Monday, February 27, 2012
Mera's eyes are bright, looking around at the sunny path they now rode. Often she would say something to Wish when something caught her eye. Keon hides a smile as he watches both his daughter and Star take in their first exposure to Faery.
He listens with half an ear, keeping his own vigilance on the growing number of attendants. Many creatures had swelled their small party, following behind their group, or escorting them on either side. The Cu Sith suddenly stops, blocking the path and halting the procession. It lowers its great shaggy green head over extended paws, dark green tongue lolling.
Two massive trees block their way. After a moment the tall oaks bow to the Cu Sith and shuffle to either side. Mera turns her head to look at her father. These creatures made the Treefolk in the clearing resemble saplings. Keon smiles and motions for her to look ahead.
Wish leans close to the little girl. "They are Radande. The Noble Treefolk of the Cold Lands."
A Rowan now stands before them. Both bright red-orange berries and creamy white blossom clusters grace its leaves. It moves gracefully, swaying where the Oaks shuffled. It bows to Inari, then to the rest of the company.
It speaks, the words soft and lyrical, carried on the sound of a gentle breeze. "We have heard that the Lady and the Warrior bring the Prophesied to give respect to the Dark Skinned Hero. We... ask... for the honor of the Grove, to accompany the Procession."
Inari looks to Star and turns her palm upwards, asking silently for her answer. It takes Star a moment to realize Inari is asking her. She wets her lips nervously and smiles. nodding slowly. Her eyes go wise when there is movement further back along the train of followers. Turning in their saddles, the group watches as several trees shuffle out onto the Path.
The Rowan speaks again. "We would be honored if the Wee Folk would allow us to offer transportation. Our limbs are strong and plentiful."
Oaks, Maples, and Ironwoods stoop down, offering their upper branches to the smaller of the Fae. There is a sudden lessening of the crowd, as many take refuge among vibrant green leaves.
"My Warriors and Myself are at your service. I am the Lady Wittern of the Far Reaches."
Keon smiles to himself as Inari pulls herself up a bit taller in the saddle. Many have heard of Wittern, High Witch of the Radande although few have seen her. It isn't until the group rides closer that they can see the nymphlike face and graceful form made of bark and vines.
She falls into step beside Star, voice little more than a whisper, but loud enough for Keon to hear. "A small cadre of Drow await you a small distance onward. They shelter in the shadow of several of my Warriors, unknowingly of course. The zephyrs tell me they wish to swear to you on your Hero's honor."
The Radande does not turn, yet addresses her words to those closest. "They are young... three men, two women, and one with skin as wrinkled as a Walnut's bark."
Mera and Star listen as Wish asks the Lady Wittern a question about her own land. She regales them with stories of the forests between the Far Reaches and the Sacred Grove. It isn't long before the group slows to a halt.
Six Drow kneel in the middle of the road. Each has a sheathed sword lying on the ground before them. Keon and Guunnar canter to the front, halting on either side of Inari. The Riders wait, hand on hilts, to see the Drow will do.
Without raising their heads, one Drow holds out his hand. A white scar in the shape of a star and crescent moon can be seen, vivid against his dark skin. Each of the remaining Drow follow his lead.
One slowly stands. The Drow is tall, skin deeply wrinkled, white hair in a braid nearly to its knees. The voice is raspy, as if long unused. " Well met on this road of mourning. I am Herm. Those behind me are my Kin. We seek to bind our Honor to the Warrior and His Lady... and to add our voices to the requiem for a Hero of our Race."
As he waits, Herm pulls an archer's glove into place on his scarred hand. It effectively hides the star and moon. "We are born to the Bow. Our shafts fly straight and our promises are just as true. Unlike many of our brethren, we find joy in a clear sky." He drops to a knee again, waiting.
Inari looks back at Erik and Star. Erik is grim, distrust flickering through his expression. Star smiles sadly, knowing her husband trusts no Drow easily. Keon looks to the trees, taking in the slight nodding movements in the breezeless moment. He murmurs to Inari. "The Treefolk find no duplicity in them. Let them come. They will be watched."
The Ambassador nods slowly. She speaks clearly, knowing her words will carry back along the Procession. "Rise and join us. As for seeking to bind yourselves to the Warrior and His Lady, that is best done after respects are sung for the Heroic Drow, Ghaunt."
The six rise, three moving off to each side. Herm's kin don their gloves, belting their swords in place. Full quivers are returned to their customary places, bows secured. Keon and Guunnar allow the column to move forward without them, waiting for the family to come abreast of them. They fall into position on either side of them, allowing Eite and Dmitri to guard the rear. The Drow wait until the end of the entourage, then take up rearguard.
The Treefolk shuffling among the Fae weave back and forth, never allowing a clear sight, just in case...