The Army of Trees
The Duindar of Isalspire have been rather open about the threat facing their city in the forests near the Syrean Split. When reports of a bark-skinned archer attacking the Amethyst Order while out on an expedition some handful of months ago came back to them, they knew they would be facing a very real threat to their city. Systematically, democratically, they have gleaned information and prepared their approach with precision and grace.
Valeria, High Priestess of Gala, believes very firmly that they have transgressed against the watcher of the woods and as Gala would have, she wanted to seek forgiveness. So she did what any High Priestess might do and gathered the faithful around her to pray. The Ritual of Forgiveness is practiced for just such an occasion. Elder Priestess Asa Keir gathered with her and went even a step forward to incorporate the symbolism of flowers in this extra special ritual. Lavender for love and protection. Violets for peace and healing. The added touch certainly made the ritual feel more elevated and closer to Gala.
With them at the Glade of Gala, Alexandria Laenorin and High Priest Deoca join in on the Ritual of Forgiveness. Deoca makes a point of talking about the grief of the elven people and the Duindar in particular. His words touch on how mourning and the suffering it brings might earn forgiveness. Alexandria's contributions to the ritual offer a unique perspective from one who first stepped foot on this continent and through the portals.
Two of Aereth's followers join in on the Ritual of forgiveness in solidarity with the Priesthood of Gala. Initiate Nalaea Reymar and Sister Celenia Laenorin kneel with the others and take flowers in their hands as they pray for forgiveness. They are joined by Lord Priest Kenyon Keir from the priesthood of Baridon after a time as well. Though the three of them are outsiders in this ritual, their sincerity and reverence from the very serious matter at hand helps a great deal.
Soon after the ritual is finished, new flowers begin to bloom around the prayer circle. While the watcher in the woods could not hear their words of apology herself, certainly Gala has heard and will do what she can to soften the hearts of those who might be negotiating.
In Thelos, among the other various shrines, a different sort of prayer is taking place. Turgon Aenorr is knelt in prayer at the top of the Dias of Garwen, praying to the Goddess of all that is Good. Lady Priestess Kaelyn Serannar kneels beside him and offers her own prayers for kindness to be taken into consideration by those who would seek negotiations in the forest. Their words carry out hope to the forest north of Isalspire.
At the top of the waterfall that cascades down the western side of Thelos, Dame Azariah of the Knights of the Barbed Star prays to Acharon. Her words are filled with hope that the God of Potential will bless chance to strike with perfect timing. Priest Katara Geminiel sits at the base of the very same waterfall, just by chance, and offers their own prayers for Acharon to see that passion for peace is embraced. Both of their words carry out ambition to the forest north of Isalspire.
And out in the forest north of Isalspire itself, two travelers wander among the trees in the direction they think they might find the watcher of the woods. Erotas and Kiros Egilion have prepared a few songs in celestial that talk of peace. They carry on them no weapons and indulge only in the magic of illusion to go along with their songs. Their journey takes them nearly two days away from Isalspire itself, but eventually, they find their intended audience.
The figure of a woman appears in the treetops and very quickly crouches down, revealing a bow in her hand. She draws it back slowly as she speaks in the celestial tongue. "That is a very lovely song coming from a people who must certainly be deaf. I know I made no mistakes in very clearly telling you to stay away from these woods, intruders." A moment after she speaks, two arrows go flying into the trees to either side of Erotas and Kiros. The trees creek and uncoil their roots, quickly snatching up both Erotas and Kiros, keeping them held tight. "Let's put you back where you belong." Says the Archer as she points them towards Isalspire.
Meanwhile, in a separate and more deliberate part of the forest, First Citizen Theleria Laenorin has arrived with Head Scholar Diagones Egilion and Spellblade Kythaela Laenorin of the Amethyst Order to the very grove where the Order was first attacked. Theleria calls out to watcher in the woods and carries with her a rather curious staff. She holds up the staff as she speaks and eventually, an older looking man with skin made of bark and a beard of long growing moss steps out of the woods to speak to them. "You should not be here, curious elves. But I have learned much about you. You are not all what you seem. Speak, and I will listen."
