trust this creature did not show in your Dream?”. It had not, of that she was utterly certain. She would easily have remembered such an abomination. “It did not. What is it?” She asked, looking up at the Luminary who was still standing.

“A dragon, and an Elder one at that. It is one of the creatures Caithe saw in her travels, called it Zhaitan. It resides in a ruined land far to the south, and the coastal findings some of our rangers suggest it might play a large part in our immediate future. Creatures that are dead, but yet move, have begun washing up on our shores and attacking those of us who live away from the immediate safety of the Mother Tree and the Wardens.” The Luminary took his gaze away from the drawing and rolled the parchment up, putting it away. “But I digress. You’re here to talk about your Dream, not the problems faced by our rangers. Though, if those are in your interest, you should talk to Niamh, she has a  better grasp on their needs than I do.” Kahedins sat back down and leaned back in his seat. “About your Dream, there is one last topic we have not yet touched upon. This ‘Dohar’.” When Kahedins spoke that name, Siriin flinched involuntarily. While it had reassured her in her Dream, now she felt oppressed by it, as if whatever or whoever it was meant to enslave her. “What of it?” She said defensively, regretting it almost instantly. The other sylvari seemed surprised at this outburst. “Well, simply that we have not yet deliberated on what ‘Dohar’ means in your Dream, and what it might mean for your future.” The Luminary said in a calming tone. “Assuming it is a name, it does not sound unreasonable for a sylvari to bear it, but I know of none who do. Considering the rest of your dream, I would argue that whatever it is, it would help you make sense of this world beyond the Grove that you find so alluring, as well as your place in it. Though where it is to be found, I cannot say with any certainty.” Kahedins seemed to ponder something for a moment before continuing. “I can say this. Amongst the Firstborn, Caithe, Faolain and Trahearne are easily the ones who spend the most time away from the Grove, and as far as I know, both from talking with them and with our Mother Tree, none of them saw each other as a distinct figure in their Dream.”

Siriin felt overwhelmed and out of her depth. She slowly got up from her seat, the Luminary giving her an expectant look. “My thanks for giving me the time of day, Firstborn, but I feel I need some time to consider all you have told me.”

If Kahedins was at all displeased by this, he gave no sign. “Of course, the Dream is an important part of all of us, and one should not rush in understanding its meaning. Once you feel ready once again, I should not be difficult to find.” Kahedins got up from his chair and did a small bow. Siriin responded as best she knew and hurried out of the room, heading for her own chambers in the Garden. She had a great number of things she needed time and space to think about.

Dohar – Fruitless Steps

Where he stepped in the loamy floor of the wood, he left no imprint. When he passed a curtain of leaves they did not sway at his passing. When he stepped in a puddle the water did not give way. He existed, but the world was utterly unchanged for it. At this he felt great sorrow. As he pondered that, beasts began to fill the world. Not creatures that belonged to the forest, but vile creatures charged with an energy that he felt was entirely at odds with the world around him. He did not fear them, but neither did they. For every one he slew, another one appeared. Again, he could not change the world around him. As he pondered this, 2 creatures appeared beside him. One was not like him, a companion from the world beyond the Dream, though its shape was indistinct, undefined. The other was like him, pale green of colour. It handed him something, a curved length of wood and vine. The Dream gave it a name for him. A bow. When he held it, it was like there were 2 of the one like him. One beside him, and one in his grip. With the bow in his hand, the creatures not of the forest were no longer fearless. When he slew them, no more appeared. The world was changed. He took a step forward, and the water in the puddle rippled at his passing. He took another step, and a branch swayed at his passing. Pausing to look behind himself, he saw that he had left imprints in the loamy floor, and he was glad. Now he could change the world around him. He turned back to the 2 creatures left around him. He wondered who or what they were, the question unsaid but understood. The one not like him did not know, so did not answer. The one like him answered with one word.

“Siriin.”

Dohar awoke slowly, his knees up to his chin while his arms were wrapped around his knees. He was lying on an open flower, the golden petals unfolded. Watching the horizon he could tell that he was being lowered to the ground. Slowly sitting up, he could see a throng of sylvari like him assembling below him. A few other flowers in various states of opening were also descending. He was glad to see he would not be the only to wake up this day. He tried to stand up, but his legs would not quite support him. He could still feel the sap flowing  through him, slowly waking his body that had been dormant during the long Dream. It was a most peculiar feeling. He could hear voices below him, voices belonging to creatures like himself. As he descended, the sunlight streaming through the forest canopy quickened the sap in his limbs, and he found that he could stand, however unsteadily, by the time the petals of his flower touched the soil. His fellow sylvari gathered around him, though they kept a respectful distance. Dressed in leaves, fronds and flowers, as well as textiles and leathers from beyond the forest, they were a riot of colours. One stepped forward, more armoured than dressed in sheets of bark and vines. Atop her blue-skinned head was a head-dress of thorny branches, with a bright red flower almost encased in the middle like a jewel of the forest.

“Ah, one who stands. Excellent. Do you yet have a name?”

He replied before he consciously knew the answer.

“Dohar.”

The branch-crowned sylvari nodded. “Well met Dohar of the Noon. I am Niamh, Luminary of Noon and Firstborn protector of the Grove.” Niamh rested one of her hands on a sword on her hip. The weapon looked so natural on her that he had not noticed it at first. “You might not know what most of those titles mean, but I believe that will not be long.”

She was right, he did not know quite who he was facing, but the word ‘protector’ resonated with what he had seen in his Dream. So he relayed parts of his Dream, specifically when he had seen the creatures not of the forest, and how he had fought them. The atmosphere around him clearly changed. Most of the other sylvari seemed awed by what he had told them, while Niamh smiled, though now she also seemed wary. “Sounds like a Wyld Hunt indeed, though if you intend to simply hunt dragon minions your Hunt will be a very long one.” She pointed at a red-faced sylvari among the crowd, who bowed and stepped forward. “This is Grannoc. He will show you a place where you can live, as well as give you a tour of the places you need to know in the Grove. And when you’re settled, come to me at your earliest convenience. I wish to discuss your Dream.”

The last few days had felt endlessly long. Not that Dohar was bored, far from it. There was a never-ending amount of items and creatures new and wondrous to him. While he had a place to sleep and plenty of food in his quarters, he barely touched either, preferring to wander the Grove, to see all these wonders. The crafting halls that rang with the sounds of metalwork, carpentry and spinning whetstones. The kitchens throughout the Terrace and the Garden, some for various sylvaris own uses and some serving more varied groupings. The Order offices in the Garden, serving as recruiting houses and liaisons for the various orders operating around the Grove. There was so much to see that Dohar almost forgot about Niamh’s request. But only almost. The memories of his Dream were never far away. When he closed his eyes, he could still see the bow he had wielded. It had seemed a wondrous thing then, but now it seemed almost unreal. But before he had a chance to discover more about his Dream, its mysteries was not something he intended to dwell over-much upon. His mentor, who had spent the last few days teaching him all that their people had discovered about the world around them, had told him to go to a certain garden outside the confines of the Grove. Kihanni’s Confine was a small fenced garden northwest of the Grove, and one of the oldest sylvari settlements beyond the Mother Tree’s boughs. It supplied the growing population of the Grove with food, and in return the Wardens made sure that the Risen infesting Caledon never encroached too far. But as strong and valiant as the sylvari protectors were, the Risen were apparently endless. They had plagued their people almost since the Firstborn set foot in the Grove, and a more permanent solution to the problem they represented had yet to be found. He found his mentor, Larynna, conversing with an auburn-skinned sylvari clad in chainmail outside the thorny fences ringing the few gourd-like houses that made up the settlement. His mentor stood with 2 hunting bows strapped over her back, while her companion had both hands on the pommel of the large mallet planted in the soil. As he approached, the auburn one held a hand up to Lyranna and pointed at him silently. Lyranna turned around, her icy-blue frond-locks whipping about. She grinned and waved, then unslung the bows, resting each in one hand.

“About as on-time as any Mentor could reasonably demand, Valiant!” she called out. Her companion scanned him briefly, but his expression did not change.

He quickened his pace. “Even as a ‘Valiant’, I do not exactly have many duties. No reason to not be punctual. Who is your silent companion?”

Lyranna did not respond, she simply waved her left hand towards the other sylvari, as if prompting him to respond.

“Larnok, captain of the local Wardens. Forgive me for my tongue not being as free-flowing as Lyranna. My time as a Warden taught me the value of silence.” His speech was confident with a hint of authority. Dohar could not be sure how to gauge the captain, so decided to question his mentor instead. “So why did you ask me to meet you here, Lyranna?” At the question, his mentor grinned, then scooped up one bow in the crook of her left arm and held the other bow out for Dohar to take. “Target practice, Valiant, target practice.” Slinging the bow she had kept over her shoulder, she retrieved a couple quivers leaning against the thorny fence. The arrows were tipped with a short and narrow metal tip with no barbs or hooks of any kind. “Normally, arrows are not shaped like this,” Lyranna said by way of explanation. “ but these practice arrows are shaped so as to not cause as much pain if you do actually hit something other than the target dummies. Now, if you would follow me.” The mentor set off slowly at first, but quickly upped her pace once she could see Dohar and the captain were following. The sun was high in the sky, so the farm was busy and active. The sylvari tending the plants were walking about like a hive of bees, checking trees and pruning branches and bushes. He did not exchange a word with either of his companions before they arrived at the practice range. A small gourd-house was set up next to it to store supplies for the wardens that normally used this range to train with bows, but the ‘target dummies’ were what attracted Dohar’s attention. They almost seemed alive, with their thick stumpy branches and luminescent core. The top of the growth had either been shaped or grown to eerily resemble a head and it was staked solidly into the ground. “An invention of Luminary Kahedins.” Larnok said. “They’re intended to look as humanoid as possible and are grown here at this farm.”

