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    The Silver Wolf-The Honor Of The Crown: Seeing The Forest And The Trees
    Posted on Fri, January 01, 2020 by LordCeb
    CruelSummerLord writes "

    Revafour Greystar felt none of that cold as he watched the Sunsebb sun rise over the calm, still waters of the lake. His heart was warmed by the sight of the sunrise, by the quiet majesty of the oak, cedar and kara trees, and the distant sounds of the birds and fish. It offered him one of the moments of solitary peace he so cherished, where it was just him and the land.




    Chapter One

    Seeing The Forest And The Trees


    Sunsebb was the last month of the Flanaess’s calendar. Temperatures became bitterly cold in the central and northern parts of the continent, and most travel ground to a halt because of the ice and snow. The lands further south, among the alliance of countries that called themselves the Iron League, had no snow or freezing temperatures, but hey could still become uncomfortably cold in Sunsebb and Fireseek, the first month of a new year.

    Revafour Greystar felt none of that cold as he watched the Sunsebb sun rise over the calm, still waters of the lake. His heart was warmed by the sight of the sunrise, by the quiet majesty of the oak, cedar and kara trees, and the distant sounds of the birds and fish. It offered him one of the moments of solitary peace he so cherished, where it was just him and the land.

    Revafour was a Flan, the original race of humans to call the Flanaess home. He had long wavy black hair, now growing past his shoulders, dark brown eyes and deep copper-bronze skin. He was tall and powerfully muscled, his thick limbs speaking to his immense physical strength. His demeanor was as stoic as many other Flan, but those who knew him recognized his passion for both the fighting and the visual arts, and his devotion to aiding those he loved. He wore the moccasins so common to independent Flan, and while his red and brown cloak was in an Oeridian plaid pattern, he’d sewn Flan beadwork into the patterns.

    He stood at the edge of the lake for another hour, before he knew he should be returning to his hosts. Those hosts were the Raballah, an independent Flan nation that called the Menowood home in the winter months. They were friendly and welcoming hosts, providing a safe place to rest at a time when Revafour and his friends sorely needed one.

    Revafour and those friends formed the adventuring band that called itself the Company of the Silver Wolf. Although none of Revafour’s friends were themselves Flan, they’d become almost like a second family to him. For the last six months, they’d been doing nothing but traveling and fighting, however, and they agreed they all could do with a rest. Some of the companions had previously met with the Raballah. When they suggested taking time to visit the Flan Revafour enthusiastically supported the idea.

    The sight of the Raballah’s settlement made Revafour smile as he approached it. The Raballah often seasonally migrated through the Menowood and the Hollow Highlands. In the fall and winter, they returned to a particular section of the forest they’d bonded with. Many Flan planted trees or other plants outside their homes, and each Raballah family built their winter dwellings next to particular trees they bonded with. The community had a large supply of fish, kara fruits, meat and nuts stored, and it was easy to find fresh water. The companions earned the right to stay with the Raballah as guests by contributing to the food stockpile, as well as providing money the Raballah could use to buy other amenities from other humans or allied races.

    Revafour smiled, pleased that he and his friends could contribute to the Raballah and that his friends could experience the Flan’s hospitality and culture.


    “I’ve always had a bit of trouble getting used to how long gnomes can live,” one of the young Raballah men said, as his comrades nodded. “I don’t mean any offense, it’s just that those battles happened when my grandfather was a child, and yet you don’t look…”

    “Don’t worry, it’s alright,” the gnome Airk Venbelwar said to the humans he was speaking with. Airk’s sharp, alert demeanor spoke to his background as a soldier, as did his tanned skin, waxed blonde handlebar moustache and his matching short, bushy beard. His brown eyes reflected the years of hard battle he’d spent fighting in conflicts such as the Hateful Wars and the Battle of Emridy Meadows, and the haunting experiences he still carried with him. His clothes were unpretentious but well-groomed, another influence of his military bearing.

    The young Raballah men enjoyed trading stories of courageous and daring exploits. Airk endeared himself to them by sharing some of his war stories, and they returned the favor by telling him some of their own adventures against the monsters and humanoids of the woods and highlands.

    “So tell us again, what exactly brought you here? You and most of your friends are far from home,” another young man said.

    “As I said before, I lost many brother warriors in the Hateful Wars,” Airk said, his expression becoming clouded. “Some of those deaths came at the hands of a gnome named Kalrek Burunne, who betrayed our kingdom to dwarves who were supposedly our allies,” he continued, the bile rising to his throat at the mention of it. “This year, when I met my friends, we formed the Company of the Silver Wolf. We learned that Kalrek had become a warlord who robbed and murdered innocent people to finance his search for the Crown of Arumdina.”