The conversation goes on well into the night thanks to the preparations of Erotas Egillion teaching the diplomats to speak Celestial. Thaleria discusses their willingness to adapt to the way of the Watcher. She listens to his concerns and the boundaries he sets in place during their negotiation. Diagones speaks of their willingness to swear an oath before the Priests of Baridon that each House of the Duindar will commit to protecting these forests and joining the watchers in their duty to keep the realm of trees pure. Kythaela stands to the side as the diplomats have their moment. She never quite lets her guard down, but the more the discussions continue on, the more at ease she is with them.
Just as it appears they are coming to their final agreements, another figure emerges from the forest but stays back from full view for the time being. A hood is pulled over the mans head, covering his face nearly completely. The Watcher General gestures for the man to step forward and encourages him to speak. "I never thought I'd be happy to see you two again... " He says, his voice only slightly familiar to Thaleria and Diagones. He takes another step closer and lifts his hood, revealing a rather disheveled but immediately recognizable Archmage Nagestos Naevon. The old ornery Archmage maintains his signature scowl. "But here we are." He says in a gruff tone, the very faintest of smirks curling the edge of his serious expression. "I only wish it were under better terms." He inclines his head to them and then turns to face the Watcher General. "We must head to Isalspire immediately. She has broken path with your commands." The seriousness of Nagestos' words and the instant expression of worry on the General's tree-like face set a very sincere shock of dread down the spines of Thaleria, Diagones and Kythaela.
In the two days journey back to Isalspire, the prayers to Acharon to help ignite the fire of possibilities and create the perfect storm in which to strike up a conversation occur. Erotas and Kiros both continue humming and eventually singing their song. The Archer was annoyed at first, but soon she begins to ask questions. Where did you come from? How did you learn our language? It takes little time at all before a hostage situation turns in to one of learning and understanding between the three of them (and the two living trees forced to carry the two elves, of course). She teaches them about watcher magic and explains how the bow acts and a vessel to wake up the sentient nature that exists in every living thing, giving them the gift to make living tree elementals of their own.
But that all changes when they get in eye sight of Isalspire itself?
Under the great Isalspire tree the Duindar Kinship has made their home in, something that seems practical and even tactical has begun to occur. The undergrowth has been cleared away, burnt up by the fires of Sentinel Kenthadus Egillion at the order of Warden Lukina Larnorin. His intent was to clear away a line of sight at the army they are preparing to defend their home against. But what the Archer of the Woods saw was char, and death and destruction.
Enraged by the sight of a burnt forest floor, the Archer drops Erotas and Kiros and says to them. "Run. Tell your people to cower. There can be no peace between us."
Inside the city itself, Danai Egilion has been very busy preparing the people of Isalspire for a siege. She has gathered a coalition of healers to supply the healers posts with herbs and tinctures ready to aid any who might be injured. Sister Celenia has done a great deal of preparation work to get the city itself ready as well. She acts as a liaison near the center of the city, ready to pass through any too injured to stay in the city through the portal to Thelos.
On the Thelos side of the portal, Lord High Priest Rawlin Nalduine stands at the ready with a group of Loran's Initiates ready to aid him. They prepare and aide station ready to run the injured and dying to the Eternal Grace Hospital. At the Hospital itself, High Priestess Valeria has already prepared the staff and informed the healers guild of what injuries they might encounter and how to remedy and heal them properly.
And it is a good thing all of these preparations were done. When Erotas and Kiros return to the city with the Archers intent, the call goes out across the whole of Isalspire, the words shouted from treetop to treetop.
Prepare! The Army of Trees will be upon us soon!
Just as she promised, the Archer makes her approach, waking up the living trees along her path with every arrow shot from her bow until she has an army that spans the entire length of the city. Trees old and new have uprooted and walk forward at her bidding. They wail and creek in the way that only trees can, brimming with discontent for the invasion of elves. Preparing to fight hard and eliminate these pests!
