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Journey to Ábrelyn - Part V

Journey to Ábrelyn (a tale of Emélrenè) - Part V - the Holy One

After a night of deep, restful sleep, Kélroth was woken by the light through the high windows that ran along the southeast facing wall of the hall of rest. An attendant waiting at the end of the hall rose and provided him with clean robes, and a basin to wash. Once he was clean and dressed, a simple meal was provided, and soon Ohláren returned.

"Feeling better, young man?"

Kélroth nodded, but he couldn't shake a deep-seated feeling of dread; and of concern.

"How is ... Lerélyn?"

Ohláren's troubled response didn't provide any reasurance.

"She is very ill. And the illness she is suffering from is ... beyond our knowledge."

Ohláren paused.

"Many people are very interested in what you have seen, young man. And I hope that you may be able to help us to help Lerélyn. Do you feel ready to talk with my superiors?"

Kélroth felt a sudden rush of anxiousness, but silently chastised himself. He was alive, and mostly well. His companions and Lerélyn had not been so lucky. It was the least he could to share what had occured.

"Yes," he said. "Although, I'm not sure I really know what did happen..."

"Don't worry. All you need to do is tell what you saw. No one expects you to understand things beyond your years or experience, young Kélroth."

Ohláren rose from the bed opposite, and gently took Kélroth's arm.

"Come. The Holy One is waiting."

As they walked, Ohláren explained that he was taking Kélroth to the highest levels of the halls, to the personal conference room of the Holy One - the Dhéria-Ísvan. A wave of anxious nausea washed over Kélroth, but Ohláren, sensing his young companion's discomfort, tried to reassure him.

"Of course, a personal audience with the Holy One is most unusual; but you would have met her during your initiation in any case. And do not fear. She is mighty, but she is human. And she very much wants to speak with you."

Kélroth appreciated the effort, but wasn't sure that Ohláren was helping...

Before he knew it, however, they had climbed a broad stairway, and were on a wide landing, where two armed guards in full armour stood beside an oak woodend door.

Ohláren nodded to each, and spoke in a lilting tongue Kélroth did not recognise. One of the guards knocked on the door, and opened it. Ohláren and his young charge walked through.

The room beyond was brightly lit, with a large glass window with a view out over the mountain peaks to the west. It was well appointed, with rugs, tables, chairs and many rows of shelves with scrolls and codexes. But Kélroth's eyes were drawn instantly to the tall, imposing woman standing at the end of the room, looking out over the long valley of the Gadén.

She turned as the entered, and Kélroth was struck by the serenity and grace of her bearing, and her movement. She almost glided across the room, motioning to a chair next to one of the tables, and nodding imperceptibly to Ohláren, who returned the gestured, and backed out of the room. Kélroth was left, alone, with the spiritual leader of all Eméla.

"Please, do sit, Master Ámelar. We need to talk, and I have no need to stand on ceremony." Her voice reminded him, he realised, of Lerélyn's, but with greater strength and assurance.

He hesitated briefly, but mustered up his courage, and did as he was bid, feeling hugely out of place.

The Dhéria-Ísvan took no notice of his quite obvious nervousness, and sat herself in the chair opposite him, then, completely surprising him, reached out and took his hand. It was all he could do stop himself jerking it away.

"Young man, I know that you are most discomforted to speak with me so directly, and so soon after your arrival. But I have seen the warden you arrived with, and what I have seen has alarmed me greatly. So greatly that I have pushed aside all protocol. The urgency of this matter demands no less. I hope you understand."

He was completely speechless now, and could only nod woodenly.

"Also, I must ask that you allow me to hold you hand. I wish to feel your story as much as hear it. I trust you understand this also."

All he could do was nod. What else could he do?

"So, Kélroth. Tell me. From the beginning. Leave nothing out, however small it seems to you. And tell me what you felt, as much as what you saw..."

He looked up then, looking her in the face directly for the first time, and told his tale. And as he did, it seemed to him that the brightness in the room dimmed somewhat, and he felt the nawing-aching-falling that had come to him first in the face of the presence now three nights ago.

