Naiara: Chapter Six - Druiarbor
Chapter Six - Druiarbor
Chapter Six - Druiarbor
The year 476 of the 4th Age, fifteen years ago, during the 12th month of Virgo
As the days turned cold in the mountains of Zephyrus
The newly graduated ranger of the Vigilate, Naiara, studied an old map given to her by her mentor, Elyithon. The moonworld was much bigger than just Zephyrus, and she knew very little beyond its borders, and to her surprise, not a whole lot within it either beyond her brief time at Stelladomus and then in Caelumarcis. The Caelumani dwelled in a range of mountains known as the Chiontoch. Long ago, they used to fly in the mountains of Ashkremos on the borders of their grounded allies, the Cythans. The fall of the valley empire seemed to have a cascading effect for the rest of the lands of Rylaren, with the Caelumari losing touch with everyone else shortly afterwards. There were but a few remaining safe havens on the map other than Caelumarcis. Arventus to its south where a small secluded valley reserved for farming and the raising of gryphus who favored the area. The druids here claim this has been a preferred nesting ground for them for quite some time and is believed to be where the winged elves and gryphus first met one another as friends and kindred spirits. To the east of Arventus was the ancient city of Oriasyli. It had been built long before the fracturing of the western ocean and the fall of the Vanras empire. Even older than the ruins in the neighboring lands of Vartha and Vahryn. A great bridge was constructed over the fissure to cross from Zephyrus to Vahryn, and it was also a harbor where the majority of fishing was done in relative safety. Naiara could only assume this place was constructed for other races benefit as well, for why else would they build a bridge that most could just as quickly fly over? To the southwest of the Vigilate spire were the ruins of Ostidef. It was now a place that the rangers guarded over as well as the grand bridge of the grand Runawyrm trade road, that crosses into Vartha. Orcs have attacked this site on more than one occasion over the years, testing the defenses and the Caelumani's resolve. Across the mountains to the northeast was Oblituris, the gryphus rider station and watchtower overlooking the Vanras Sea. It was also a signal tower to havens across the sea, now only relaying messages to the colony of Azshran, attempting to rebuild from the swamp covered ruins there in Vahryn. She paused at Stelladomus to the northeast, Naiara's birthplace. Much of her extended family was lost here when it was razed. It was the largest city outside the capital, and its fall was very sudden, with little success at retaliation. The barbaric giants came suddenly and just as quickly returned from wherever they had come from. The last city to the north was Nixautem, a struggling mining haven in the icy Icratus mountains surrounding the lands of Glaciaeris, home of their snow elf kin whom they have not heard from for quite some time since the giants woke from their slumber. Also, in the north was another place that Naiara was not familiar with, Druiarbor. She guessed it had something to do with the druids, but she did not know them to have a claim to anywhere else but Arventus. “What can you tell me of Druiarbor, Elyithon?” She asked. He smiled, “Only that we will be heading there soon. I’ll show Malyrra, Sihnion, and you around and tell you everything I know about it when we depart for it as you will be stationed there to help watch over the north.” Each of them gathered their possessions as well as some additional supplies for their extended stay far to the north as they would be taking the gryphus Akos and Shae. "Malyrra will be guiding Shae with Naiara as a passenger. Sihnion, you are with me on Akos." Elyithon said as they began to load and strap down their gear to their gryphus. Sihnion, for whatever reason, seemed reluctant to hop on the back of Akos, as he slowly helped load supplies onto it. From the training grounds of the Vigilate spire, they flew north over the ruined city of Lucivitas, belonging to an unknown kingdom at least from a couple of ages ago. The Vigilate kept a close watch over this place, as many enemy scouts have been discovered taking refuge here. Just before dusk, they arrived at Druiarbor, landing outside the old crumbling circle of stone and the grove of oaks surrounding a great tree. The gryphus found some rocks they favored laying upon, and for some reason, would not go further towards the circle. "If they won't go forth, then perhaps we should not either? Perhaps they sense danger here, or maybe the rumors are true." Sihnion questioned, seeming to not be too comfortable with the place himself. Malynrra