His mentor did not look entirely comfortable with the eerie appearance of the dummies, but was making an attempt to hide it. It quickly turned out, however, that her discomfort was no hindrance to her accuracy. In the process of showing Dohar how to handle the composite bow effectively, the female mentor put arrow after arrow into the dummy’s center mass and ‘head’. Handling the bow and explaining it to her pupil seemed to calm her down, so when Dohar’s turn to fire came around, she seemed entirely unfazed by the shaped targets. He was unsure whether to put it down to effective tutelage or natural talent, but Dohar’s own accuracy could not be scoffed at. Lyranna seemed delighted, and even the silent captain Larnok seemed mildly impressed. Lyranna had fired all her arrows at a different target, so all the arrows bristling from the dummy’s bark-like hide were all his, but then again, so were the few in the brush behind it. Dohar sighed and nocked another arrow, but found that he could not focus on the target. An oppressive silence had fallen over the clearing, and the warden captain had hefted his mallet from the ground, though Lyranna seemed oblivious to the change in atmosphere. When Dohar lowered the bow, she gave him a confused look. When he then indicated Larnok’s stance with a nod of his head, she seemed to catch the drift. By now, another change had happened in the little clearing. A smell was coming in from the east, a smell Dohar was not familiar with, though it had hints of seawater. The warden captain, however, seemed to know it very well, for he grabbed a bone-horn from his belt and blew a note back towards the settlement. “Brine and bother. That smell only heralds one thing.” Larnok turned back towards them. The expression on his face was that of a commander preparing for battle. “Risen. Servants of a dragon. They must’ve pushed through the perimeter. Lyranna, you need to get your charge back to the settlement, I have my duties to attend.” Dohar barely heard half of what the captain had said. When he heard the word ‘dragon’, he remembered the minions he had fought in his dream. Whatever these Risen were, he knew he could not run from them if he wanted to know more about the meaning of his Dream. So before Lyranna could say a word, Dohar held up a hand to silence her. “I want to help. If the title of ‘Valiant’ is not meaningless, I cannot run from this!” The oppressive silence continued for a moment before Larnok turned back around to look him in the eye. He held the captain’s glare for a moment before Larnok turned to Lyranna. “I trust you do not wish to stay as well?” Her gaze flickered back and forth between him and the captain before pleading a silent no. Larnok pointed back towards the cluster of plantations in response. “Go back into the settlement, follow the flow of villagers.” Lyranna nodded thankfully before almost running back towards the center of the farm. By now a few other Wardens had arrived in the clearing, all armed with a bow and a quiver of arrows, along with a sword belted at their hip. A few glanced questioningly at the largely unarmed stranger in their midst, but none ignored the crisp orders given by the captain. 2 Wardens went silently into the brush to scout ahead, while the rest went around the brush. Given his lack of both training and experience, Dohar was woefully confused as to what to do with himself, so decided to hang close to the captain.

Larnok had grabbed a bow from the supply-house as well as a sword, along with a scabbard and belt, which he handed over to Dohar. “Strap it on, and keep close. My Wardens know what they are doing, so with any luck you should not need to use it.” With that, the captain fell silent and appeared to listen intently to the wind. Since the presence of the dragon minions had become so evident, the forest around them was nearly devoid of any sound beyond the wind rustling through the trees. A few animals, mainly birds, still sounded out, almost as if in defiance of the Risen approaching. The captain listened to the bird-calls for a moment before moving the brush silently aside, keeping his mallet close at his side. Dohar attempted to follow but was painfully aware that he was making a great deal more noise than his companion. He only hoped it would not be too much, while branches snagged at his weapons and thorns stung his shoulders. When he pushed one particularly big leaf aside, he was almost out of the brush where he found Larnok leaning against a tree, attempting to look at some shapes in the clearing ahead without being seen. While the minions had not been described to him, he was not in doubt as to whether they were in the clearing ahead or not.

10 humanoids were shambling through the forest floor, heedless of the sucking mud or the stinging flies. Gore-clotted wounds covered their rotten bodies, and water dripped from them as if they had just risen from the ocean. Each carried a water-logged weapon of some variety but not all had armour. In the front of the shambling column was something unlike any of the others. Its massive frame was easily twice the height of the largest creature in the column, and its tree-trunk-sized arms hefted an enormous club riddled with rusty metal-spikes. It looked less like a leader and more like the biggest predator in a pack. Their very presence angered and disgusted him, and the Warden captain seemed to feel the same. Judging from the quick glances Larnok was sending along the treeline, his Wardens were in position and ready. The captain withdrew the signal horn from his belt and turned to Dohar. “Stay here and do not make your presence known. My Wardens will have enough on their hands without having to protect some greenhorn Valiant.” With that, the captain hoisted his hammer and blew a long note on the horn. The silence of the clearing was broken as arrows whistled into the Risen column, sending one creature into the mud with several arrows in its skull and another tumbling into a Risen beside it as arrows hammered into its legs. Almost as soon as the ambush had begun, the biggest creature let out a roar like a signal blast, causing any wildlife still remaining within a mile to flee in panic.

As arrows continued to rain down, the Risen column shambled as one towards a large tree containing several Wardens, as evidenced by the arrows emerging from the canopy. Loosing another roar, the column charged the tree, with the large creature throwing its weapon into the canopy with unnerving accuracy. One Warden was smashed off his branch, and the others had to struggle to not fall to the floor. Dohar had seen enough. Eyeing one of the taller creatures covered in blue markings visible even through the grime and carrying a hammer the size of the Captain, he quickly nocked an arrow and let fly. The creature paid the arrow almost no heed as it sank almost to the fletching in its rotten side and continued battering at the ailing tree with its hammer. Shifting his aim upwards, Dohar shot again. He could barely contain his glee as the arrow sunk into the Risen’s head, the fletching almost vanishing in the corpse’s blonde strands, but his joy quickly vanished when it turned its dead eyes on him and began a shambling charge. Cursing at him, Larnok blew a different note on his horn and started running towards the Risen, with a few of the Wardens around the clearing following suit. Dohar barely heard either as he shouldered the bow, drew his blade and readied to meet the creature bearing down on him. As the captain passed it, his maul flashed out and nearly took the Risen’s leg off, as well as sending into sprawling onto its face in the mud. With a gurgle it heaved itself onto its remaining leg and back out of the mud and swung at him as he tried to attack. He was just on the edge of the clearing so he did not have to contend with the mud like the creature did, but it did not seem to impede it at all. Dohar tried to counter but could not contend with the Risen’s superior reach. He was smaller than Larnok so the hammer outsized him with no contest, and even as rotten as it was, the creature’s speed was still sufficient to keep him away with a flurry of blows. A recognisable roar shook the clearing and his opponent slouched forward. Dohar sensed his only opening and struck, sinking his blade to the hilt in the Risen’s face. The body’s weight dragged the sword from his hands as it slumped into the mud, its hammer still embedded in the mud where it last struck. Looking to the source of the roar, he saw the giant Risen with Larnok’s hammer in place of it’s skull, the Warden captain battling another invading creature with a sword. Most of the Wardens who had followed him into the battle were scouring the clearing for any Risen that were still moving. A crumpled heap lying by the roots of the battered tree held the attention of the Wardens who had stayed behind in the brush during the brunt of the fighting. As Dohar got closer, he recognised the fallen heap as the Warden who had been struck from the canopy. The broken sylvari’s limbs were at odd angles, and it’s amber-coloured eyes stared dully at nothing. The two other sylvari must have come to the same conclusion as himself, as they called for Larnok and when the captain looked over, responded with slowly moving his head from side to side. The Wardens had suffered, but the settlement was safe. So why was Dohar ill at ease?

Siriin – Flight of the Fletcher

Days passed with barely a notice. Siriin wandered the grove, seeing all the sights there were to see for a sylvari almost fresh from the pod. As the Grove slowly became familiar to her, the aimless wandering gave way to the shaping of wood. Initially, the other craftsfolk had treated her much like any other greenleaf-sapling, but as she completed any task they set before her, their respect for her grew. Some days she worked on simple objects of fancy, other days she helped shape wood and leaf into furniture fit for both sylvari and the many other creatures that had begun to visit the Grove. Occasionally the Wardens responsible for keeping the Grove safe from the jungle around it would require crafted supplies, a task which would take priority over anything else. Siriin enjoyed these tasks more than any other. Something about shaping the curve of a bow or crafting arrows spoke to her. Another of the carpenters in the Grove, Eidhar, told her she never seemed so relaxed as when she was working with the materials of the wood. For a few days he called her Bowstring, remarking she seemed as taut as one whenever she was not working or walking. But though the craftswork gave her great joy, she wanted to experience more places, more mystery. The Grove was still as beautiful as when she had seen it first, but it no longer held any mystery for her. But she had still not ventured far from the northern edge of the Grove. She had been on one small expedition to learn what kind of branches were ideal for arrows and where one should look for good wood in the jungle, and even for those short hours she had been looking over her own shoulder numerous times, startled by unknown noises. But still the outside world attracted her attention. She also still wondered about this ‘Dohar’ from her Dream, though she could still clearly recall the moment in the Luminary’s study when thinking of his image brought her fear, so she had not sought him out nor asked as to his whereabouts. She had, however, inquired as to a time when she might speak to Kahedins again, hoping the Firstborn might be able to help her. A time was found and she slipped away from the wood-shaping workshops on the given day. The Luminary of Dusk was no longer the only sylvari in the Grove who recognised her and knew her by name. As she walked through the archways and pathways of the Grove towards the Firstgrown, fellow sylvari greeted her, but she returned but a scant few. Unlike when she wandered, her pace was quick and she arrived outside the Firstborn’s study sooner than expected. With the door open, she peered inside to find Kahedins poring over a map of the Grove, with the study itself being largely as she had last seen it, in a state of organised chaos. As if sensing her presence, he looked up from the map and turned around. “Ah yes, Siriin.” he exclaimed, giving a slight bow, “I was told you were hoping to talk to me, and I must confess, I was hoping to run something by you as well. I have heard little but praise about your woodworking abilities, so I have some designs I wish for you to see.” Kahedins began rolling up a bunch of scrolls from his desk, while motioning for her to take a seat in one of the chairs situated around the study desk. After a short while, the Luminary too sat down, and through a little prompting from her fellow sylvari, Siriin began to talk about her problem. How she wanted to explore the world outside the Grove, to attempt to puzzle out more parts of the Dream that was still somewhat of a mystery to her and her future. Unlike the telling of her Dream, this tale did not take hours, and Siriin did not feel nearly as tired as she had been then. Kahedins looked her in the eye, though she found it difficult to hold his gaze.

“And the outside world. Do you still find it frightening?”. She nodded back, slowly and deliberately. The Luminary leaned back in his chair, the supple wood slightly giving way.

“It is certainly not an irrational response; Wardens patrol the Grove and the jungle around us day and night, and still these ‘Risen’ endlessly attack us with no provocation. Add to that the natural dangers of our jungle home and travelling alone is a dangerous proposition even for the Firstborn.” Kahedins stroked the small fronds on his chin, silent for a moment.

“What are ‘Risen’?” Siriin asked the question simply to fill the void in their conversation.

The Luminary looked back up at her with a look not unlike surprise. “Ah, I suppose most of us have not spoken with our new guests.” The Luminary stood up from his chair and grabbed a scroll from the other table in the room, unfolding it with a practiced motion and placing it on the surface of the table they were sat by. On it was drawn a humanoid creature with arms and legs that broadened towards the end, as well as prominent and sizable ears on the sides of their broad heads. A name was scrawled in black letters beside the creature.

“The Asura. Small of stature but quite clever. After some, initial, misunderstandings between us they have told us much of the world beyond our jungle, among that names and descriptions of creatures like the dragon I showed you when you were here last. In fact, I recall we had a party of them visiting on that day.” They had indeed been there, she had seen them in the hall, so she nodded back in confirmation.