At first, the Holy One's impassive face betrayed no indication of any impact of his tale. But when he told of the darkness rising and the screams of his companions in the early morning a day ago, he saw that she blanched. The look of fear on her face shocked him, for he had already come to expect that her serenity would be unshakable. She mastered it in an instant, but that expression, almost more than anything else that he had experienced, rocked him to the core.

He completed his tale, and for a moment longer, she held his hand. She closed her eyes, and released his hand, gently laying it on the table. Silently, she rose, and walked to the window, and for several minutes stood, looking out over the valley.

Finally, she turned back to the young man.

"My apologies," she said. "That was unfair of me. You have shared with me, and I should have shielded you better from my thoughts."

She returned to the table, and sat once more.

"But, I could not. What you have told me, young man, and even more, what I felt through you, has revealed something beyond my worst fears."

Kélroth was appalled. He did not know where to look.

"I apologise again. But it cannot be helped. Something has happened that lies outside the lore of our people, ancient and deep as it is. The horror and darkness which you experience is known to us; but never, ever have I heard of it being so strong, and never has it been known to reveal itself in daylight hours."

Kélroth shuddered; if the Holy One was afraid, what was it he had encountered?

"Young man, I do not envy you, to be so young and to have already experienced one of the greatest terrors of our people. And more, to have done so in a way that defies all that we know of those we call the Eldest Ones."

Kélroth, amazing himself, found his voice.

"The ... 'Eldest Ones'?"

"That is one name for them. We know so little of what they are. Many have speculated, but encounters with them are rare, dangerous and often deadly. Generally, it is said they are beings as old as the very hills, ageless, dark, and pitiless. They seem to hate the light, and yet are drawn to it, to snuff it out."

"They appear in the 'weak places', where the fabric of the world is old and broken. There are many such places in the lands between the Es; the land of our Covenant. Keeping watch upon the frayed threads of the land is our honour and our sacred duty."

"But now... now this is something new. Your encounter with them was not brief, but prolongued. And they arose in the day, and stuck at many. All of this is new, and ... deeply, deeply worrying. I fear something terrible and deep is rising. And I know not what I shall do about it...."

She rose, and went to the door, and opened it. Ohláren was waiting outside, and she motioned him in.

"Ohláren, young master Ámelar has provided me with most urgent news. I must summon the High Council, and discuss these matters with them. Please take him under your charge, and ensure he is safe. His security is vital, as much as mine, you understand?"

If Ohláren was surprised at these instructions, he didn't reveal it. He simple nodded, and guided Kélroth from the room. As he left, Kélroth glanced back, and saw the Dhéria-Ísvan sink into a chair. Her face was ashen.

As he walked down the corridor accompanied by Ohláren, it was this last image that he could not shake. His very world seemed unstable. All he knew was one thing; things would never be the same for him again.

THE END

An overview of Emélrenè will be contained in the upcoming Venârivè publication. A future Kingdom of Emélrenè publication will contain detailed information about the realm, and the perilous dangers that beset it from within and without.

Miscellaneous Content: 

Journey to Ábrelyn - Part IV

Journey to Ábrelyn (a tale of Emélrenè) - Part IV - High Ábrelyn

Kélroth ran and ran. He ran till his lungs burned, his legs ached and he felt his heart would near give out.

He ran from the cries, the deep-dark-falling-pit of horror that lay behind him. On and on, up and up, along the narrow winding trail, around stands of rocks, down vale and up over ridges.

Until. Until he could run no more.

He came to rest beneath an outcrop. Silence.

Blood pulsed through his ears, drowning out all hearing, his breath was ragged, he could scarcely stand.

He listened. Nothing.

The silence was, if anything, worse than the horror and cries.

The sense of darkness, of deep ageless-hatred, of falling-beyond-hope, was gone. What was left was… nothing.

He slumped down on the trail, and a ragged sob rose up.

He knew not how long he sat there, stunned, but then he heard footsteps, hurried, running footfalls on the path behind him. He pushed himself upwards, wiped away his tears, and tensely waited.

