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The Grove of Ancients


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In a little-travelled corner of the Intertehreal Sea an immense forest sits in silent splendor. Oak, Ash, Beech and Pine mix with their rarer cousins Mallorn and Ironwood. Many are dozens of meters thick, their massive boles reaching to the lapis sky.

In the center of this continent-spanning forest, a ring of large trees circle what looks to be an immense root. The root travels up into the heavens, its endpoint obscured by clouds. The trees surrounding this massive root are quiet like all the others in the forest, but an observer would note that somehow they feel more ..alive ..than the ranks of forest surrounding their grove.

One massive tree crusted in moss and mistletoe suddenly shakes, scaring a flock of cardinals from its branches. He croaks out a few sentences in Entish that take most of the afternoon to finish.

Hurm hurm! Our busy associate the Tree Emperor has been busy my brothers! These flesh creatures and their petty squabbles ...

The ring of trees shivers and shimmys as the ancient Ents commune and ponder the latest news from the lands beyond the Great Forest.


Great Erl wrote:

In a little-travelled corner of the Intertehreal Sea an immense forest sits in silent splendor. Oak, Ash, Beech and Pine mix with their rarer cousins Mallorn and Ironwood. Many are dozens of meters thick, their massive boles reaching to the lapis sky.

In the center of this continent-spanning forest, a ring of large trees circle what looks to be an immense root. The root travels up into the heavens, its endpoint obscured by clouds. The trees surrounding this massive root are quiet like all the others in the forest, but an observer would note that somehow they feel more ..alive ..than the ranks of forest surrounding their grove.

One massive tree crusted in moss and mistletoe suddenly shakes, scaring a flock of cardinals from its branches. He croaks out a few sentences in Entish that take most of the afternoon to finish.

Hurm hurm! Our busy associate the Tree Emperor has been busy my brothers! These flesh creatures and their petty squabbles ...

The ring of trees shivers and shimmys as the ancient Ents commune and ponder the latest news from the lands beyond the Great Forest.

*sniffs the tree* *hikes leg* Yap!


A waft of cold corruption breezes through the outer fingers of the forest for a moment, a creature of supernatural malevolance, stirred from its grave by the current fate of Kobold Cleaver. When a lord of the boards is dethroned in such a manner, strange portents occur, and creatures which are an abomination to the natural order of things begin to walk the lands.
As of yet, the dread undead lord has not the inclination to molest this ancient and hoary woodland - but this is something in the way of a scouting expedition, and perhaps a warning of worse to come if the balance of things is not soon restored.


Suddenly, an aged kobold priestess appears. She glares at the Wraith Lord, her false accent finally gone.
"So. You're the backlash. You killed a man back there, creature of shadow. You are not welcome. Not here, not anywhere. Begone back to your foul home. Begone back to the shadows."


I know you, crone, and where your 'heart' is hidden. Keep from things which do not concern you if you do not wish for a fate far worse than that of the nephew whom you mourn.
He struck me down, and made me so much more, with the passage of time, than he could have possibly imagined.
With his fall I am loosed.
If you cross my path again in a place of my liking, you will be the worse for it.
With the muffled ring of antique armour on the forest floor, and a lingering promise of winter perhaps to come, the awful shade is gone.


Wraith Lord wrote:

I know you, crone, and where your 'heart' is hidden. Keep from things which do not concern you if you do not wish for a fate far worse than that of the nephew whom you mourn.

He struck me down, and made me so much more, with the passage of time, than he could have possibly imagined.
With his fall I am loosed.
If you cross my path again in a place of my liking, you will be the worse for it.
With the muffled ring of antique armour on the forest floor, and a lingering promise of winter perhaps to come, the awful shade is gone.

"Not so fast! I ain't an epic level cleric to let ya get away!"

Esmeralda weaves mighty magics, and calls on the power of the Board to bind the wraith.
Suddenly, she hears a cry for help, and sighs.

DAMMIT! I gotta go.
She disappears.


The ancient treant is suddenly shaken from his infinitely slow and complex discussion with his brothers by a disturbance in the Green.

Something profanes the Earth by its very touch... He mutters

As soon as the skein of life senses the intrusion, it departs. Nothing in the area had complex enough senses to get a glimpse of it, but it's negative energy aura implies a member of the Black: An Undead.