laughed nervously as she tried to coax Shae to follow her as she rubbed around its beak and eyes, "Nonsense, it's not haunted. They must just be really exhausted from the long flight and would prefer to perch on these rocks than in the dew-covered grass or those huge tree roots." Elyithon shook his head, "I have spent much time here before, and it has always seemed safe enough to me. It belonged to an old druid before the Vigilate came to stay here. We are not sure why they abandoned it, other than the druids having more interested in the south near the borders of Vartha or across the mountains to the untamed lands of Vahryn. There's always one person in the group who claims it's haunted, but we never see proof. We've yet to even step inside, and two of you are already trembling." He grabbed a couple of bags from Akos, "Whatever powers made this great home, I think the animals sense and respect it. For this has always been a safe haven, and that is why they do not proceed to venture forth. Come on then Naiara, let us show them that there is no foul or dormant evil residing here." Naiara wasn't terrified of the place, but she didn't feel comfortable hearing of it being haunted and did not want to put those rumors to the test. She grabbed her things and followed her mentor inside. Elyithon beckoned her to enter as he opened the front door with a small circular stained glass window, "This is your new home, puella." As she stepped into the darkness within, the area began to glow with soft light, as bioluminescent flowers on the roof blossomed. Elyithon was surprised, "I've never seen it welcome us like this before. The tree must like you, Naiara." She looked around as more flowers bloomed, as fair light filled the interior. It looked like an old barracks within the tree, with private quarters in the back for perhaps an officer with a private bath, study, and storage chamber. It didn't seem like anyone had been here for quite some time, and it would require some tidying up. Moss had grown on the wood reserved for the stone hearth to the south. "The Vigilate no longer stays here? What sort of troubles does this place have?" Naiara asked. Elyithon entered the main chamber and walked about the room, "Beyond the rangers saying they felt like they were being watched or hearing voices, there's practically nothing that threatens the area. I've had no issues taking rest here, nor encountered anything unusual. I've always thought of it as a retreat brimming with life. It is a very fertile area, probably why this elder tree got so large, although I'm sure the druids had some part with that as well." She saw in the opposite corners of the main chamber, basin-like depositories with a vine dripping into each. One collected freshwater, and the other honey-maple sap, "This is so very unnatural." Elyithon chuckled, "Standing with a huge maple-leak oak tree with bunks grown into and from the walls themselves, of course, none of this is natural. I can't quite explain it myself, but druids have a way of shaping nature to suit their needs, and now may they suit yours, like a home away from home." Naiara smiled, "Thank you, I will try to do my best to get the others calm and relaxed and get us set up as soon as possible." They returned to the others, Malynrra smirking at Sihnion, "Oh look, Sihnion, the tree didn't eat them whole." Elyithon removed the rest of the bags except his own from the back of Akos, "Remember you are here to keep an eye on the ruins of Aermarino, the old forest of Silvaboreas, and the Runawyrm road up to the old watchtower boarding Glaciaeris. Many things like to hide here, Goblins, in particular, have been spotted in these areas numerous times, and we think they may soon be a threat to Nixautem. Kill only what you have to, track them to their lair where you are to summon the Palatinus to clear out. Leave orcish arrows to deceive them, and if things get difficult, do not forget the beacon; the Vigilate is never that far away when called upon." And with that said, he and Akos departed, taking flight away from Druiarbor. They had learned much from the Vigilate but now was their real test, to put everything they had learned to use and to protect their people here on the northern borderlands of Zephyrus. Malynrra removed the final bag off the back of Shae, as she patted her on the head. "I do really wish she'd be a little closer to us inside. Not that big girl can't take care of herself out here, she's just comforting to have nearby." Sihnion grabbed as much of the provisions he could carry as if he didn't want to make more than one trip back and forth. "Let us just hope she doesn't wander off into trouble or fly back to the spire. I would hate for you to lose