The Firstborn rolled the scroll back up and pushed it away. “They told us that the undead creatures are commonly called the ‘Risen’ and many other races facing the ocean like we are face similar troubles from their constant attacks.” Kahedins motioned to speak further, but seemingly decided against it. “But enough of that; you’re here to see if we can find a way for you to move on, not here to hear of more terrors. I can give it some more thought, but my immediate inclination is to introduce you to one of our Wardens, allow them to teach you more about the dangers and how to defend yourself. How does that sound?”

Siriin wasn’t sure. The wanderlust pulled at her, but even the promise of a mentor was not enough to overcome her unexplained fear. “If I may, I would like some time to consider my decision, honoured Firstborn.” The Luminary simply smiled and nodded back. “As you wish. Now, before you go, there are some designs I would like to show you…”

That night Siriin Dreamed again. The presence of the Mother Tree was a constant to any sylvari in the Grove, whether by seeing the enormous growth in the center of the settlement or a warmth of the mind, but Siriin had never felt Mothers presence so strongly as she did now. The world was laid out before her. It was still both intimidating and enticing, but now a strange warm yellow glow emanated from the Grove. It suffused the jungle and penetrated far into the lands to the east. From the jungles heart, a dark-green mist swelled and pulsed, pushing the glow back. While the mist repulsed her, looking at the boundaries of the two colours she noticed something. Pockets of nothing were dotted here and there on the frontlines, places touched by neither presence.

The next day, Siriin accepted the Luminary’s offer.

The Firstborn had introduced her to a Warden named Braile, a gold-brown skinned wanderer with a ponytail of dark-green fronds. Like her, he had always wanted to see the world outside the Grove as long as he could remember, but unlike her, he had not been nearly paralyzed with fear. While he had still not left the fringes of the Maguuma jungle, he had served as an escort on the few diplomatic visits made to the fledgling asuran cities to the west, and as such was familiar with the dangers of travelling the jungle. Siriin continued her wood-shaping work for a little while, but soon the learning of the land around the Grove, as well as training in foraging and combat skills, took up all her time. She took to the bow and arrow quickly, proving very adept at handling the bow, even if her accuracy left something to be desired. Braile himself favoured fighting in the thick of it, something she herself hoped she would be able to avoid altogether. Nevertheless, she was also instructed in how to fend for herself with the small blue-glass knife she had been given by the Luminary.

Little by little, her fear faded in the face of experience. As a sort of culmination of her training, she was offered to join Braile and his group of fellow Wardens on an extended scouting trip to observe the Risen coming in from the Sea of Sorrows and their effects on the area. They would be leaving the Grove for several days and then report directly to Warden commander Niamh and Kahedins. She barely hesitated before accepting.

With the patrol only being a few days, only light supplies were packed. The whole group knew the stretch of jungle well, so foraging was a definite possibility. The big unknown were the Risen. Their numbers were unknown in the region, hence the reason for the patrol’s organisation in the first place. The plan was to avoid combat if at all possible, but weapons were packed to be ready should the need arise. Preparations were quickly completed, so the patrol was essentially ready to leave a day before the scheduled departure. They left the Grove in midday but with no fanfare By days end, they had reached the edge of the zone for the patrol. For the following 2 days the mood was tense as they kept watch for Risen and the other dangers of Caledon. Siriin had never fought a Risen in combat, so did not know what danger they represented. She could only  judge by the reactions of her companions, and she could feel their fear. In spite of the moving corpses clogging up the coast and nearby jungle, the whole group made it through alive, and the next destination was home. As they set camp the night before they would reach the Grove, the evening sky was filled with all the colours of the rainbow. The only sound in the campsite was the crackle of the fire as every soul beheld the spectacle.

Returned from the patrol, Siriin returned to her workshop for a while. Her wanderlust temporarily sated, her attention returned to the shaping of wood and vine. The Wardens were always in need of supplies and weapons, so there was plenty of work that could benefit from her skills. Her new friends visited her from time to time, and they walked and talked throughout the Grove, but it was barely a week before she decided to move on. Her fear of the world abated somewhat, and contact between the Grove and the world around it increasing almost daily, she felt she needed to see the world at her own pace, on her own terms. She gathered the tools from the workshop she used at her workshop, as well as a bow she had made for herself. Braile had given her a quiver like the ones used by the Wardens. He was not a crafter like her, preferring to spend his time in the brush rather than at a worktable so he had not made the quiver himself, but she appreciated it all the same. The bow was of a longer make, made of wood native to the jungle around the Grove, wrapped in supple vines known for their ability to remain flexible even when used for crafting or woodwork. With it’s rather extreme curve at the limb around the grip and several colorful blue-glass discs inserted into the middle-belly for some ballast, it was quite unlike the bows she normally shaped at her table, but somehow the form spoke to her, and so she had decided it bring it along on her journey rather than one with a more orthodox design. Said her farewells to the people she knew and walked out of the Grove, following a newly-made road north towards the edge of the jungle and the edge of the world she had known so far. As she wandered she met other sylvari like herself, living in settlements throughout Caledon, living lives away from the safety of the Grove, Wardens on patrol around thorny fences. She was always welcomed, offered shelter for the night as well as food and drink. Some she accepted, some she declined. Every day offered new sights and experiences. She met asura doing experiments in the jungle, the strange frog-like hylek and the menacing krait, as well as seeing glimpses of the vile Risen on the beaches and swamps of the jungle. Not settling anywhere, she knew not herself exactly what she was seeking, or indeed if she was seeking anything.

She had wandered for several weeks when she encountered an entirely new thing. She had heard of them, both from Braile as well as from her teacher when she had first awoken. The fabled Ronan, friend of Ventari who had planted the Pale Tree back before the Sylvari race had awoken, was of their kind. Humans. She had been sleeping under some brush by the wayside when she was awoken by voices in an accent she could not recognise at all. She could, however, understand their language. It was similar to the one taught to all sylvari, though some words were different and the accent behind it made it nigh impenetrable. Caught up in her thoughts, they were outside her range of hearing before she was aware of the time passing. Hurriedly packing her few belongings, she made to follow them while attempting to keep out of sight. While her curiousity had gotten the better of her trepidation, she still had some sense. They were quite clearly armed, carrying a broad-bladed sword each and garbed in what she assumed to be their version of armour. Each carried a long metal tube on their back with a wooden decoration on the end. Guessing them to be walking sticks, she could only wonder why they weren’t using them. One had a long ‘tendril’ of black strands cascading from the top of its head, while the other had none at all. Both had skin the colour of palm bark and green-brown eyes circled with white. They seemed ill at ease in the jungle but both were also attempting to hide it from the other. The bald one was slightly taller than the other, as well as having creases in the skin on its face. She had followed their winding path along the jungle road without much difficulty. After her ’adventures’ with Braile, she knew a thing or two about patroling, and these two were more focused on talking to the other or hiding their trepidation than actually observing the jungle around them, which might account for why she had gone undetected for several hours, even when the brush along the road thinned considerably. Luckily for them, it had been a quiet day in the jungle, so nothing had interfered with their patrol.

As Siriin had started to wonder whether she should continue following or go her own way, they turned a bend, arriving at a junction in the road. Sitting in the corner of that junction was a structure of some sort. Born and bred in the Grove, she had seen nothing like it. The walls were carved stone standing several times her height, and the gate was closed with a 2 great wooden doors reinforced with iron. One section of the wall was clearly unfinished, as wooden scaffolding crowded around it and yet more humans worked at fitting and securing a great mound of stones into the wall. Humans carrying the metallic walking sticks stood on top of the wall, looking out over the jungle. Upon seeing the fortress, both of the humans she had been following relaxed immensely and increased the pace of their step. At their approach, another human on top of the gate shouted at them, and when the reply came, the doors of the gate slowly opened, allowing the patrol entry inside.

At this, Siriin felt it was time to make a decision. She could easily fade back into the brush and slip around the settlement. But perhaps there was more to seeing the world than simply wandering. This was an opportunity to see firsthand the people the legendary Ronan had come from, before even the Firstborn had Awoken. Tugging on her one bag of belongings, she took a deep breath and stepped out onto the road. The patrol was still not fully inside the walls, so the gates were still open. As she began steadily walking towards the little fort, it took the wall-sentries a few moments to spot her. She was too far away to see their faces properly and hear their voices, but she could see they were unsure. The gates were still open, and the patrol she had been following waited there, looking out towards her as well. As she got close enough to make out individual faces, the guards on the wall were quite clearly agitated. They were all cradling the walking sticks and one of them was shouting at her in its thick accent. While it was still difficult to make out, her day spent following two of them did give her some reference points.

“Halt, who goes there!” one on the wall shouted, one of the few ones not pointing their walking sticks at her. It had a striking face, and like the shorter of the two she had been following, a mass of black strands for hair.

“My name is Siriin. I wish to stay here for a while, if I may!” Now having to explain herself, she would admit it sounded a curious request from someone they would not know.

The patrol in the gate had now also drawn their walking sticks. At a gesture from the one who had answered, the wall-sentries lowered their metal rods.

There was a moment of silence before the reply came. “Well met,” the words were slow and measured, the accent not quite as impenetrable as the ones from the patrol. “I don’t believe we’ve met anything like you before. How did you find your way here and why do you speak our tongue?”

Caught up in her excitement, Siriin took a step forward. “My people live in the Grove to the south. We call ourselves-” A sound like a enormous tree snapping impossibly fast interrupted her, and a clod of earth flew upwards to her left. Birds fled from the trees around the clearing in huge numbers, but the shouting from the fort was clearly audible through it all.

“She’s a daemon, a fiend of the jungle!” The taller of the two from the patrol was pointing its walking stick at her, the tip of it smoking a curious white smoke. The battlements were in disarray, but the voice of the one she had been talking to quickly silenced the others.

“Jacques, you insufferable dolt! You will hold fire until I tell you otherwise or you will be sleeping without a mosquito net for a fortnight!” The gate was still open but the two from the patrol had retreated inside. All the humans on the walls were being considerably more careful about handling the explosive rods, but the one in command was turning so red it looked like it might explode in a similar manner. Eventually the commander left the battlements and walked out of the gate towards her, the wooden doors slowly closing behind her. The walls were slowly being abandoned by the sentries, a few casting forlorn glances towards their commander and Siriin before vanishing into the fort. On walking to meet her beyond the safety of the fort, the human had left the mysterious metal rod behind but kept a sheathed sword belted on its hip.

The metal rods unexpected ability had shook her, and she had been tempted to follow along with the flocks of birds fleeing the clearing. But the slow and measured approach of the human commander had reassured her somewhat. She had only ever fought Risen, but if one intended to kill, you would not move that slowly.

When the human was half a dozen meters away, it leaned forward and inclined its head towards Siriin. “I hope you will forgive Jacques. He is our newest recruit, and still unused to the unpredictability of the jungle.” It returned to a straight stance and meet her gaze. “My name is Evangeline de Mascio, third daughter of Filomeno de Mascio and commander of this garrison. I am afraid I did not catch your name the first time?”

Siriin returned the humans leaning gesture. “Siriin, third born of the Pale Tree, who I suppose has no name beyond simply Mother.”