Around the rock-face came a figure, dark-green-clad, haggard, dusty, blackened…

Kélroth stared. The figure before him was… aged…. horribly aged… terribly torn, a limb hanging uselessly… but despite this he knew… it was Lerélyn.

She looked up at him, and he could see nothing but horror, despair, fear and …. emptiness. All her proud bearing was stripped away, as rent as her arm and her bloody, aged face…

She slumped forward, falling into his arms… she was frail, weak, and an odor of death, deep and dank, rose off her. She tried to lift her head, as if to speak, but nothing more than a pitiful croak passed her lips. Despite this, she seemed to recognise the young man who now held her, and from somewhere new purpose rose in her.

“Go,” she gurgled, “you must… go”. She shoved him forward, but nearly fell.

Kélroth glanced back behind her, seeking others. She saw him look, but simply hung her head and shaking, push him onward. She tried to walk forward, but stumbled and fell, sprawling on the trail.

“On…. go…. on,” she whispered.

“No.” The young man was insistent. He bent down, and lifted her up, holding her undamaged arm over his shoulder, and pushing forward up the trail. She attempted to shrug him off, but she was far too weak, and he was determined.

He looked up at the mountain ridges before him, and felt a surge of determination. He would ensure that her sacrifice, and indeed what he assumed was the loss of all his companions, would not be in vain. He would make it to Ábrelyn, so that someone, anyone, would know what had occured…

So, with some difficulty, he pushed forward along the trail. Lerélyn was not heavy; but she was weak, and seemed to lack any drive. Progress was slow. The trail was difficult, often narrow, and he was weary into the bargain. Still, step by step, they made progress.

Worrying about Lerélyn, keeping her moving, was in fact, a blessing. It kept his mind off what had occured, and off what appeared to have been the awful fate of his guide and fellow fosterlings.

He pushed on for hours, climbing higher and higher, resting only occasionally. He heard nothing behind them; in fact apart from the wind, there was very little sound this high above the treeline.

He was out of drinking water, and had no food, but somehow found the strength to keep on. He lost track of how long they had struggled up the high trail, but eventually saw that the shadows of the day were lengthening. The sun was hidden high above the clouds, but dusk was settling in. He shivered, not so much from cold, as from a wretched fear of what further darkness might bring. His fear, however, only spurred him on, faster yet; as fast as his injured companion could sustain.

As the darkening gloom began to make the trail hard to see, his heart lept when he saw a twinkling of lights up ahead of them. He guessed these must be the windows or towers of Ábrelyn, the high mountain fastness of the spiritual leader of all Eméla, and of the émhlèn in particular.

At last, with a final effort, they came to a place where the trail widened out to a broad swath of tussock and low bushes, before high dark walls. Above the walls, and across the face of the mountainside beyond, sprang several towers of varying height, including one which soared high up into the dark night sky. Here and there in the towers, light shone forth, and there were torches at regular intervals along the wall.

He saw shaddowy figures arround the entrance to a great gatehouse, which seemed fashioned of stones so large only a seeming giant could have moved them.

He called out to the figures, nearly at the end of his strength as he was.

“Help… help me! Please…! this woman is gravely injured and ill!”.

He struggled forward across the open ground, and several of the figures hastily made their way towards him. Everything became a blur, as relief and enormous weariness both washed over him. Many hands reached out to help him, and to take Lerélyn from him. He and the warden were helped across the sward, with several robed persons running ahead, then momentarily returning with others, and with a stretcher for Lerélyn. She was quickly carried away, through the gatehouse and into the complex.

A tall, strong man assisted Kélroth to make his way through the same gate, and out into a wide area before a great mountain wall. There were many buildings in the bailey, and a good many people. Squarely beyond this open area rose up a nearly shear mountain wall; but it was pierced by a great triangular stone gate or entrance, which ran straight into the mountain. Numerous windows and openings also looked out from the mountain wall.