    “What would he want with a crown?” one of the young men asked, as several of the others exchanged puzzled glances.

    “The Crown’s a sacred artifact to the gnomish gods, one that Kalrek could use to become the king of my homeland of Flinthold,” Airk said. “We defeated Kalrek and his minions, and then we learned that the Crown was in the Great Kingdom of Aerdy’s South Province. We traveled there to retrieve it and were caught in a plot to destroy the Iron League. We thwarted that plot and retrieved the Crown, but by then it was nearly the end of autumn. We need to saill to the Principality of Ulek to return to Flinthold, but we won’t find a ship traveling at this time of year. We’ll be staying until after and then we’ll take a ship to Ulek in Fireseek.”

    “May we see it?” the first young man asked.

    “What, the Crown?” Airk asked in surprise.

    “It’s just a request,” the young man said. “We only want to look at it-we don’t have much use for mineral wealth.”

    At first Airk wanted to refuse, but he realized the truth in what they were saying. Reaching into his pack, he pulled out an object and unwrapped the cloth covering it, revealing it to be the Crown of Arumdina.

    The Crown was a masterpiece of gnomish craft. It had a beautifully tailored cap of pure sable fur, a golden circlet ringed with rubies and platinum arches each lined with two rows of diamonds. The spaces between the Crown’s half-arches were filled in turn with the images of a raccoon, a sable, a badger and a mole, each wrought in gold and bearing bright emeralds for eyes. The Crown’s monde was of platinum like the arches, topped by a piece of mithril crafted to resemble a battleaxe.

    Despite his reservations, Airk smiled at the Raballah youths’ admiration of the Crown’s beauty.

    “How does the Crown get its name?” one of the young men asked, looking from the Crown to Airk and then back again. “You said your kingdom is called Flinthold, didn’t you?”

    “Arumdina is the name of the battleaxe wielded by Garl Glittergold, greatest of the gnomish gods,” Airk said, beaming proudly. “That mithril axe is said to be a piece of Arumdina, giving a powerful magical blessing to the gnomish king who wears it, and the kingdom he rules.”

    “Why don’t you use it?” the young man asked.

    For a moment, Airk sat there stunned at the audacity of the question.

    “Only the rightful King of Flinthold has the right to use the Crown,” he finally said, still scarcely able to believe anyone didn’t realize that, “and I’m no king. The Crown’s power would likely only work for the rightful ruler, and no one else.”  

    Least of all yourself, Airk heard a voice say in his mind. Small wonder you didn’t tell them the whole story!

    Airk swallowed hard at the memory. In the quest to stop Kalrek Burunne, Airk crossed paths with Laessar Bradon, the only other gnome who’d survived Kalrek’s treachery. Kalrek forced Laessar to help him, and Airk’s long-simmering rage exploded when he found out. He unintentionally killed Laessar while trying to force him to reveal where Kalrek was. To atone for his crime, he was commanded to find the Crown and return it to Flinthold. Once the companions did that, Airk’s debt would be fulfilled…

    …legally, at least.

    The voice that had just spoken in his mind was the same one that had been speaking to him for decades. It reproached him for letting his blindness to Kalrek’s true nature get his brothers in arms killed, for leaving Flinthold once the war was over, for killing Laessar and then for endangering his friends in taking them on the quest for the Crown. His friends reassured him that they’d chosen to come along, but the voice kept reminding him that he could have led them to their deaths.

    And you likely still will, the voice said to Airk as he rewrapped the Crown and put it back in his pack.

    “Are you alright?” one of the Raballah youths asked, a look of concern on his face.

    Airk hesitated, not wanting to reveal his inner turmoil. Fortunately, one of the other young men spoke first.

    “Speaking of brothers you lose in war is never easy. We know that as well as anyone,” the other young man said. “You don’t need to tell us anything else, my friend. You’ve honored us with your sharing already,” he said to Airk.

    The Raballah youths knew that Airk’s smile was grateful, but they didn’t know how relieved it was too.


    “I have to say, you’re holding up pretty well,” Seline Roas Del Cranden said, an amused smile playing about her lips. Her long strawberry-blonde hair complemented her pale skin, as did her green eyes. Her slender, lovely frame was complemented equally well by her midnight blue and indigo robes decorated with the white images of crescent moons, stars and planets, reflecting her wizardly background. Her eyes shone with inquisitive intelligence, reflecting her passion for learning and her eagerness to put that knowledge to use.