The confusion was plain on the humans face. “You were born from a tree?”

“Exactly. I can tell you the story. I was there, so I remember it pretty clearly.”

That did not seem to lift the confusion. “You remember it?” The human shook its head slightly, a little like an animal clearings its fur of water. “Nevermind, I am forgetting my manners. You are welcome to stay in my garrison, provided you can help in some fashion.”

Siriin thought for a moment, then gave her best smile. “I can work with wood.”

Dohar – The Shape of Fate

After finding Lyranna and telling her what had happened, they had left Larnok to his duties and returned to the Grove. The idea of a Mentor was to help new sylvari find their place both in the Grove and in the larger world around it, and Lyranna reckoned that meeting the captain was just what Dohar had needed, so after reminding him to seek her out if he felt he needed help again, she went back to her own business. Even after several years of work by the Wardens, as well as the other factions that made their homes in the Caledon Forest, it was still a dangerous place full of hazards, as well as insects and beasts. Lyranna was one of the cartographers working alongside the Wardens to create better maps of the jungle.

Weeks had gone by. While not an official member of the Wardens, Dohar had gone on several tours with them since meeting Larnok. Every time they had pressed him about joining them more officially he had avoided the issue, saying he was still unsure where he wanted to go. And that was not untrue. While Lyranna’s judgement call that he had found his place was not entirely unfounded, he still felt out-of-place. After every battle, more Risen were removed from the jungle and he felt more adept at combat. But after every battle, more Risen arrived at their shores. It was nigh-on-endless, and he felt powerless to change it. But he still felt as though he should be doing something. So Dohar decided he would take Niamh up on her months-old offer. After asking a Warden patrol about her whereabouts, he found the commander in a ground-floor room of the Firstgrown. She must have just concluded a meeting with another group of Wardens, as she was rolling up maps, and captain Larnok was present as well. The auburn-skinned sylvari was assisting with clearing away the debris from the meeting as well.

Dohar knocked on the branch-frame of the door and stepped inside. Larnok had his back to him, so he turned fully around to face him, but the commander barely regarded him.

Dohar waved casually toward the captains armour. “Leaving on a patrol? I don’t believe I was asked.” The leafy warden armour was strapped in and battle-ready. While it looked to be made from vines, leaves and wood, Dohar knew it to be deceptively strong and durable.

Larnok crossed his arms in front of his chest. “The patrol is Warden business. Valiant or not, if you will not commit to a decision I will not make you privy to every movement by the Wardens.”

“My apologies, captain, I meant no offense,” he did a small bow, “I merely thought the atmosphere seemed very serious, so I tried a simple jest.”

“Then you might be more careful with your jests in the future, Valiant, lest they spring back at you.” The Luminary of Noon turned about as well, the branches that made up her ‘hair’ rustling about. “A group of Risen appeared from an unexpected angle, that is all.” The captain gave Niamh a surprised glance at this frank talk. “I know your thoughts on this, Larnok, but it is my belief that Valiants mean only well, even if their actions sometimes seem out of kilter.”

“As you wish, Firstborn. Now, if you will excuse me, I should get the patrol under way.” Bowing to the commander and nodding in Dohars general direction, the captain walked quickly out of the room.

The Firstborn poured some water from a gourd-flask on the table. “I hope you will forgive the captain, Valiant. He appreciates all the help that you have given the Wardens, but I suspect that he wants you to commit to a decision before giving you lease to follow on further Warden business.”

“I do not blame him for that. However, I fear I cannot commit to a decision before I know more about what Mother has in store for me.” He took a few steps further into the room. He did not want to be easily overheard.

Niamh’s voice took on a slightly puzzled tone. “What Mother has in store?”

“What my Dream meant, what Mother hopes I will achieve. That is why I have been helping Larnok. At first I thought I would stop the Risen, but there is no end to them, as you know just as well as me.”

“Ah.” The Luminary seemed distant, pensive. It took a few moments before she responded. “Shortly after you awoke, the Tree called all the Firstborn in the Grove and asked of us something simple. That when the Valiant named ‘Dohar’ asked about his Dream or his Hunt, we would take him to talk to the Avatar.” Niamh stoppered the gourd and downed the remaining water from her cup. “Well Valiant, let us go and talk to Mother then.”

The Pale Tree always maintains a connection, a bond, with all of its children. But for when its children require a more direct way of talking to their Mother, the Avatar held court in the Omphalos Chamber at the highest level of the Grove. Dohar had not seen it for himself, nor did he know anyone who had. Seeing the ease and confidence with which Niamh ascended the pod-lift, he suspected she had visited the Chamber many times in the past. She was Firstborn after all, a breed apart from other sylvari.

The entrance to the Chamber was the lowest point, for the floor of weaved-together vines sloped upwards towards the corners and edges. The stone tablet containing the teachings of Ventari hang suspended from a vine to the right. 2 Wardens were also in the chamber, posted there to protect the Avatar should need be. While Risen had been harassing the sylvari for years now, the Grove had never been in direct peril, but the Warden Commander did not like to gamble.

On the Commanders arrival, they had visibly straightened. Niamh wasted no time. “Trina, Kaelin. At ease. You may leave your posts, me and the Valiant need to talk to Mother with no audience.” While both saluted, the taller of the two seemed uncertain, something the shorter quickly remedied by bodily pushing her towards the lift. While there was no door in the chamber, there was a definite feeling of a border between the rest of the room and the small ‘court’ where the Avatar waited for them. Her skin was almost pure white, and while most sylvari wore clothes of some description, the Avatar was not clothed but instead the skirt seemed part of her body. An open flower crowned the top of her head and the Pale Tree towered up behind her, heralding her as well as any banner.

The Avatar was easily the most serene creature Dohar had ever seen. Everything from her relaxed pose to the soft light that seemed to radiate from her very skin just removed all of his tension. Before he knew it he was on his knees, with Niamh following suit, albeit slower and more consciously.

“Welcome Niamh, Firstborn of the Noon Cycle,” Even her voice was as morning dew. “it has been too long. How fares the Grove?”

The Warden commander kept her gaze to the ground. “It goes well. Saplings are born and we sylvari can live our lives as we wish. Faolains new group concerns me, however.”

The Avatar took on a reassuring tone. “Do not be concerned. They simply seek their own path, like all of us. When they have found it, they will come back to us.” Niamhs tense silence indicated to Dohar that she did not entirely agree.

The Firstborn changed the subject. “But I did not come here to discuss Faolain,” she waved briefly in Dohar direction as if presenting him. “You asked of us that we bring the Valiant Dohar before you at a certain time. It would seem to be now.”

As if in answer to Niamhs presentation, Dohar looked up at the Avatars face. She was looking at his face, and smiling now. “Well done and well-remembered, Luminary. Now you may leave.”

Dohar was not sure what he had just heard. Surely Mother shared everything with her Firstborn? A look at the commander showed that she must be thinking similarly. “Mo-Mother?”

The Avatar looked back to the Firstborn. “What I am about to tell the Valiant is for his ears only, Luminary,” the voice was still kind, but it was tenser than when they had entered the room only minutes before. “All the Grove need know is that his Hunt is in the best interest of all of us, and that he is to rendered all aid. Now, you need to leave.” Unsure if he should feel at fault for her dismissal, he held his gaze low and to the ground. Her footsteps were perfectly audible in the still chamber, and the planty groan of the lift descending grated on his nerves.

That sound had barely vanished before he felt a soft hand on his shoulder, encouraging him to stand. With Dohar on his feet, the Avatar moved to look away from the rest of the Omphalos chamber, to the western horizon. “You must understand. It is not that I distrust Niamh or her siblings, or indeed any sylvari, but I dare not involve any more innocents in this plan.”

“With all due respect, Mother, I do not recall involving myself in any plan.” Any Warden would attest as much. Dohar had avoided making almost any commitments or big decisions.

The Avatar turned about and walked back slowly into the Chamber. “You were never given the choice, just like the other unfortunate member of this plot.”

He almost could not believe his ears, let alone think about where to start with this. He could barely stare at the Avatar with disbelief.

She had not seemed to notice. “Know that the future is dark for the children of the Pale Tree. The Dream nurtures you and the Hunt pushes you to great deeds, but in the eyes of the world, all of that will pale before what is to come, the inevitable storm.” She finally turned to look at him. “Know that this plan is for the good of all, not just the sylvari or the Tree. You and Siriin are essential.”

Siriin. The name cut through his confusion like a knife. “Essential? Essential to what, your vanity?” He had finally found his voice again. “You cannot force others to join in your schemes.” He had to restrain himself from shouting.

The Avatar turned away from him again. For but a moment he was sure he saw regret in her golden eyes. “Think what you will, it is too late to be undone.”

Dohar was leaving the Omphalos Chamber when he found Niamh and Kahedins waiting for him outside the lift. Meaning to push past them to leave, a hand on his shoulder stopped him. Pushing it away, he turned about to see that both Niamh and Kahedins were staring at him intently. While the Warden commander was clearly trying to maintain her calm, the Luminary of Dusk looked tense and pensive.

“Don’t act too hastily now, Valiant.” Niamh was the one who had stopped him, and now she was standing alert, arms crossed in front of her chest. Dohar was struggling to match her gaze “Where are you going?”

Dohar had to struggle to keep his voice low. “Anywhere, just away from this-” Speechless, he ended the sentence with an exasperated groan.

“And then what? Are you going to leave the Grove? Join the Court?” The last question was uttered almost like a curse.

He had been so enraged by Mothers revelation that he had not given it a moments thought. “In truth, I know not.” He couldn’t stand the stare any longer. The horizon to the east provided a welcome release. “I just know that I cannot stay, not after this. I will not be a willing pawn in anyone’s plan,” The resentment almost choked him up. “Not even Mothers.”

At this Kahedins took a few steps toward him, lining up with the other Firstborn. “Remember Valiant, Mother told only you of this. None of us Firstborn know anything of it.” The Luminary spread his arms in an almost welcoming gesture. “We cannot help you if we do not know the problem at hand.”

Dohar walked to the edge of the plaza and leaned against the vine spiralling down from the Chamber, looking at nothing in particular. The plan might disgust him, but the he could not forget the serious edge to the Avatar’s voice. “I cannot talk about what Mother said. I was forbidden to do so.” A thought struck him. He looked up at the two Firstborn, unsure whether to direct it at Kahedins or Niamh. “Do any of you know someone named Siriin?” The Warden commander looked blank, but Kahedins grew even tenser. “I do. A sylvari gifted at woodworking, but not much else. She also worked with the Wardens, just like you.”

Dohar took a step away from the railing, towards the Firstborn. ”I need to find her. She’s involved in this, somehow, and I doubt she knows.” He could only hope he could find her before it moved to the next stage, whatever that was.

The Luminary of Dust only looked apologetic. “I know little of her whereabouts. She left the Grove over 2 years ago.”