The gate was massive; Kélroth estimated perhaps sixty or seventy feet high. There seemed to be no doors, just the huge triangular openning. Inside, running away on a gentle slope up into the mountain, was a wide corridor, well lit and seemingly cut smooth and true. As tired as he was, Kélroth could not but be overcome by the imensity and majesty of the sight.

The man assisting him notice the impression the site of the entrance and surrounding area was having on the young man.

“Impressive, isn't it?” he chuckled lightly. “Wait till you see inside…”

His new companion looked up at a small group of people making their way towards them.

“But first, the Doorward will have some questions for you. Are you up to that?”

Kélroth simply nodded.

An elderly, but very spry man, accompanied by two others drew up to them. He was dressed in flowing robes of white and blue, and reminded Kélroth of Erynos, particularly in the manner he simply stood and observed the young man with out speaking for several minutes.

“Young man, I can see that you have seen and experienced terrible things; and even worse has befallen your companion, Lerélyn, who is known to me. You are one of the fosterlings due here for initiation, are you not? If my guess is correct, you are Kélroth al Ámelar, is that so?”

Kélroth again, simply nodded.

“You must be exhausted… but I must ask… is there danger at your heels?” His gaze was now so intense that Kélroth almost felt the need to look away.

Instead, he mustered his courage, and answered.

“I cannot be sure, elder. I do believe that something most terrible has happened to those who were travelling here with me. ” He hestitated a moment, but the Doorward nodded for him to continue.

“I am ashamed to say it, elder, but I know nothing of what it was that happened to them, other than it was something that even our guide, Erýnos, and the wardens who found us were afraid of.”

“Go on”, the Doorward said, encouraging him to continue.

“All I can say, is that - whatever it was - I have not seen or heard anything of it since the warden told me too run; and that was at the break of day.” Kélroth shook his head; he felt utterly at a loss to find words to describe the events of the last two days.

“That is enough, for now, young man. Precautions will be taken, but it seems the danger is not imminent.”

“Ohláren,” he said, indicating the man already assisting Kélroth, “take him to the halls of rest, see that he is well cared for.” He focussed on Kélroth. “Rest now, young man. But others will want to speak with you more. It is clear that something gravely wrong has occured.”

With that, the elderly doorward stepped aside, and Ohláren assited Kélroth across the bailey and on towards the great gate of Ábrelyn. They passed inside, and up along the long and wide corridor, which was not only well lit, but carved with many ancient symbols, devices and images, some of geometric patterns, others seemingly depicting strange beasts and beings. Kélroth did not have time to see any of them well, but it was clear that they were ancient, and as they made further progress into the mountain, he felt the weight of ages and the thousands of tons of rock far above them begin to press down upon him.

As they walked slowly up the great corridor, they passed other people, coming and going. At regular intervals, corridors branched off the main hall, heading either up or downwards. Finally, they reached a great circular room, the roof of which was lost high, high above them. Five other corridors branched out from the room, and Ohláren led Kélroth into one of them. It sloped gently upwards, and then curved round, coming eventually to a long room with many windows that seemed to look out over the valley. The room was filled with several beds, and a woman walked up to meet them.

Ohláren whispered something to her, which Kélroth could not hear. Together the woman and Ohláren helped him to a bed, and he lay down, utterly exhausted. She brought him a warm drink, which he quickly drank, and very soon after, felt an inescapable weariness fall upon him. He lay back and fell into a dreamless sleep.

Miscellaneous Content: 

Journey to Ábrelyn - Part III

Journey to Ábrelyn (a tale of Emélrenè) - Part III - the Maw of Ages

Kélroth woke with a start. It was cool, clear morning, and the first rays of sunlight were breaking over the upper Gadén valley. He had slept poorly, his sleep disturbed by visions of endless, aching darkness, deep within the bones of the earth.

He rubbed his eyes and shook himself awake. As he sat up, he noticed a figure nearby was watching him intently. She was dressed in dark green, from head to foot, but her hood was thrown back, exposing her dark short hair.

Kélroth waited for her to speak, but she did not. Rather she seemed to be waiting for him to talk. He felt more than a little uncomfortable under her inspection.

“Last night,” Kélroth asked, hesitantly, “was that… you?”