Dire ..dire ..The aged treant mutters


The grove lies quiet. Even the Ratatosk who clamber up and down Yggdrasil's Root are silent this morning. The forest is in mourning for one of its own.

The gathering of ancient treants wave and creak, communicating in Entish and by their interconnection. While a slow tongue, the hidden complexities and shades of meaning possible in the ancient speech allow for a rapid exchange of information.

::Spring Sapling has been cut down::

::Yes but there is no true death unless one steps off the Circle and joins the Black::

::Agreed, but the incarnation she has held is gone::

::That remains to be seen. There are powerful forces at play, and they might decree that Spring Sapling has a further role in their game::

::Do we allow her reincarnation?::

::I feel we have no choice in the matter. The Green will not help or hinder. Earth, Wind and Sea have prevailed for now, but the Black and its chosen element Fire wait patiently in the shadows, ever plotting::

::Agreed. Let us neither help nor hinder the scions of the Elements. They serve the Balance, as does the Green.::


Pops in on a cloud of tribble

"Humm now where they dog go?

Looks around, takes a wizz on a tree, ports in a few more tribble swarms

Yeah they'll like it here
dissipates in a cloud of tribbles


The Emperor arrives at the Grove of Ancients. This time he appears as a handsome elven lord. In his arms he cradles the body of Spring Sapling.

We won the day. This day. The cost was dear. He speaks as one of the dead.

I mean to restore her life. Her spirit is still strong, her Life Seed still intact. In this place of Ancient Power she shall be reborn. His voice grows stronger as he speaks. It doesn't sound like he'll take 'no' as an answer.

Do I have your blessing?


The Great Erl looks down at his comrade

The Green will not render a judgement in this matter, Tree Emperor.

The large tree rustles

You must do as you see fit. Its responsiblity lies within your heartwood. Do as thou wilt.

The grove sighs as if a breeze had whispered through its branches, but no breeze blows.


Silently, in his most formal set of robes, the Runelord arrives. He addresses the Emperor.
Some of my goblin servants are clearing the decapods from the field. I would have liked to have made a more effective contribution to the battle, but it was not a future that came to pass.


The Runelord waits sufficient time for a diplomatic pause amongst the treefolk.


A creaking greets the Eighth Runelord from the assembled Grove of Ancients. The Tree Emperor remains still, bowed silently over the broken body of Spring Sapling.

Diviner! You seek to guide the Loom of Fate! Be careful your fingers are not crushed by its beater board!

The leaves rustle and the many birds in the ancient forest chirp and flit from branch to branch.


The Emperor stands still over the form of his loved one. The Grove fills him with peace. Long has it been since he just sat there and listened to Wood. Perhaps the man-things have been affecting him more than he realized. They rush to and fro in their short lives.

He sees the Runelord awaiting an audience with the Grove. He turns away. He has other matters to attend to, and there are Ancients aplenty here. He picks up Spring Sapling, and carries her away. Her Life Seed will be planted in the grove spawned her blood and by his tears. If Nature chooses for her to be reborn then Nature will act. In her own time.

When she fell he chose the form of her grandmother, his wife. In that form he took a cruel vengeance out on the troll lord. The two looked so much alike. Afterwards he took his own form in which to grieve. A form he had not worn for centuries. It seems that the form itself has a manner of affecting the way you think. He must ponder this.

The grove has grown much in a day. Already small animals have made it their home. Soon large animals will. He Awakens four of the trees. This place will need guardians. For the time being he will lead them himself.


Yes, Great Erl. However treefolk often think and move slowly, with the rhythm of the pulsing seasons, and a forest can be gone before they have scarce had time to draw breath and commune their names in conclave.
At present the dracolich Candle Lighter seems to have abandoned his feud with Kobold Cleaver, and to have turned his malice against the one known as Lynora Jill.
He wants to see her twisted by the goddess.
He does not realise that the goddess is utterly gone from Lynora Jill - that there is no contact between the pair- and that neither fetters the other.
He is hoping to use an army of undead as a distraction for some scheme which he has.
And neither he nor Lynora-Jill appear to have given thought to the fact that most often goddesses do not die so easily as they seem to have thought, and that freed she will now slowly rebuild her strength and set out to achieve her own goals - already she is calling cultists to herself.
I am seeking to direct the thoughts of your conclave and the actions which you may or may not take, yes - I have business apart from this place for what in most futures will likely be a long time and would prefer someone capable of taking the long-term view to be involved in things.
But, though I intend no disrespect to yourself and your brethren, if you are to take the long-term view, and to act, I suspect that you need to get underway in your doings right now.