Siriin – Fated to Bloom

Months flew by at the garrison. The humans were at once a strange lot and also curiously familiar. Like her own people, they had names and titles, though their titles seemed more important to them than to any sylvari she had met. Everyone at the garrison had skills they were proficient at and skills that had room for improvement, to put it mildly. But unlike her own people, there seemed to be no innate connection from human to human, with the exception of Juano and Juana, a pair of twins. When Siriin had asked what they meant by ‘twins’, she was told they had been born at the same time. That simply prompted more questions. She was still sad there were none of these ‘parents’ or ‘children’ in the garrison, so that she might learn more. Likewise, several of the humans had inquired about her own Mother, how a tree could give birth. She answered as best she could, but most of them left as confused as they had arrived. Evangeline, however, seemed at least to take her answers for what they were. After the ‘Twins’ debate, she had sought the commander out and asked about her ‘parents’. Slightly taken aback, Evangeline gave the garrison an early evening off and asked Siriin to follow her to the commanders office. The tower that dominated the rear of the garrison held the aforementioned office behind a locked door just below the parapet. The round room was dominated by a large oaken table in the center with a cushioned chair folded up beside it. The walls were covered in paintings and maps, one of which Siriin recognised as depicting the south end of the Maguuma, where the Grove was, but the map made no mention of the settlement. But before she could ask about the map, Evangeline had crossed the room and placed herself beside a depiction of a human with lines of black hair across its lower face. It had the same clear green eyes as the commander, but was bald like the recruit Jacques. A gold plaque decorated the lower frame, but Siriin found she could not read it.

“A painting done of my father, Filomeno de Mascio, by Marek Favro. He had it made scant 2 years ago, almost on the eve of my own graduation from the officers academy in Divinity’s Reach.” While saying those words, Evangeline beamed with pride. Siriin did not quite understand, so she simply smiled. “What about your mother?”

The commander briefly scratched her chin then quickly withdrew her hand, as if embarrassed. “According to the last correspondence I received, they had still not found the time to have one done. I suppose living the fast life of influential nobles in the capital means one has little time for sitting down to getting painted.” Seemingly finished with her explanation, she leaned on the big oaken table, looking up at the painting of her father.

Siriin pointed to the plaque. “What does it say on there? I don’t recognise the letters.”

“Probably because it is not New Krytan,” Evangeline got up and opened one of the drawers in the table, fishing out a heavy tome. “It is in Old Krytan, which is essentially the noble version. As much as my father loves Kryta, he still wants some distance between himself and the smallfolk, and that just happens to be language.” Siriin looked at the title of the tome. ‘The Art of Old Krytan, by Vasco de Bartolo, 1188 AE’ was written in bold gilded letters. “If you are interested in learning it, you can borrow that. I can’t personally find the time to get stuck in, what with my duties.”

Siriin cautiously opened the book. The lettering inside had clearly been carefully penned and the whole tome well preserved. “I would be honoured,” she looked up at the commander, “perhaps I will be able to talk with your father like this one day.”

Evangeline chuckled. “I would love to see that,” her smile faltered for a brief moment, “maybe that would put a smile on his face, too.” Clearing her throat, the commander closed the drawer and walked briskly to the door. “Now, we must continue this another time. I must make sure all is well before darkness sets in.” Siriin understood the hint and hurried out, the leather-bound tome held carefully at her side. As Evangeline hurriedly left to do her own rounds, Siriin found it difficult to forget the commanders smile vanishing.

2 more weeks passed. Siriin had awoken, uneasy, to find the garrison still asleep, bar a few sentries on the walls. The sun was still down, but the jungle was still very much awake, all manner of forest creatures lurking about in the trees surrounding the clearing. Unable to go back to sleep, she went to her workbench and lost herself in the craft for a few hours until the sun had risen and the garrison was back to its midday buzzing self. As she watched the humans going about the days work, she thought on why she had been unable to sleep, and found that the garrison no longer had that feeling of mystery that she felt when she had first arrived. She had no doubt there were still many things she could learn about humans and the world they came from, but the wanderlust had begun tugging at her again. But before she could think more on the matter there was a burst of activity on top of the gate.

“More sylvari!”

The shout came from the gate, where the infamous Jacques was posted. He had improved since Siriin had arrived at the garrison, improving both his aim and, thankfully, he was better at not simply shooting at first sight of anything unknown. Siriin briefly mused that she would probably not be here today if he had been a better shot some 3 months ago. Then the implication of what he had actually shouted about, and the thought of meeting sylvari again, pushed everything else from her mind. Almost before she knew it, she was on top of the walls, staring out to see them as well.

The group was quite obvious, waiting uncertainly at the edge of the clearing that surrounded the garrison. She imagined that they’d be about as clueless as she had been, but luckily they were unlikely to receive the same explosive welcome that she had almost been victim to. Waving,  she hoped that they would be able to pick her out among all the humans.

“Looks like we are even more fortunate to have you here, Siriin.” Evangeline was leaning on the wall to her right. She had already ordered the gate to be opened. “You can probably explain all this to them far better than we can,” she glanced at Siriin for a brief moment, “unless you don’t want to, that is.”

She could barely contain her excitement. “I would love to. I haven’t seen any of my people since I left home.” Some of the sylvari were pointing in her direction now. Seems like now would be the best time. “I would say ‘this should not take long’, but I really don’t know about that.” Siriin quickly turned around, skipping down the steps to the courtyard 3 at a time, running past the guards at the gate. The distance between the garrison and the grouped sylvari was covered in no time, and soon she was catching her breath, watching them all look at her with surprise clear on their faces.

As with almost any group of sylvari, there was a rainbow mix of colours on display, but also many sacks, as well as a cart pulled by an oakheart of all things. She was very curious indeed to hear why a group of sylvari would drag a cart around so far from the Grove. None among the group had said a word yet, probably waiting for her to speak first.

“Hello, my name is Siriin, I am a sylvari like you,” She slowly pointed at the garrison behind her. “And those are humans, like Ronan, friend of Ventari, from the tablet.”

One among the group stepped forward. Her skin was a dark blue, and shaped like the bark of a great tree, her amber-coloured eyes in stark contrast. She looked striking, and immensely dependable. “Omanna, Dusk-born and former Warden. Greeting, Siriin of an unknown cycle. Meeting sylvari so far from home is a great surprise,” she reached out with an open hand, “A pleasant one, but a surprise nonetheless.”

Siriin shook the hand as firmly as she could. “I am surprised as well, I never thought I would meet another sylvari until I returned to the Grove. I was born to Dusk as well.”

The former Warden had put her hands on her hips. She was clothed in leaves and strips of bark. Siriin did not know the design, but a past in the Wardens meant that it was likely armour and would be deceptively resilient. “If I might be so bold, why are you yourself out here alone?”

“I wanted to see the world, couldn’t simply stay in the Grove any longer.” she waved casually behind her. “Found this place by happenstance, a few months ago. And why is such a big group of sylvari doing wandering about with a oakheart-driven cart?”

Omanna grinned at her and turned to look at the gentle forest creature. “It was a friend of mine’s idea. We’re going to establish a new settlement north of the Grove.”

A new settlement? Living away from the Pale Tree? At first the idea seemed strange to Siriin, but she quickly realised that was what she had been doing for a while now without really thinking about it. Looking at the garrison behind her, she spotted Evangeline waiting patiently a little distance from the open gate, this time even without her sword. Several sylvari were looking past Siriin and Omanna at the commander, some looking more nervous than others.

Siriin pointed behind her. “This is the commander of the garrison. She has willingly moved away from her mother, just like us. Talk to her, she will understand.”

The former Warden looked at the human woman slowly walking towards them. “So they speak our language?”

She thought of the year written on the front of Evangelines tome. “I suspect it’s rather the other way around. After all, humans have been around for far longer than us.”

Omanna humphed(humph-wiki) at her and, removing her own scabbarded sword, walked out to meet Evangeline, Siriin following along behind her.

The commander stuck out her hand to the Warden. “Evangeline de Mascio, third-born daughter of Filomeno de Mascio and captain of this garrison. Siriin here,” a short hand gesture was made towards her.  “has told me much about your people.”

Omanna firmly returned the handshake. “Omanna, former Warden and leader of this small group. We may have something in common. I am third-born myself.”

Evangeline folded her arms behind her back, much like she did when addressing her soldiers. “Judging by what I have heard from Siriin, that means 2 different things for sylvari and humans. If I might be so bold, what is your group’s destination?”

“You might have a different name for it, but our allies call it ‘Brisban’. It is a region of wildlands to the north, largely unpopulated by their account.”

Both Evangeline and Siriin spoke at nearly the same time. “Allies?”

The warden held a hand about a meter above the soil. “The asura. Diminutive creatures with large ears, but act as if they tower above anyone else, even each other.”

Siriin merely muttered ‘ah’ while the commander looked displeased. “We humans know of them too, though I do not know if I would call them ‘allies’. They infuriate more than they help,” She took a deep breath and the displeasure dissappeared from her face. “But their information is correct. There are no settlements as such in Brisban. It is far too infested with bandits for anyone to want to live there.”

Omannas eyes lit up like torches. “Bandits? Is that some manner of dragon minion, like the risen?”

“No, they are humans like me and the rest of my garrison, but they obey no law but their own.” A smile slowly appeared on Evangelines face. “But I like the comparison to minions. Some among my people claim they are even more vile than the Risen. At least the undead are left no choice in the matter.”

The warden had put her hands on her hips again. “Interesting. We have nothing like bandits in the Grove.”

Evangeline chuckled. “Then consider yourselves fortunate. They are a pain to deal with in any respect,” she put one of her hands on her chest. “But enough of that. If your group is weary or in need of supplies, I offer the help of myself and my soldiers. Let it never be said that the de Mascios are not generous with what they have.”

Omanna slowly returned the gesture. “Then we will accept it with gratitude. I might be a former soldier, but the rest of the caravan are largely crafts-folk and others who have not wielded a weapon in their life, so the journey has been hard on them.” The warden glanced over at Siriin. “Perhaps we can also arrange some sort of larger visit from the Grove. We did not know this garrison was here, and further talk between our two peoples can only be for the best. I am sure both Ronan and Ventari would have thought as much.”

Evangeline looked puzzled for the first time that day. “Ronan and Ventari? Are they your leaders?”

Siriin decided to intervene. “As you said yourself, Evangeline, enough for now. Let us make sure that the caravan gets some rest, then me and Omanna might explain further.”

The caravan stayed for the night, the weary sylvari grateful for a resting place without the constant danger of the jungle around them. Having grown used to Siriins presence, some of the soldiers who were not otherwise occupied talked to the travellers, and the garrison was filled the noise of discussions held and stories told. Siriin was standing on the southern wall, enjoying the evening breeze. Usually the air in the jungle was hot and still, but the clearing was big enough to allow even a slight breeze to reach the jungle floor. The new arrivals had reminded her of another reason she had left all those months ago. The noise got to her, made her feel pressured.