“Yes, youngster, I was the one who … found you last night.” Her voice was remarkably soft, certainly softer than her looks, which were rugged and hardy.

“You were,” she paused, contemplating,”… most lucky, last night.”

Kélroth hesitated, once more, before he spoke again.

“What… was it?” he finally asked.

Her eyes narrowed, and she stared at him, intently, as if judging him. He shifted uncomfortably, unnerved by the silence as he waited for her to respond.

“I suppose you will need to know – eventually.” She looked out over the valley, through the morning mists rising to greet the sun.

“A glorious day, youngster! Let us rise to join it…” She stood up, brushed herself down, and turned to join the growing number of their group that were about their morning duties.

Kélroth's mind raced, but he was too much in awe of the émhlèn-aínara to press his question. He tidied his bed-roll, and joined the group as they broke their fast. He noticed, however, that both Erýnos and the strange woman seemed to watch him quite intently during the meal, occasionally speaking to each other in low voices he could not hear.

When the group were done with their preparations, and were assembling to depart, Erýnos gathered them together.

“Last night, you saw some part of the dangers that exist in these mountains. We were lucky - some of us very lucky,” he said, looking at Kélroth, “that these wardens were nearby, or things could have been much worse.”

“This is Lerélyn. She is chief warden of this part of the range. In light of last night's events, she and her companions will accompany us the rest of our journey to the halls of Ábrelyn.”

“Come,” he said. “Let us go. We must travel quickly,” he added, as the group set off.

As they travelled, the group was sombre, chasened by the previous night's events. Their easy companionship was replaced by watchfullness. Although it was a bright, sunlight day, the shadows in the hills and beneath the trees now seemed something to fear. The addition of the émhlèn wardens only added to the sense of the seriousness of their journey.

They travelled with few rests, at a pace determined by the wardens - faster even than that which Erynos had set. By mid-day they had made their way over a series of ridges, and down into the upper reaches of the Gadén river valley, where the river itself rushed downward, full of snow-melt, and eager as the group to be away.

Where their trail met the river, a rope bridge streched across the rushing waters, connecting to a trail on the eastern bank, but they continued onwards, on a well worn track, ever higher towards the soaring peaks before them.

They ended their day just as the trail broke through the tree-line. Here they made camp under the eaves of the trees, for even though it was summer, a night above the trees would be cold indeed. Kélroth was careful to keep with the rest of his companions, and the wardens kept a strict watch upon them all. Several times in the night, he awoke, his sleep troubled, and several times he would have sworn he heard or at least 'felt' something dark, menacing and oh-so-deep pass either through his dreams or in the valley below. But the wardens, who seemed to need little sleep, did not stir, and he forced himself back to rest.

The next day broke, but was overcast, clouds hugging the tops of the peaks above them, obscuring both mount Herélym to the east, but also the smaller peaks to the west.

Kélroth had wanted to talk more with Lerélyn, but she left early the last night with one of the wardens, and had only returned just as the group were assembling once more for the day's journey. But now she came quickly up to him and, nodding at their guide, Erýnos, spoke quietly to Kélroth.

“Youngster. Last night was … troubled; once again.” She looked at him intently. “Did you sense… anything?”

Kélroth looked at Erýnos, who nodded slowly.

“I … yes… something was… out there…” he finished, inconclusively.

A look of concern flashed across her face, but she quickly mastered herself.

“It seems I have underestimated you, young man. It seems, indeed, I have misread a good many things.”

She turned sharply to Erýnos.

“We must go, now, swiftly, ahead of the group. Something, I am not clear what, is afoot. I must get this young man to the elders as soon as possible. I will leave you the rest of my wardens; Geran and I will go on alone with Kélroth.”

With no further explaination, she placed her hand on Kélroth's back, and gently pushed him up the slope.

“Don't worry about your companions, young man. We are leaving… now.” Her last words were so final that Kélroth did not hesitate to question her, and hurried up the trail, followed rapidly by Lerélyn and her fellow warden. After several yards, he went to turn to bid his companions farewell, but she pushed him onwards, brooking no pause.