    “I’ve learned to manage,” Weimar Glendowyr replied, raising an eyebrow as he returned her smile. His tanned skin, tousled blonde hair, hardened green eyes and the scars on his arms spoke of years of hard living and the pride he felt at that hard living. He walked through the Menowood with the practiced ease of someone at home in the natural world, proud of his wilderness skills but respectful of the lands he passed through. His clothes were drab and trailworn, reflecting their wearer’s low-born background and lifestyle.

    “Even without your Big Cedar Log?” Seline asked, referring to Weimar’s favorite brand of stout. The Raballah strictly prohibited drinking in their community, and Weimar honored his hosts’ rule despite his unhappiness about it.

    “I’ve found other avenues,” he said, before he returned the wave and smile of a lovely young Raballah woman walking by. While the Raballah prohibited drinking, they had fewer restrictions on carnal relations. Weimar and several of the Raballah women both took full advantage of that, to their mutual enjoyment.

    “So was she last night?” Seline asked, rolling her eyes in amusement.

    Two nights ago, actually, Ma’non’go of the Silver Winds said, speaking in the sign language he used to communicate with his friends. Ma’non’go was as tall as Revafour, with the same powerful muscles and impressive strength. With his own black hair, dark brown skin and eyes, he might have passed for a Flan, but a close look at his features and his multicolored clothing marked him as an Olman, one of the race of humans from the southern continent of Hepmonaland. At first glance he seemed stoic, but his face was often expressive and outgoing. His clothes were stylishly made, those of a fashion plate who took pride in what he wore and knew how good they made him look. He could not verbally speak, owing to some past trauma he refused to discuss, but the warmth and friendship he radiated to his loved ones spoke for him.

    Seline and Weimar both laughed at that, as Ma’non’go smiled. Both men, however, could see that Seline’s smile was somewhat forced.

    Are you alright? Ma’non’go signed, a look of concern crossing his face.

    Seline’s mouth opened briefly, but then she closed it and pursed her lips, looking away briefly.

    Weimar and Ma’non’go exchanged glances, unsure as to why Seline was upset. They were reluctant to ask her, as she often didn’t like talking about herself.

    “Still upset over going against the Great Kingdom, aren’t you?” the three humans heard a voice saying behind them. Turning around, they saw their halfling companion Amyalla Reorsa walking towards them. With her long, fire-red hair and flashing green eyes, Amyalla radiated coquettish charm and knowing wit all at once. She walked with the practiced ease of someone who was adept at stealing hearts as she was at stealing treasures. Her attire was a strange but complementary mix of the practical and the stylish, a plain strapless traveling gown and leather jerkin combined with a set of stylish doeskin boots and a blue hat decorated with orchids and lilacs.

    Seline’s shoulders slumped, and her friends all understood her at once. Seline and her sister Luna Roas Del Cranden were Aerdi nobles before the Great Kingdom’s power games forced them to flee and become adventurers. When the companions returned to South Province in the quest for the Crown of Arumdina, Seline felt as though she was betraying her Aerdi heritage by thwarting South Province’s invasion plans. She’d done her part in defeating the cabal behind the plot, and as she told Revafour she knew rationally she’d done the right thing. Her conscience, however, didn’t let her sleep easily over it.

    “…Now’s not the time to speak of it,” Seline said, shaking her head. “We’ll have ample time to do that when we’re on our way back to Flinthold,” she said, turning and walking away before her friends could say anything.

    Ma’non’go, Weimar and Amyalla all looked at each other, not entirely sure what to say. Finally, Ma’non’go broke the silence.

    We shouldn’t force her to speak of it, Ma’non’go said, shaking his head. It’ll only upset her more. Recruited by Luna and Seline’s father to be his daughters’ guardian, Ma’non’go had been with the sisters in South Province and accompanied them when they were forced to flee. He’d seen how hard being forced to leave their home had hit Seline, and recognized the same sadness in her when the companions left South Province a second time.

    “So what can we do?” Amyalla asked.

    Let her keep sharing the stories, Ma’non’go said, reminding Weimar and Amyalla of the book of Heward’s plays the rest of the companions had gotten her as a gift. The book was one of her most cherished possessions, and she loved using it to trade stories with the Raballah. They’d all noticed how much those stories seemed to relax her, particularly after their battle against the South Province cabal.

    “It’s funny how Luna never felt that same guilt,” Weimar said with a puzzled frown.

    Luna never much liked the stage plays and galas of Aerdi high society, Ma’non’go said. She was always happy to let Seline be the outgoing socialite. She was always more interested in her studies, and she was always the one who enjoyed our previous visit to the Raballah the most.

    “So she has fewer regrets about ruining South Province’s ambitions?” Weimar said.

    I doubt she has any regrets at all, Ma’non’go said.