So she had gone up on the wall alone, away from the lights and the noise of the rest of the garrison. Looking down into the courtyard, she saw Omanna ascending the stairs towards her before the Warden called out.

“I thought you were talking to Evangeline?” The captain and the commander had been discussing how to set up further communication between the Grove and the settlement the humans called ‘Divinity’s Reach’, where their queen lived. Siriin wasn’t entirely sure what a queen was, but judging by the reverence with which they spoke the name, it was more like Mother than what humans called mother.

Omanna strode up to where she was standing with a purposeful stride. “I was, we have arrived at an agreement of sorts. All we can do now is wait for a word from our respective superiors. This is too big for us to decide on our own.”

Siriin slowly nodded in response and looked down into the courtyard again. Thinking back to the same morning, the feeling of vanished mystery struck her again. The warden had told her that they were going north, into unpopulated lands. If that was true, it would be unknown territory not only to herself, but also to everyone around her.

“Omanna, can I ask you a question?”

Omanna was leaning her back against the wall, looking curiously at her. “Go ahead.”

“Can I join your caravan?”

The warden seemed taken aback. “Well, we have the space and supplies for it, but are you sure you want to leave your friends here so suddenly?”

Siriin could see a weak light in the window to Evangelines office. “I originally came here out of a wish to explore, see more of the world. And now I feel like I have seen this corner. Leaving to find a whole new corner is the only reason that feels good enough.”

The other sylvari straightened up, scouting about between the caravan members down in the courtyard. “Good enough for me. I will talk to my assistants, make sure they know about it. I trust you have some farewells to attend to.” Omanna bowed slightly towards Siriin, who returned the gesture. “Good night, Siriin, third-born of Dusk. We leave at first light.” With that, she walked off, making for the stairs leading downwards.

Siriin herself hurried to her workbench, scrabbling about in the darkness for the language tome. The book was in a locked drawer, safe inside the watertight box Evangeline had borrowed her alongside the book. Looking up, she could see that the light was still lit in the office window. The night was yet young, but Siriin still felt a sense of urgency. Holding the box in her arms, she knocked on the closed door of the office.

A moment of silence. “Enter.”

The door was not locked. 2 candles were lit on the large oak table, and the commander was writing on a piece of parchment.

“Ah, Siriin.” She looked a little tense. “I thought you would be talking to the other sylvari, just like all of my bloody soldiers.”

Siriin could not remember any recent battles. “Bloody? Last I saw them, everyone seemed perfectly safe.”

“Ah, apologies. It’s a figure of speech.” Evangeline sighed, putting away her writing tools. “I hope you will forgive me, I am simply a little flustered.”

She closed the door behind her, shutting out the sounds of the garrison. “Why, if I might ask?”

The commander got up from her chair and turned around, looking at the painting of her father. “I just remembered that I have not sent my parents a single letter in all my time here at the garrison, and now I am sending a letter to the capital that is not for them.” Evangeline chuckled slightly. “Father is going to be greatly annoyed.”

The office was silent for a moment, then Evangeline turned back and sat down. “But enough about me. You came to me, so I assume you had something to say?”

Nodding, Siriin put the box on the table. The commander gave her a puzzled look.

“I will not be staying at the garrison any longer. I am going to join Omanna’s caravan, so sadly I also will not be able to finish the book.”

Evangeline surged out of her chair, palms slapping onto the table. “You will not-!” The shout came out in a rush, words tumbling out. She stood stock-still. In shock, Siriin had taken a few steps back.

“Sorry.”

Evangeline sat back down, slowly and carefully. The inkwell had been upturned on the table, spilling the viscous black liquid everywhere. She paid it no heed. “I’m sorry. It just- It came as a surprise, that’s all.”

Siriin hurried forward and put the little glass container upright, despairing at all the ink covering most of the surface, as well as several documents. Luckily the book was in its own box.

She was stopped when Evangeline gently grasped her frantic hands, moving her away from the table. “Are you sure about this?”

She looked at the commander. As far as she could see, Evangeline was back to her usual assured self. “Yes. I came here while I was out seeing the world for myself. This is the best opportunity to get back on the road.” An idea occurred to her. “You can come with us!”

At least it made Evangeline smile. “I cannot, sadly. We humans cannot wander about as freely as sylvari are seemingly able to do. I have a responsibility here, both to the soldiers under my command but also my parents and the crown. I can’t simply pack up and leave.”

“What does a ‘crown’ have to do with anything?”

That even got a chuckle. “I am afraid that we would be up till well past first light if I had to explain it to someone who doesn’t even know what a crown is.” She released Siriins hands and walked back to the table, sighing at the black-stained mess.

Outside she could see the campfires in the courtyard being slowly put out, the members of the garrison going to sleep one by one to prepare for the coming day. “I have an idea.” She turned back to Evangeline who was looking at her as well with that curious look she knew so well by now. “I’ll come back. I will see the world and come back here before the Grove, then you can explain it to me. Deal?”

For a moment she didn’t respond, standing still and speechless.

“Deal.”

Siriin was up shortly before dawn. She had said a few farewells, but seeing as she would be back eventually, she saw no great need. All her tools, some of them replaced during her stay at the garrison, were stowed away and ready for the trip. Her bow and quiver were slung across her back and her knife belted behind her waist. As she waited around for the caravan to leave, several of other sylvari came over to introduce themselves. There were a lot of names to remember. She could just hope there would be more opportunities to remember them in the days ahead. A sliver of daylight slipped through the forest canopy to the east, and the caravan began moving out. The oakheart-cart was in the middle of the column, and anyone who could fight at the front and rear. As the last of the column had moved through the gatehouse and the great wooden gates had closed, a cacophany erupted from the walls. Looking up, Siriin could see that a few soldiers were holding long, bent metallic tubes to their lips. The noise was loud and shrill, but the soldiers who were not using the tubes, along with Evangeline who was looking at the march from atop the gate, were all saluting. The assembled sylvari waved back and cheered, while both Siriin and Omanna quietly saluted.

Being back in the jungle proper was a curious feeling. The sights, sounds and smell of it had not been quite the same behind the stone walls of the garrison, and she mused that she did not know yet what she preferred. The pace was high. Every evening the group had exhausted sleep, but none complained. Within a week the forest around them had changed. It was cooler, less damp and the colours on the trees seemed darker. In the distance, a mountain loomed, circled by a valley beneath forested hills and cliffs. According to the maps Omanna and one of her assistants consulted many times a day, they had arrived in Brisban. Now it was time to find a place to set a more permanent camp.

The previous night, the group had camped on top of a cliff overlooking the southeast portion of the valley, intending to descend the following day. Now that they had arrived at the region, the pace had slowed somewhat. Very few animals had spotted throughout her time with the caravan, and none since their arrival in the region. Given the size of the group, and that they had an oakheart with them, it was not considered strange. As Siriin sat down near the cliff edge, peering out across mysterious valley, a creature unfamiliar to her flew gracefully past the cliff beneath her. It was quite far away, but she was sure she could see no wings with which it could fly. A beep to her left startled her, alerting her to the arrival of another similar creature. In the center of its angular body was a red crystal, glinting in the sun, and the rest of it seemed composed of some sort of stone, with 2 pointed sections on the side slowly rotating. Unlike its kin down in the valley, this one jerked through the air, the crystal always facing towards her. She could swear there were small flashes of light within the crystal. Then, as suddenly as it had arrived, it spun around in the air and flew off, descending into the valley. A creature with a body of stone and crystal. What a strange land they had found arrived in. In the days following, as they scouted possible sites for their encampment, the group saw more of the crystal-creatures, some going about their own business, but many more watching them. As none of them had taken anything or made any threatening gestures, whatever that would be for them, they saw no reason to stop or avoid the creatures. A week went by. The group split into as many smaller segments as they dared and searched the valley, attempting to check all their options before committing. Eventually Omanna decided on an area in the southeastern bit of the valley, the edge of a patch of forest under a steep rocky hill. As Siriin inquired where they should begin, one of Omannas assistants, a second-born named Jarv, brought over a small wooden box from the back of the cart. The box was well-made, sturdy, and waterproof and opened without a sound. Inside was a white seed with edges lined with small black strands of hair. A house-gourd, they called it. Similar to the Firstgrown, it would grow many times their height in a week, providing a place to sleep and be out of the elements. He had helped create it, alongside Luminary Kahedins. Until it breached the topsoil it would need careful tending, but after that it should keep itself with minimal effort.

The first day after the caravan had settled, Siriin noticed that the small flying creatures had stopped following them, but she could not be certain when they had stopped, as the last few days had been busy. They had also not met a single ‘bandit’, even though Evangeline had told them the region was infested with the creatures. Again, being new to the region, they could not be certain if it was a concern. To keep everyone from simply lying about while Jarv and his fellow gardeners tended the gourd, Omanna had arranged for several 2-person patrols at all times of the day. Siriin was partnered with a chipper Dawn-born named Roane. While she appreciated her new companion, it was not uncommon that she would have to tell her to be quiet, as some rustling in the jungle was rendered inaudible by nigh-constant chatter. To the Dawn-born’s credit, she quickly learned to listen more intently while she spoke, so as the days went by, occasions where she needed to be silenced grew fewer and fewer.

It had been 4 days since the gourd had been planted. Patrols had been kept up as per Omannas orders, but nothing of note had been sighted by anyone. Having walked her stretch of jungle and valley for what felt like a hundred times, Siriin knew every step now. Entering one of the thicker stretches, she could hear Roana chattering away behind her. She would have to admit that she was not really listening. Slowing down to apologise, she was interrupted by a sudden rustle of leaves behind her and a gasp of pain. Quickly turning around, she could see Roane collapsing to the ground, the leaves on the side of their path shaking as if something had passed through very quickly.

She rushed to the other sylvaris side. “Roane, what’s wrong!?” There was no reply. As she bent down to look at her face, there was another rustling behind her. Turning about, she saw a creature like from a nightmare. Easily as tall as she was, its black-stone-chest was thicker than any tree-trunk she had ever seen. It had 2 3-fingered arms reaching towards her, and the red crystal on top of its massive chest glinted balefully at her. As she watched, almost paralysed, 6 smaller limbs unfolded from its chest, ending in all sorts of shapes. She could only just shout “Help!” before one of the chest-arms terminating in a clamp covered her mouth, stopping any further shouts. She tried punching it away, but its flesh was stone and its grip was iron, and it did not budge. She struggled as much as she could, but it did not take long before it had gripped all of her limbs. Caught in her own struggle, she did not notice that a similar creature had picked Roane roughly from the floor, clamping her to its chest with its stone arms. The two stone-creatures turned back towards the jungle and started walking with a slow, measured gait. By now, however, the camp was clearly reacting to Siriin’s shout, as she could hear the other patrols closing in, Omanna’s commanding voice leading them. They would be saved. Then 4 more of the creatures emerged from the brush, their narrow line giving way to allow the 2 captors to pass. As Siriin and Roane were slowly abducted from the camp, she could hear the sounds of her friends fighting to save the two of them, but it grew fainter and fainter until she could hear it no more.

