Everything is wrong here.
So very wrong.
I can’t think straight. I can barely breathe. The horror and anger and anguish are like knives in my heart.
These …. people.. I can’t call them elves right now. They’ve renounced all that it means to BE an elf. I PRAY that these people have been under some kind of sway. That they didn’t realize exactly what it is they had done.
But I am not hopeful. I can’t focus on that right now. I can’t allow my horror and anger to overshadow me. I am thankful that Tobias is here by my side. He’s the only thing keeping me grounded at the moment. I wonder if this is how Shalev felt.. upon hearing news of his father’s murder?
I found out why my druidic powers have no hold here. The terrible reason why.
The only thing that remains now is him. THEM. The tree. I must do what I can to save them both.
But I am rambling. Let me try to make sense of my thoughts.
Still in the city of Tir na’Friar, we had about a month before the Great Court was to happen. The party and I used that time to continue helping Matron with her lands, to practice and hone skills, and to discover what I could about what to expect with the Great Ritual.
She seemed uncomfortable at my asking, and was noticeably tight-lipped about this “ritual” and what it entailed. It made me uneasy, and wary. The more I talked to her, the stronger the sense of “something isn’t right here” showed through.
Determined to see what the ritual was for myself, I commissioned a dress suitable for such an occasion. The seamstress I commissioned made me a beautiful gown out of ocean blue raw silk, with silver trim. She asked what the motif should be, and I requested arboreal, which caused her to pause and look at me in an odd way. She then murmured something about how the Great Court hadn’t been “properly scandalized” in a long time, and then informed me that it would be ready in a week.
Four days later the summons arrived for Matron, and the invite arrived for Tobias and I, stating that the court would convene in three days’ time. The rest of the party was not to attend, as they were not elves.
Matron grew more tense, and more quiet, as the time for the ritual grew closer; and I began to urgently get the sense that I would not like what I was about to witness.
I was right.
We were escorted up to the inner circle of the city, and I knew. I knew as soon as I stepped foot inside that scorched circle of earth. I knew in a heartbeat why my connection to the Sacred was lost here. I knew in an eyeblink what I had begun to suspect, but couldn’t dare believe that any elf would do. But I was so very wrong. The moment I saw it, I began praying. Not knowing if my god and goddess could hear me or not. Not knowing if they cared. But I prayed. I prayed for help. For something.. for anything..
In the center of the blackened ring of earth and ash, grew a young sylvan tree. No more than a sapling, and a yearling at that. Vibrant and healthy and alive.
The royal family began the ritual by stating that this was, and had been, a yearly tradition. Was “who they were” and “who they would be”. They denounced everything about the old ways. Renounced all that they are. Claimed that the right to be free led them to this. That the wish to work with metals of the earth like… like dwarves or gnomes, was more important to them than their connection to the Wellspring. That their safety and ability to blend in and remain “quiet” was more important to them than being a part of nature and balance.
To my growing horror, they loudly proclaimed that, in an act of complete revolt, they entombed their ruler – an immortal, one of my kind, that I have never heard of – in the earth below, so that he could continue to watch the desecration of the tree year after year.
The tree has old roots. Over 500 years. It will not die. Not like this. But it will burn.
Then they burned it.
They burned a living thing. A Sylvan tree. Alive.
Each of the families threw a torch on the growing pyre, and watched without compassion as it burned to the ground. It was all I could do not to start screaming then.
Even Matron, although she glanced at me with sorrow in her eyes, and tossed her torch far to the side, so it would not land among the conflagration. I noticed. I refused. I dropped the torch I was given at my feet, although looking back, a stronger message would have been to put it out entirely.
I spoke in quiet tones to Matron as the citizens of the city began bringing their grievances to the leading family. Like HUMANS. Everything here is so WRONG.
I implored her.. WHY. Why do this? Why participate in something she knew in her heart was wrong. She said that she had become accustomed to the safety of knowing they wouldn’t be attacked, because the energy doesn’t resonate here.