"I am afraid that you are wrong, Runelord. Candle Lighter is not only aware that the goddess likely persists, in some form or another, but he is aware of the truth. All remnants of the goddess in Lynora are not gone, I believe. Here, let me show you something..."
The lich pulls something out of his pack, a book, and opens it to a certain page.
"Here. See? According to Trethkion's Bookon Immortal Matter, the personality is one of the strongest parts of an immortal. Indeed, there are rumors of a way to godhood which involves drawing on the strength of the personality. Ahem:
"If any one part of an immortal being is still enduring, then another extension of the personality, or a certain branch of said personality, will thereof similarly endure until former part of the immortal ceases to do so. Said personality must have a host, however, who took the personality willingly. After the personality is taken, though, it shall be virtually irremovable. Suppression is possible, however it can only be done by a deity, who will have to maintain said suppression indefinitely in order for it to continue."
"None of that is set in stone, and it is generally regarded as a book of wives-tales, but it is my belief that it is not only completely accurate, the author himself was a vestige who had been able to work through his conduits.
"So if the goddess has indeed endured, then it is possible--no, probable in my opinion, that the personality may still be in Lynora, with Sunny Godhead unknowingly suppressing it every second. I suspect that Candle Lighter seeks a way to end this suppression."


The Eighth Runelord wrote:

Yes, Great Erl. However treefolk often think and move slowly, with the rhythm of the pulsing seasons, and a forest can be gone before they have scarce had time to draw breath and commune their names in conclave.

At present the dracolich Candle Lighter seems to have abandoned his feud with Kobold Cleaver, and to have turned his malice against the one known as Lynora Jill.
He wants to see her twisted by the goddess.
He does not realise that the goddess is utterly gone from Lynora Jill - that there is no contact between the pair- and that neither fetters the other.

The grove sighs and rustles. The Great Erl speaks in his slow basso voice

The roots of destiny are often harder to untangle than one would believe, Diviner. The Champion of Wind will have to struggle with the goddess for her independence. The power of the Sun shall aid her in this. Of course, being tangled in with the goddess gives the Champion of the Wind certain powers over her that others cannot match.

The Eighth Runelord wrote:

I am seeking to direct the thoughts of your conclave and the actions which you may or may not take, yes - I have business apart from this place for what in most futures will likely be a long time and would prefer someone capable of taking the long-term view to be involved in things.

But, though I intend no disrespect to yourself and your brethren, if you are to take the long-term view, and to act, I suspect that you need to get underway in your doings right now.

We always take the long view, Runelord, for that is the way of the Green. Wind blows, Sea lashes but Earth endures. We are the inteccessors for the living creatures who spring from the Earth. We challenge the Black, the Unmaker, the realm of Chaos. Those who have stepped off the Circle and wish for all to do likewise. Those who would tear down reality and sing songs as the stars dim and die.

The old treant opens his large golden eyes and looks at the Eighth Runelord. It is as if a sunbeam has shone directly upon his face.

Those who serve both sides serve neither, Diviner, you should remember that when spinning your plots. The Weave is not easily changed. Mayhap some time you will be called to choose, and I hope that you choose wisely. Sometimes it is difficult to see the forest for the trees ..

A strange rumbling echoes from the Great Erl. The Eighth Runelord realizes he is chuckling


The Runelord turns to address Kobold Cleaver.
You are more specialised in the study of Candle Lighter and his opinions and thought processes than I have had time to become; if from what you say Candle Lighter appears to be misleading the undead and other villainous types who gather in the Palace of Skulls, I shall leave you or others for now to work to use that to undermine his reputation there, if you believe that it can be done with due care.


(Still to Kobold Cleaver.)
I think that in the end, the only answers we will see to what claim, if any, the goddess has on Lynora-Jill, is from Lynora-Jill herself. If there were any connection still, given the involvement of a goddess of knowledge, the sacrifices which would have to be made to divine it would be dearer in my judgement than it suits the current situation to make. It could be done - it is not a goddess of secrets involved after all - but I will not do it. The cost of personal power or of bloody sacrifices of others I would not counsel any others to make either, simply to root out by divination the truth of the matter.
Remember that if there is any link between Lynora-Jill and the goddess that it is a weakness and vulnerability to the goddess, and a horrific risk to maintain unless Lynora-Jill has been deceiving us all along and has always been fully allied to the goddess. Most doors open both ways after all.