The slow cart-like gait of the creature and the shock conspired to lull Siriin into a weird sleep. When she finally woke again, they were no longer outside. The lack of sunlight and the musty smell of the cave was in stark contrast to the monstrous lair she saw before them. Like the stone creatures, it was angular and foreboding, cruel red crystals serving as some sort of illumination. A massive smooth stone surface parted at their approach, showing itself to be a fortress-like gatehouse. It closed slowly once they had passed. She could see nothing operating any levers, nothing to show how it had been opened. Inside, while there were more of the black-stone creatures milling about, carrying objects, the small crystal-and-stone flyers flying through the air above them. She wished they could have known what their presence had foretold. Then their captors stopped suddenly. A scratchy voice speaking in a tongue she did not recognise was somewhere above them. The creature holding Roane bent backwards, and a huge chunk of its back slowly hinged away, revealing a much smaller creature within. As it stepped onto the impromptu ramp, Siriin recognised it immediately. An asura. She was utterly confused. Were they not allies of both the sylvari and the humans? Why would they abduct her and Roane? The asura talked back to the voice in the same tongue, pointing to the 2 captive sylvari. A reply from the invisible voice, and the asura climbed back into the stone-creature, and they were walking again. As they went further into the lair, she saw more asura walking about, sometimes escorting the bigger creatures, sometimes being carried by them. All of them stopped and stared at she and Roane as they passed, as though they were some exotic animals to be penned up. Every once in a while she tried to struggle out of her bonds, but the creature’s grip was unchanged. She could barely move her head. Eventually they arrived at an enclosed room with a blue and angular crystal suspended from the ceiling. Roane’s captor walked inside, allowing the asura inside to clamber out of the chamber before a transparent glass door sealed it off. As soon as the door had closed, blue light began streaming out from the crystal, covering every surface in the room. A few moments passed before the door opened again, the asura clambered back in and, after shouting something to her own captor, walked off down a hall. Siriin wanted to shout out to Roane, try to wake her, but she was still silenced by the clamp. The stone-creature holding her underwent the same process, but as the crystal began shining, the light turned red. When they were back on the move, she quickly noticed that they were not going the same way that Roane had been taken. Again, all of her attempts to struggle were futile.

She was unceremoniously dumped in a cell larger than the blue-crystal one, but this one had a much smaller, irregular red crystal suspended in some sort of vice from the ceiling, and multiple of the stone-flyers were sitting in small alcoves in the far wall. She was barely back on her feet before the stone-creature had vanished behind the closed door. Reaching behind her, she found that her knife had been removed, along with her quiver. Her bow was, mysteriously, still there. But they had taken her quiver, so it would not be of much use. Her sleep during the walk to the lair had not proven very restful, so she was exhausted. She did not know where she was, nor did she have any way of fighting should she even be able to escape from her cell. Bereft of options, she fell into a dreamless sleep.

There was no sense of time in the illuminated building, so she did not know if it was morning when she awoke. The air was uncomfortably humid in the cell, the red crystal provided an eerie cast to the surroundings. She was aware of voices from outside the chamber, talking in that unknown tongue of theirs. Looking about the chamber, she realised she had no idea what was about to happen, or what she could do about it. She got to her feet. Talking had helped her before. The voices were coming from the far wall, and there was a slim pane of glass near the roof of the cell. Maybe they were on the other side. “Greetings asura, I think there has been-”.

An intense wave of crimson light erupted from the crystal. Siriin fell to her knees immediately, words forgotten. There was no pain as such, but she could not feel anything below her shoulders. Breathing was difficult. Her vision was slowly being obscured, small multi-colour sparks appearing and vanishing in seconds. Collapsing entirely to the floor, her bow slid away from her. It must have been knocked out of its holder. She had never been so tired. The sparks in front of her eyes twisted and turned, changing colour all the while. As they slowly covered her entire vision, Siriin became dimly aware that she was no longer seeing with her eyes. She was seeing her Dream again. The wonder of it all, and the contrast to the horrors she had been subjected to almost made her forget that it was merely a dream and not reality. She saw the world again, felt the mystery, but now it did not hold any danger to her. Only wonder. But where the mysterious Dohar had only been part of her Dream, now it was the very foundation. Without whoever it was, all of this would be forever lost to her, and she lost to it.

But she had no power, no way to save herself.

Dohar – Dream’s End

Dohar had asked the Luminary to tell him everything he would about Siriin, that it was in both his and hers best interest, and Kahedins reluctantly explained the Siriin he knew. The story of her Dream, and his own appearance in it, would have startled him, had he been told before his meeting with Mother.

“Why was I not told of that before now?” It had been 2 days since his audience with the Pale Mother. The rage had subsided, to be replaced with a need to leave the Grove, get moving, try and do something about this fate that had been forced on him. He had gone to the Firstgrown to talk to Kahedins, and had found the Firstborn waiting for him.

Kahedins tried to appear neutral, but he could see that was not entirely the case. “All the times we talked about her Dream, whenever your name was brought up, she would become defensive and agitated. While she never told me why, I wanted to meet you for myself before divulging,” he smiled slightly, “and while I don’t know what Mother has planned, you at least seem intent on both hers and your own well being.”

He had spoken little to the Luminary of Dusk since then. 2 weeks went by as he practiced, learned the land, acquired what maps and equipment he felt would be needed. He talked to various crafts-folk around the Grove, as well as the survivors of the Warden group she had worked with briefly. He wanted to get a good idea about where Siriin had been before he left the Grove, but he was also aware that time was running out, though exactly how much time was anyones guess.  Surprisingly, it proved to be the human envoys in the Grove who told him the most. Siriin had been staying at one of their garrisons to the north when proper contact had been established between the human and sylvari and had befriended the local commander. While the envoys did not know more, they assured him that Captain Evangeline de Mascio’s family were well-thought-of for their generosity.

After saying his farewells to the scant few he knew in the Grove, Dohar took his packed supplies and left. With Risen incursions ever on the rise, the jungle was fraught with danger for the ignorant or unobservant. Following the maps he had been given by Lyranna, his progress north was initially slow, as undead and forest beast alike hindered his path. The few sylvari settlements dotted around Caledon also proved problematic. Dohar still did not know the specifics of Mother’s plan, nor did he entirely care at this point, but he also did not know if other sylvari had been involved beyond him and Siriin, so he wanted to avoid unneeded contact as much as possible. A month went by before he found the garrison mentioned by the human envoys. It was marked quite clearly on one of his newest maps, but in the wake of increased contact between human and sylvari, a settlement had been founded in the vicinity, so the two peoples could more easily support each other. He would just have to hope that none of the Wardens from the village would be visiting the garrison that day.

It was midday when he stood before the guards on the gate. He had not seen any point in attempting a stealthy approach. The two guards must have seen him coming a mile off, but did not seem alarmed.  They kept hold of their weapons, but showed no sign of trying to show them off, let alone use them. “Halt in the name of- Ah, bloody hell. Who goes there?”

“Dohar, a sylvari of the Grove. I seek to speak with your Commander.”

The bald man practically sneered at him. “”And why should the Commander speak to you?”

Dohar sighed. He had hoped he would not need mention the name to anyone but the most necessary. “I have information about her friend, the sylvari Siriin.”

That wiped the smirk from his face, though it was replaced with a scowl a moment later. “Bloody hell’s right.,” he mumbled something to his companion, “Stay there, I will see if she will spare some time.”

He was quickly ushered into a rounded office, decorated with pictures of other humans, as well as maps and ornate furniture. A female human sat at a large oaken table, black hair worn short. Even though the garrison seemed as secure as it could be in the middle of the jungle, she still wore armour and a scabbarded sword was leaning against the side of the table. A bow of sylvari design was mounted carefully on the wall, along with a matching quiver and a single arrow.

The commander looked up at him through steepled fingers. “Ah, our visitor. I hope you do not wish to stay like the last of your kind who came through here on uncertain business.”

“Have no fear of that. Are you captain Evangeline de Mascio?”

The human leaned back in her chair, stoppering a black glass bottle and gently pushing it to the side. “Indeed I am. You have me at a disadvantage, sir -?”

He affected a slight bow. “Dohar, Noon-born of the Grove. I come north seeking a mutual aquintance.”

“Siriin.”

He nodded in response. “Just so.”

De Mascio nodded slowly in return. “And why do you seek her? To that point, how do you know her?” She reached for a cup sitting on the table surface as she spoke, raising it for a sip.

“We are both involved in some plot beyond our will. I think she is in danger.”

At the last word, the commander coughed, trying not to choke on her drink, Dohar trying to figure out if he should help, let alone how.

“In danger? How?” She croaked as she stood up, slowly regaining her composure.

A gut instinct, a feeling, a tickling in the back of his neck. But that was not evidence. “I wish I knew. She is involved in some plot, as am I. And,” Admitting it galled him to the core, “I do not know what can be done about it, but she deserves to know. I mean to find her so that I can at least tell her.”

The captain retrieved a rolled-up scroll from a drawer in her desk. “She went north over a year ago, joining a caravan led by another sylvari named ‘Omanna’,” Rolled out on the table, it was shown to be a map of the Maguuma, specifically an area further north called the Brisban Wildlands. He knew of it, but had never personally gone so far north. “It is an area rife with banditry, but the group seemed capable enough.”

Dohar looked the map over. It had asuran symbols on it, as well as New Krytan translations. He did not have any map that matched it. “I know the area, but I have no map of my own for it. Finding my way there might take a long time.”

De Mascio rolled it up again, holding it out towards him. “Then take this one. I bought it for myself, but if you can use it to help Siriin, then it will be of greater use to you.”

He accepted it gratefully. “I see the generosity of the De Mascios is not ill praised.”

A moment of silence. “If I might ask a favour in return.” Her tone seemed quite different than before. She reminded him of Lyranna from when the Risen had nearly struck the Confine. “If there is truly nothing to be done, can you try and bring her back here before the end?”

Dohar knew not the extent of Mothers plan, let alone what it hoped to accomplish. “I will do what I can.”

The map proved immensely useful. The distance between the edge of the Brisban wilds and the De Mascio garrison was nearly equal to the road from the Grove, but with the new guidance he made far better progress. 2 weeks had passed when the circular Brisban valley stretched out in front of him, encircling a mountain unnamed on the map. While the map gave a good understanding of the area, it predated the group that Siriin was supposed to have joined, so he was again left with a vague trail to follow. He must start somewhere. Siriin had wandered on her own before, and might have gone back to the lone road again. Following that line of reasoning, he spent a week exploring the southern parts of the valley, looking for any signs of habitation.