But when they arrive at the city itself to begin their assault... It looks absolutely abandoned. Not a single elf to be seen.
Melded with the trees, becoming invisible to the untrained eye, the armies and citizens of Isalspire lay in wait, watching the approach with anxious anticipation. Warden Lukina has complete command over every combatant and assistant in the city in this very moment. Duindarian Archers poised at the top of the waterfall let the army of trees pass them completely undetected. Spellblades sit crouched in the branches of the trees on high, watching and waiting for the exact moment to strike.
Confused, the Archer of the Woods hops down from her perch in one of the living trees and on to the platforms of the city itself, looking around bewildered by what she can only assume is an evacuated city. Content with her discovery she turns back to her army of trees to speak. "Destroy this abomination of a city!"
In that very moment, Lukina shouts. "Attack!!"
Thousands of elves begin to step forward from their hiding places. One by one they shimmer out of their melded form, ready to defend their city at all costs. The archers at the waterfall rain down arrows on unsuspecting tree-beasts, splintering their bark and sending them crumbling to the ground. Apprentice Lunan Naevon descends on a group of the tree-beast with his spear in one hand and a conjured ball of fire in the other. He leaps and bounds, hacking away at animated tree limbs, dodging their sweeping attacks and retaliating with skillful blasts of fire. When one formation is down, he moves on to the next. Until he spots the Archer of the Woods herself.
She wastes no time in using her bow, letting arrows fly at any and all nearby trees, enchanting them with life and recruiting them to her cause. When Lunan sees what she is doing, he leaps in to attack! He gets the first hit on her but she very quickly and skillfully retaliates. She pulls out a wickedly curved blade and slashes him across the face, cutting him deeply across the left eye. He falls to his knees with the pain.
At his post near the healer's, Kenthadus keeps the line of assist clearly open, blasting away the oncoming tree-beasts to keep those who are doing precious work safe and able to focus on their healing. Though as the army pushes deeper into the city, Kenthadus shouts back to them. "Fall back! Keep the citizens safe!" Hearing the call amidst the chaos, there is one very clear voice of calm and reason shepherding the non combatants away from the battle swiftly and precisely. Priest Katara Geminiel has no doubt saved countless lives with their actions.
The Amethyst Order is making a very clear headway in the battle. The element of surprise and the swift action of those in support keep the counter attack pushing back hard against the army of trees. No sooner do the tides of war begin to tip in their favor than Thaleria, Diagones, Kythaela and Nagestos crest over the waterfall with the Watcher General of the Woods at their side and look down at the state of the city.
"She must be stopped." Says the bark-skinned General in a rather fatherly and firmly disappointed tone.
He sounds out a call that reaches across the valley of trees in deep booming celestial words. The trees themselves begin to stop, and soon after the Archer of the Woods declares a retreat of the Army of Trees. The Duindar push until the very last moment, but when they see the signal of retreat, they stand down as well. The calm and quiet of the forest have been regained once again.
Theleria and her entourage step into the city proper, platforms broken apart, the singe of leaves burned around them in the aftermath of combat still smolder and smoking behind her. The Watcher General stands by her side. She begins a rousing speech to all those who gather around, she talks of peace and of guardianship of the Realm of Trees. She explains that only through respect and kindness can peace be achieved. Then, she invites all citizens of Duindar to join her in speaking an oath before Baridon to keep peace with the Watchers of the Woods and help them in their duty to protect these lands, together.
With a treaty achieved, Isalspire can begin to rebuild and count the cost of their war. Some two hundred or so combatants have lost their lives by the end of it. Among the dead, is Senator Saqurius Egillion. Their body is placed on a stretcher and sent through the portal to Thelos, but it is very clearly far too late.
Despite their losses, the battle has been won and an agreement of peace achieved. The Duindar have much to grieve and rebuild, but they can do so knowing they are stepping forward with new allies who will be there to help them just as they have sworn to help the Watchers.