    Luna Roas Del Cranden felt a double pleasure as she and Shawnakark Little Moon finished treating the aches and wounds of several of the Raballah. She basked in the sunlight that shone down on her, a gift of the god Pelor she and Shawnakark were devoted to, as well as her rekindled friendship with Shawnakark. One of Shawnakark’s responsibilities as a Raballah matriarch was to see to her people’s well-being, and Luna was pleased to help.

    Luna’s long brown hair and crystal blue Suel eyes reflected her personality, which was more restrained than Seline’s. Her face and figure were no less beautiful, complementing her calm, warm demeanor. Her clothes were of blue and gold, reminiscent of the morning sun she so cherished, as was the smile she bore. Her expression was that of a woman truly at peace, happy to aid both her adventuring friends and the Raballah who’d shown her so much kindness before.

    Shawnakark’s demeanor was similar to Luna’s, although she was considerably more expressive and outgoing. Despite her comparatively tender years, being only three years older than Luna’s twenty-two, she was widely revered among the Raballah as a mother figure, one who commanded respect as much for the way she said things as for what she was willing to say. She had the dark bronze skin of most Flan people, although the sparkle in her dark eyes was uniquely her own.  

    “Thank you for your help,” Shawnakark said to Luna as they stood up and left Shawnakark’s dwelling to get some water. “It’s really appreciated,” she continued, speaking in the traditional Flan language.

    “We’re sisters in Pelor, aren’t we?” Luna said, also speaking in Flan as Shawnakark returned her smile. “I have to admit that I missed you all, and I wanted to see what you’ve been up to since Seline, Ma’non’go and I left you. I’m glad your people are doing well.”

    “And I’m glad you’re doing well too,” Shawnakark said, “but it looks like Seline doesn’t feel the same way. She seems troubled-is she alright?”

    “Seline misses our old lives in Aerdy,” Luna said, as Shawnakark frowned. “She doesn’t think she could permanently live the way the Raballah do.”

    “But she didn’t have a problem coming back for a visit?” Shawnakark asked in surprise.

    “Not when you were among the few people in the Iron League lands who showed us any kindness,” Luna said, shaking her head. When she, Seline and Ma’non’go had first started as adventurers, most people in Idee, Sunndi and the nearby hills and woods treated them with everything from suspicion and hostility. The treatment finally became too much to bear, despite the friendships they’d made with the Raballah. They’d sailed to the Principality of Ulek, where they’d met Weimar and then the rest of the companions.

    “Your friends have been telling my kin about their exploits in the Iron Hills against that South Province cabal,” Shawnakark said. “Revafour mentioned that you met with Idee’s Count Fedorik, but what happened after that?”

    “We spent a few days in Naerie City as Count Fedorik’s guests,” Luna said, as they reached the clearing where they refilled their waterskins. “Seline and I made some magical potions, while our friends kept themselves busy training. We won’t be able to get a ship to Ulek until after Needfest, so we thought we’d spend the time with you. We could all use a rest, especially after that battle in the Iron Hills.”

    Luna was surprised at the melancholy that came over Shawnakark, who shook her head as if trying to calm herself.

    “What’s wrong?” Luna asked in concern.

    “Did you know that the Iron Hills used to be the northern edge of our homeland?” Shawnakark asked. “We fought alongside our fellow Flan in Ahlissa, the elves of the Rieuwood and the Menowood, and the peoples of the Headlands, against foes like the dwarves of the Glorioles, the corrupt lords of Caerdiralor, and the monsters of the Vast Swamp. That was before the Zelrad came.”

    “You mean the first Suel who started a kingdom in what became Idee?” Luna said in surprise.

    “The very same,” Shawnakark said, a bitter smile crossing her face. “They founded their kingdom in the lands we agreed to share with them in mutual protection, and then they broke their alliance with us. They drove us the Raballah out of most of what’s now Idee. The Menowood’s about all we have left, and the modern Ideeans don’t recognize the benefits of the alliance their ancestors swore with ours.”

    “Benefits?” Luna asked, grasping Shawnakark’s hand reassuringly as they continued walking back towards the Raballah’s settlement.

    “If we had our connection to our lands back, we’d be happy to restore our old alliance with the Ideeans. We could help them against the likes of the Great Kingdom or the minions of Wastri,” Shawnakark continued. “We lost so much when the Zelrad betrayed us, not just materially but mentally…and things have never been the same for us.”

    As she listened to Shawnakark, Luna thought of Revafour, and the similar looks of melancholy she’d sometimes seen on his face as well.

    "
     
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    Re: The Silver Wolf-The Honor Of The Crown: Seeing The Forest And The Trees (Score: 1)
    by Califor on Sat, January 02, 2020
    (User Info | Send a Message)
    Great to see the story continue!




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