He was looking through a cave in the early morning when unknown voices emerging from the jungle around him prompted him to hide around a corner. 2 creatures were carefully pushing through the brush. His hiding spot offered a view, albeit a poor one, of the clearing they would emerge into if they kept their course. 4 sylvaries garbed in Warden-like armour carefully entered the clearing, slowly scanning the opposing tree-line and the canopy above. As 2 of them stayed outside, bows at the ready, the 2 others began slowly advancing into the cave. As thorough as they were being, they would be sure to discover him, and hiding for longer would only make him seem more suspicious.

“You can lower your weapons,” He slowly emerged from his hiding place. “I mean no harm to you and the cave is empty.”

To their credit, they made sure to see who he was for themselves before standing down. One called the others inside while the second hurried over to him. The armour was the same for all of them, but as they got closer he could make out their differences more clearly.

“Forgive us,” She had a heavily-lined auburn-coloured face. “It has been a long time since we last saw a sylvari not of our own settlement.”

The second one was of a taller and slighter build, visible even through the armour, with curious black lines on her white face. “If you were hoping for a peaceful place to stay, I am sad to say you will be disappointed.”

“How so?” He picked his pack from the floor where he had left it.

“We have been attacked numerous times in the last year.” The auburn one had stowed her weapon away, and was looking back at the 2 others who were standing a short distance away. “Creatures made by the asura, composed of living rock and crystals.”

He felt a chill run down his back. “I don’t plan to stay if at all possible. I come here looking for another sylvari, a Dusk-born named Siriin.”

As he mentioned the name, sadness took over their expressions. The auburn one sighed gently. “Omanna will want to talk with you then. She should be in the settlement. We will take you there.”

Judging by their reactions, Dohar did not have high hopes.

Their settlement was not far away. An hours brisk walking through the forest and they arrived at a thorny fence surrounding a large gourd-like plant, with open holes closed with wooden doors. It reminded him immensely of the Firstgrown from the Grove.

The patrol left him with a blue-skinned sylvari sporting a large green leaf, seemingly strapped on with its own stem, covering half her face. On the other side a striking amber eye regarded him with curiosity. After the group had quickly introduced him, they hurried back to their patrol.

With one hand she continued stroking the fern-hound she was tending to, while she stuck the other out towards him. “Omanna, third-born and leader of this ragged group. And you are?”

Dohar shook the proffered hand, making sure to look her in the remaining eye. “Dohar, Noon-born Valiant of the Grove. I’ve come here looking for someone, a fellow sylvari named Siriin.”

Again, that sadness became immediately apparent in Omannas expression. “Over a year ago, we were attacked, and a few of our group were abducted. We know not why or where they were taken. Siriin was one of them.”

He had suspected as much, but the confirmation still struck him. He sat down on a stool beside the captain. “Do you know anything else?”

Omanna shook her head. “Another of our number, Roanne, was abducted at the same time. Beyond that, we know nothing of what has happened to them since they were taken from us.” The captain turned her attention back to grooming the fern-hound. “We do know that the creatures who attacked us are some sort of stone elemental, controlled by the asura.”

“The asura? I thought they were our allies.”

Omanna looked at him again, single amber eye glinting dangerously. “I don’t know about that. On the few occasions that we have defeated one of the creatures, it has opened to reveal one of the diminutive creatures. Sadly neither speaks the tongue of the other, so they could not tell us anything.”

Dohar felt tired. He had marched for over a month to find someone he had never met, to stop some obscure plan he knew little about. All for nothing. “Can I stay in your settlement for a while? I know not where to go.”

He could see that the captain tried to look kind, but her naturally harsh appearance made it difficult. “Of course. I can hardly ask you to help our patrols right away, but come tomorrow you’ll have to help, same as everyone else,” She pointed at the gourd-building. “Find an empty room, there should still be a few. Our settlement is not very large, so you should be able to find me if you need to.”

Dohar thanked her and walked off, looking to find a place to sleep.

He found an empty room and dumped his belongings in a pile. The bed was more comfortable than what he had gotten used to since leaving the Grove, but still he could not sleep.

Ever since his Awakening, he had thought that he was connected to all the essential elements of his Dream, that he would somehow sense their presence. Now, lying in a bed, looking into an empty ceiling, a starlit sky in the open window, he was not quite so certain.

The evening dragged on, eventually lulling Dohar into a troubled sleep.

He was in the jungle. 2 long vines stretched into the darkness around him. One was thin and slowly withering, but covered in beautiful pale leaves and white flowers in full bloom. The other was supple, fat and full of life. Covered in glistening dark-green thorns. The flowered vine was cradling him gently, almost as if afraid to crush him. As he watched, unable to move or shout out, the thorny vine crept up to him, the flowered vine retreating from its presence. It wrapped itself around his legs, his waist and his arms, forcing them to move like some puppet. Every time the other vine would attempt to get closer, the thorns would deter it. Slowly, he could see it encroaching on his vision, changing his sight. The last he saw with his own eyes was something new explode from the jungle around him. A burst of light. His vision and body was his own again. The new arrival was yet a third vine, a whirl of blue and green. Full of its own life like the thorned one, but also covered in beautiful pale flowers. Its touch had driven the thorned vine away, sent it dragging itself away into the darkness. The thin vine was still there, unafraid, but it no longer attempted to get closer either. But the new vine could only just touch him. It was too far away to do anything else. He could sense that it was close, that he could find it. He woke well before dawn. He could still feel its presence, like a soft leaf brushing against his cheek. Gathering his things as fast as he could, he left the gourd-house. He was on the edge of the settlement going west when a voice stopped him.

“Leaving so soon?” Turning around, he saw the captain Omanna looking curiously at him, bow strapped to her back and sword belted to her waist.

Dohar nodded, oblivious to the darkness around him, making the gesture almost invisible. “I have to. Something is calling to me.”

The captain sighed. “As long as it’s not an asuran elemental, I won’t try to stop you. Just be careful, your Hunt won’t protect you.”

The jungle was dark and silent. Even the animals that would usually be active in the night were quiet. Dohar appreciated it at first, the feeling was weak and faint, difficult to focus on. But as his march dragged on and the feeling grew, so did his unease at the silence. The Maguuma was not usually nearly as silent as this. It was not right. Eventually he found a large cave entrance. The feeling was intense now, a strong heat just behind his shoulders. He was blind to the asuran creation before it was too late.

He awoke, head aflame, to a stone room awash in a blood-red light. He could not move his body beyond his head. The rest of his body was restrained by black stone clamps. He quickly put the pieces together. If he could punch himself, he would have. The elemental began moving again, eventually arriving at a spacious room with glass viewing ports along the ceiling. As the elemental dumped him on the floor, he could barely surge to his feet before a crackling field had closed the corridor off. Approaching it, he could feel its power from a foot away. Turning back to the room he had been put in, he realised it was not empty. A glass case in the middle of the room held an object obscured by some sort of fog. As he touched the smooth surface, the fog melted away, revealing a beautiful bow. The limbs were like a vine fresh from the jungle, and the belly was covered in pale flowers. The feeling of closeness was back, stronger than ever before, almost painful. The room was then bathed in the same light he had seen when he awoke. It tingled on his skin. The bow was shaking now, falling out of the stand it was placed on. As it touched the glass, the case shattered, sending glass pebbles flying in all directions. A hideous blaring noise like the cries of a warthog started flowing through the chamber, and he heard the crackling field behind him go silent, the telltale thump of the elementals coming closer. Seeing the only weapon he had access to, he reached out. As he touched the grip, everything stopped. The lamp holding the red crystal above him exploded, the crystal embedding itself in the upper belly of the bow. He had barely registered it before it was gone again, replaced by a small green figure he had seen before. In his Dream.

Siriin. He did not understand what had happened, but he knew what to do.

He turned around. 2 of the elementals had entered the chamber, reaching out towards him. Their movements were sluggish, easy to avoid. He danced away from them, touching a finger to the side of the figurine. As if it were the most natural thing in the world, he drew a bright green arrow, the bowstring easily catching the fletching. He loosed. The shot flew true, easily shearing off the creature’s arm as though it was made from paper. It rocked back, landing heavily on its back. Another projectile punched right through the center of the second elemental, sending it onto its back and stopping it entirely. A third arrow knocked one of the walls aside, allowing an escape.

The corridor outside the chamber was filled with the diminutive asuras, mostly standing around confused as the alarm blared through the lair. He wanted to kill them, make them pay for what they had done. But Siriins voice held him back. Escape was more important than vengeance. She knew the way out. It was burned into her memory. The asuras were panicked enough that he encountered no resistance beyond a few gates. Siriins awesome power rendered them into rubble. Soon enough he was emerging from the cave, the lair of the asuras left smoking and devastated in his wake. Here Siriin could offer no more guidance, but he remembered the way to the settlement well enough. He arrived back at the gourd-like building in good time. Within the thorny fence, all the patrol groups were gathered. He and Siriin could not agree whether it was good or horrible timing. As he approached the building, the gathered sylvari crowded around him, many of them asking about the exceptional weapon in his hand. Dohar held the bow up before him, the figurine of Siriin catching the midday sun perfectly. “It is Kudzu, a boon from the Pale Tree.” He stowed the weapon away again, silently apologising. “I need to speak to your captain,” The blue sylvari stepped through the crowd around him. “With no onlookers.”

The captain nodded slowly. “Everyone else, back to your work. If the asurans come looking, I want to know.” The crowd dispersed, the patrol groups quickly moving back into the jungle. Omanna turned back to Dohar. “Follow me, I have an office of sorts at the top.”

As the ascended the ramp, he removed the bow from its sheath, holding it at his side. The office was understandably sparse, a couple scrolls on a black panther furs on the floor and some stoppered gourds in a corner.

The captain sat down on one of the furs. “I hope you will excuse the lack of furniture. We have not had any other caravans come to our settlement yet, and our crafts-folk have not had the time to themselves to make any.”

He sat down heavily on the other fur. “I found Siriin.”

The surprise was plain on her face. “What? Where is she now, is she still in the lair?”

Dohar held the bow out towards Omanna. “Hold it in your own hands, she will show your herself.

While she clearly did not understand, she carefully accepted the weapon. As she held it, the silence in the room grew more acute. He could see in her eyes that she was experiencing something like what he had seen when he had found it. Eventually she handed it back slowly. “I see,” the captain held a hand to her head, a pained expression on her face. “If only we had known.”

He laid the bow in his lap. “You had no way of knowing. The lair was heavily damaged, you should have an easier time in the region for a while.”

Omanna slowly nodded. “Thank you Do-,” she held up a hand in apology. “Thanks to both of you. If I might ask, what will you do now?”

Dohar looked down at the figurine. “We each have a promise to keep first, but then we’re leaving.”

“Leaving where?”

“Leaving the Maguuma entirely. There is a whole other world out there, beyond the jungle. Mother will have to track us down if she wants to use us further.”
Dawn came. Omanna sent a patrol group south to send word to the Grove of their situation now that they had time, and Dohar followed them for a while. Eventually they came to a fork in the road at the edge of a familiar clearing. As the farewells had been said, he turned to look at a familiar stone-walled garrison, a raven-haired human waiting on its walls.

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