NOT AN EXCUSE. This tree deserves LIFE, NOT DESTRUCTION. Doing nothing is still an action, and it’s still WRONG. She knows it.
I was blazing angry, and verging on actual tears.
Tobias, growing increasingly alarmed, and increasingly horrified by what he saw, put himself at my back, and began trying to calm me down.
I looked at Matron.
HELP ME. Is all I said.
and she agreed. Lord and Lady bless her, she did. She made it appear as if I had put some kind of control over her, and she walked to the center of the fire ring, and then cast a spell of wind. The wind gathered and gathered, much like the winds before a sandstorm from home, but with more deliberate intent. The torches all went out one by one, and the bonfire in the center was twisted up in the vortex and extinguished. The sparks and embers floated off into the air, and over the city, but I paid them no heed.
Once the fire was out, she collapsed as if unconscious, and was immediately protected by two of the other families. I’m glad to know that she is – for the moment at least – unharmed and safe.
I ran over to the center, where the burned root of the sapling was exposed, and I grabbed it hoping to feel some spark of life.
What I felt was hatred. Burning, writhing hatred coming from an eight eyed enemy. “Lloth” I breathed with dread, and Tobias heard me.
My immediate thought was that whatever was down there.. whatever they had buried, was not elf. Was something far.. far worse. and that the tree itself had been corrupted.
The head family demanded why the ritual was interrupted, threatening to see “just how immortal I really was”, causing Tobias to bristle noticeably… and I confronted them. What have you done?! I shouted. Why do you do this!? You’ve denied everything it is to be an elf, in exchange for what?! You’ve corrupted the wellspring, and you desecrate something sacred just because you CAN?! Spring time rituals are supposed to be about renewal. About a restatement of life, and health and vitality.
Instead you made it a celebration of everything opposite. You wonder at the lack of children here. You whisper about the feel of decay. You’re blind and you’ve condemned this entire city by cutting yourselves off from all that you ARE. From all that you COULD BE.
They remained unmoved, and threatened to throw me down there with whatever it was they entombed.
Tobias, at that point, began thinking out loud, because he sensed that the tree itself was still holy, and NOT corrupted. He spoke about Lloth, and the drow, and how there was SOMETHING down there that was unholy, and completely so.
I don’t know what he said, but He somehow managed to get them to open the tomb, revealing the immortal ruler they had imprisoned, and much to everyone else’s surprise, an underground road leading just beneath the city.
How far does Lloth’s influence reach? How much has she corrupted these people.
What I saw.. dear Lord and Lady, how COULD THEY.
An immortal, undoubtedly, and one I should know.. although I don’t know why.
Chained to a wall.
With the roots of the tree itself growing THROUGH his emaciated body.
Dear gods, that means he not only witnessed. HE FELT. HE FELT IT BURN. EVERY TIME.
I can’t.. I can barely..
HOW COULD THEY.
WHO DID THIS?
I all but screamed out in fury. Knowing Tobias would protect me, I climbed down into the tomb to confirm what I knew already, with an unspeakable terror.
He was still alive.
As I grew near to his withered form, it became easier to see for some reason. Then I glanced down to find my necklace.. the pendant that I’ve worn for so long.. was … glowing.
and the crown that he wore on his head was glowing. They matched. The symbols match.
He is ..
there’s something wrong with my memory. There’s a block that I can sense now. Deliberately placed within my mind, that means that I can not remember. I do not know who he is, or who I am in relation. He could be my father. My brother. My son?
As I grew nearer to him, I reached out to touch him gently, and his eyes opened. They stared blindly, and he began screaming. Or.. trying to scream with what remained of his throat.
I did scream then. Long and loud and full of wordless horror, and ran to his side.
So many questions.
So many unanswered questions.
and such… revulsion. That my own kind could do this to someone else.
and potentially MY family. I thought them all dead. Maybe that memory is a fabrication itself.
I can’t know.. I won’t know..
and I can’t think.