The Runelord turns back to the Great Erl.
I have seen the end of your forest, great Erl, all too many times in all too many ways, and at present the futures where it is *not* within six months of now outnumber the futures where it *is* within those selfsame six months.
Yes I know that in many of those futures where this forest is *not* there will lie seeds in the dark and blackened earth or ash, waiting for centuries if necessary to provide resurgence into woodland groves once more; but I do not like so many of those futures where the forest for a time is *not* as I do those where this forest still *is*.
I have counselled you, and done my best to stir you to action, with what time which I still have allows.
My attention and presence need to be elsewhere.
I crave the indulgence of your granting me leave to depart.


Slipping through the Grove of the Ancients, Navaar Jack proceeds unbarred by the Eighth Runelord. But in his stealthy haste, Navaar Jack drops several acorns. One day, the seeds will take root in this ancient grove and it will be strong again.


The trees of the grove shake as if a strong wind had whisked through them. The Great Erl addresses the Eighth Runelord

Your divinations are appreciated. We know the Weave can be sundered, and those who serve the Black will try their best to rip the Weave and bring our Grove to ash. Rest assured we will act when we feel the time is propitious. Go forth Diviner, and do good.


The Eighth Runelord makes a brief, formal, bow, and departs the grove.


The Great Erl rustles in his Dreamtime, his conciousness spread out among the Green. He runs through an oak as a squirrel, busily searching for food to feed the small kits at the nest high above.

Then he is a young buck deer, bounding along a game trail with others in his family. The feel of itchy velvet on the deer horns is maddening.

He travels into the smaller life motes, becoming a lichen on an old granite stone, then a maggot in a dead bird's carcass..

A sudden cry starts him out of his reverie

Ehh? What's this?

He sends his perceptions back out among the Green ..

Vandalism on Spring Sapling ... Hurm ...the Tree Emperor will wish to know of this ...


The Emperor wakens with the scream fresh in his mind. The grove has been violated. The Hallow has failed. The Guardians of Spring Sapling did not sense the intruder until he was already gone, and the damage done.

E7 moves to the willow sapling. He touches the carvings. The evil is still fresh. Summoning his strongest magics he tries to cleanse the wounds and seal them. Thankfully the spirit within the sapling is deep. Hopefully deep enough.

Brothers Ash, Oak, Willow and Maple. Awaken! We have failed to keep safe this place. The wards have been pierced, as if they did not exist. From now on two of you will have to stay awake. Kill the defiler should he be foolish enough to return. The smell of sap will be upon him. Give his body to the sky. It is not fit to become food.

E7 casts his senses out into the world. He senses the gathering of evils. Plots and threats abound. He must warn the Jacks.


A Sending

Ancient Ones. The Hangman's Tree is on this realm. He seeks the seeds of our groves. He may be seeking the Nut.


After discussing this for many days, the Grove responds to the Tree Emperor

"We shall need to hide the Nut. It's power is for after the next Cycle has ended and the World Ash needs to grow anew. We should never have let Spring Sapling take it."


The Emperor arrives at the Grove.

Cousin Erl, I have retrieved the Nut so that it might be safeguarded.

Also, I have have been having dream visions about Spring Sapling. I am not sure if her role in future events is over.


The Great Erl sighs

It is the opinion of the Grove that your ganddaughter has some further role to play as well, Tree Emperor. Safeguard her from evil and see that she matures in peace.

The large tree shivers in the wind

There have been dark doings on the Boards. Evil bores into the very flesh of the threads. Soon many will need to stand against the Black ..


Following the directions the Tree Emperor placed in his mind, JH and LJ arrive at a pristine forest path. Following the trail the woods grow more dense, the sounds of life grow more vibrant, and the smell of leaves is intoxicating. Wildlife of all sorts simply stare at the newcomers, fear absent from their eyes. Off to the right the gurgling of a brook makes concentration harder. They walk as if they were asleep. The dream pleasant. For how long they walk they do not know. They can't help but walk thru the brush, the branches and leaves touching them as they do, sharing thoughts and whispers of peace.

As they arrive at the Circle their burdens and their wounds have been lifted.

JH looks around, his eyes landing on Lyn. I'm lucky I'm bald. You have all kinds of stuff in your hair.