a pet, Malynrra." She didn't bother responding, only returning a sneering look at him. Naiara tried to carry her share of things as well, "Problems with the gryphus, Sihnion?" He snorted as he walked with Naiara towards the great tree, "Yes, in Temontis where I was raised, they were nothing but pests. Wild, feral ones on the eastern shore of the Vanras and in the mountains around us. They interfered with our hunting and fishing there and desecrated our grand trees with their filth, plucking the branches for their numerous nests. We're forbidden by the druids to reduce their population, but they do nothing but hinder our small community from thriving there." Naiara nodded, "Perhaps they could learn from this place, maybe apply whatever it is that kept our gryphus on the outside of the circle to your haven." He sighed with frustration, "I don't think they'd care to waste their precious time with us. But you don't hear about these issues in Arxarae, Nixautem, Sedorsum, or Oriasyli. No, our issues fall on deaf ears of the Consilium. You probably don't even know how easy you had it in Caelumarcis." Naiara stopped and stared at him as she flexed her wings, "Easy?" His head hung low as he took a step back, "I-I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that, not to you personally. I'm just referring to how not every haven has it as easy and how we feel ignored by the elders. If we were attacked, I don't think our defenses would hold up or how long we would last while waiting for aid." Naiara calmed herself, "I realize now more than ever that we live in desperate times. Our people live in the shadows of our former glory, and you may be right. Instead of trying to restore the empire, we should try to reinforce what little we have left to call home. And that is part of our purpose here, as rangers." Sihnion nodded in agreement as they stepped into the interior of the tree, "That's why I volunteered, as I can do more out here than at home. Why did you join?" Naiara set her things down, "It wasn't my first choice, I was conscripted." "I-I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bring up anything too painful, I hope?" Sihnion apologized as he chose his spot to bunk, and began to put away his belongings. "No, it's alright. I failed at everything I tried so hard to achieve, to prove my worth to the city and the elders of the council. My own greatfather sent me to Elyithon. But with the Vigilate, I think I have found my purpose." "We're no paladins, that's for sure!" Malnyrra jested as she down bags of provisions at the door, taking a swig of mead from a leather flask, before returning to Shae. "I don't mean to pry, but is your greatfather a councilor?" Sihnion asked. Naiara nodded, "Yes, Elder Nementh, and eldest of my house." The glowing lights of the tree seemed to dim for a moment, as the tree creaked and groaned. Both of them stood still, pondering if there was any truth to the rumors previously mentioned. Malynrra stepped inside and set down her things at the nearest bunk, "Wow, it just got very windy all of a sudden outside." As they stayed here the next few days cleaning the place up, Naiara could almost swear that the structure was more than just a tree or a planet shaped for shelter, but a living sentient creature capable of hearing them. It never seemed to respond to them directly, however, nor did it creak or groan again beyond the rustling of its branches. In the interior of the tree, the only addition was a stone fireplace, while everything else was shaped from the tree itself, even most of its furniture. Shelving, stools, tables, and bedding were part of the tree, although they laid their bedrolls out for additional comfort. Windows were covered by large leaves, and with a gentle push, the swinging branch would open, only to close once more at night. The tree may not have taken to kindly to the fireplace, as its vines enveloped most of the stone, it seemed to understand its host need for warmth or cooler air depending on the season. Vermin were not an issue, and Naiara couldn't quite figure out how it managed to do that, Malynrra suggested magical wards or something was in effect on the stone circle, possible related to why their gryphus would not approach any further. Songbirds of various types were also guests in the tree's canopy, and it seemed to provide for them just as it did for its guests. Just as they were getting comfortable here, the time came where they would each set out in different directions to patrol, planning points to meet up over the next few days before returning here to rest up in a week's time, for this world being in eight days. And each of them would face many challenges, far more than any of them had expected.