She laughs and starts to pick leaves and twigs out of her hair.
It's not so much the stuff in my hair as the stuff in my wing feathers that's going to take time to get out.

She remembers belatedly that she doesn't have to do this by hand. A wind swirls around her for a moment and all of the debris is cleaned out of her hair and wings.


Welcome Champions, to this Sacred Place. You stand at the base of the One Tree, from which all Life grows. These are my cousins, the Gardeners. He gestures to the surrounding trees.

Do you thirst? The spring here is most fresh. To one side of the circle a natural spring gurgles gently. Invitingly.


Thank you, Emperor. That is a very kind offer.
She will take a drink from the spring.


Thank you. We are honored to be invited here.

I would like a drink.

JH scoops the fresh water into his hand, and tentatively drinks some. He begins to drink more and more. As he does he seems to get stronger. Visibly stronger. The scars on his body fade.

I didn't know I was so thirsty. Lyn you should try this.


lynora-Jill wrote:

Thank you, Emperor. That is a very kind offer.

She will take a drink from the spring.

The water is sweet. Lyn can feel it travel within her. She can feel every vein, artery and nerve in her body. They are all awake and bursting with life.


She smiles, relieved to see his hurts fading and takes another sip of water.
I do not think it has quite the same effect on me that it does on you. You obviously needed it.

As she drinks, she glows slightly. Not the same glow as before, but noticeable. And just for a moment, she is air itself before she coalesces back into her normal form. She is totally unaware of any of this.


lynora-Jill wrote:

She smiles, relieved to see his hurts fading and takes another sip of water.

I do not think it has quite the same effect on me that it does on you. You obviously needed it.

As she drinks, she glows slightly. Not the same glow as before, but noticeable. And just for a moment, she is air itself before she coalesces back into her normal form. She is totally unaware of any of this.

If you say so, but it sure looks to be having some affects on you. You glowed..and changed for a moment.


Jack Hammer wrote:


If you say so, but it sure looks to be having some affects on you. You glowed..and changed for a moment.

I did? I didn't notice anything. I felt, I don't know, energy I suppose, running through my veins, but I didn't notice any changes. I guess you were in a better position to tell.


E7 chuckles

I do not understand you, young ones. You talk as if you were dead. Or empty.

You are very much full. How do you not feel it?


JH searches within himself, and though he no longer feels the wounds he cannot sense the power he once held.

I'm sorry, I can't feel it.


No, I don't feel it either. I don't understand.


E7 seems to ponder for a moment.

Then you are of no use to the Earth and Sky...

The Grove darkens. The ground erupts and undead hands grasp at the two heroes. JH sees Lyn being dragged below the ground. Lyn sees JH assailed by a dozen wights.


A searing wind plows into the wights as LJ draws her bow. She fires off round after round of positive energy arrows, desperate to stop them.

I'm assuming that we're seeing very different scenes, and that I'm not actually underground. Correct me if I'm wrong and I'll edit.


JH begins attacking the undead arms, but as son as he destroys one two others pop up. His desperation grows as he hears Lyn scream. He calls for help, but the trees stand and watch.


lynora-Jill wrote:

A searing wind plows into the wights as LJ draws her bow. She fires off round after round of positive energy arrows, desperate to stop them.

I'm assuming that we're seeing very different scenes, and that I'm not actually underground. Correct me if I'm wrong and I'll edit.

correct


LJ nearly wept with frustration. These were undead, for goodness sake. She should be able to have them cowering in fear. Instead she was plinking away with arrows that barely seemed to scratch them. She built wind shields around JH to try and protect him and continued shooting.


lynora-Jill wrote:

A searing wind plows into the wights as LJ draws her bow. She fires off round after round of positive energy arrows, desperate to stop them.

Wights and wraiths are buffeted by the winds and a few fall to the arrows, but the darkness surrounding JH grows deeper. Lyn can see him fighting the undead, and losing the struggle. The howling of a banshee's scream can be heard in the blackness.


JH sees Lyn struggle to stay above ground, but her wings are now pinned. He hammers relentlessly against the onslaught. His fear wells inside him like a dam about to burst.

Save her, I beg you!


LJ feels strange. As if she were dissolving. She pours everything she has into trying to save JH, but it still isn't enough.

No, please, don't do this. Save him!

She fires again and again, trying to do enough damage to make a difference, but it does no good.

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