They had scarcely passed over a rocky outcropping and along a spur when he heard an awful, hiddeous screaming sound, which instantly drew him back to the horror of the night before last. He 'felt' the pit of his stomach fall, and 'sensed' a rushing, devouring, falling darkness rising up behind them.

He glanced back, almost without thought, and saw, to his horror, that the valley behind them was black, darkened, drained of light. He heard yet more cries, this time all too human, and felt a rending of the very fabric of world.

Lerélyn cried out, although he could scarcely hear her words - but her intent was clear. She pushed him onwards, and then finally he heard her words. “Run! boy, run! Run for you life!”

Kélroth needed no more encouragement. The cries of his companions, of his guide, and of Lerélyn rang in his ears, his heart pounded, and a gapping horror rose up behind him, pushing him onwards and upwards.

Miscellaneous Content: 

Journey to Ábrelyn - Part II

Journey to Ábrelyn (a tale of Emélrenè) - Part II - the Elder Dark

The group of fosterlings made camp on a ridge overlooking a stream that ran down to join the upper reaches of the Gadén river. The sun set early, even though it was summer, passing down behind mount Negéros, now far to the west. Mists rose from the valley below, and a gloom gathered round the group.

Their elderly émhlèn guide, Erýnos, as he had done before, warned the group to keep close together, and not stray from the fire. Kélroth was still lost in thought, pondering the realisation that these steep hills and peaks were his true homeland. He went about his appointed tasks automatically, paying little attention to his fellow travellers. They ate a rough but pleasant meal, and when they were done, Kélroth gathered their wooden bowls and made his way down to the nearby stream to clean them.

Suddenly, as he was absent-mindedly rinsing their implements in the stream, an unearthly cry pierced the night. Such was the shock of this unexpected interruption that he dropped the last of the bowls, and it clattered loudly on the rocks, skittering away and into the water, washing quickly away.

He heard shouts from the campsite back up the hill, and turned to rush back to join them - but stopped dead in his tracks as he came face to face with a darkly clad figure.

Kélroth almost cried out himself, but the stranger's hand shot out and clamped firmly over his mouth, stifling any noise he might have made. The stranger drew the young man in towards him, and silently swung him round, pulling him back into the bank.

In the darkness before him, Kélroth 'sensed' but could not see another presence. The stranger holding him tensed, but still made not a sound. Despite this, Kélroth was keenly aware that the person holding him was strung taught like a bowstring. Many things flashed through his mind, but the most alarming thing was the definite sense that his 'captor' was, himself, terrified.

The presence before them shifted, and made a sound the like of which Kélroth had never encountered.

It was the sound of ancient sinews of the loamy earth tearing, rending, ever so slowly but ever so dreadfully. Waves of revulsion washed over him; Kélroth 'felt' the rotting-death, the foul-ever-dying-ever-living stench of ages that should long have passed but would not end... he felt the creeping cold of frost, of moulding fungus, the lapping tongue of foulest breath, the dank dark pit of deep despair... he wanted to moan, to cry out, to fall, fall, fall away... only the firm grip of the stranger held him fast...

He knew not how long he and his new companion stood frozen, transfixed. Suddenly, when he felt he could bear it no longer, a light flashed, across the stream and up high on the opposite ridge. The presence before them seemed to turn, equally suddenly, and with both lightning quickness and inexorable, unbearable, slowness, turned and 'seeped' up the slope away from them.

Silence and the darkness of the night enveloped them. Kélroth could not recall if he had breathed at all since he had been held fast. More moments passed, and all he could hear was his heartbeat.

The empty darkness of the night was then, once more, torn by an unearthly cry, and then, an awful, rending, screeching that seemed to fall away, away, away... as if falling far far away...

Only then did the stranger let out a low, shallow breath, and seem to relax, easing backwards into the soft moss of the bank. The hand over Kélroth's mouth was released, and he was set loose -- at which point he nearly fell, only to be steadied by the stranger.

Kélroth began to thank his benefactor, but once more, this time more gently, a finger was placed on his lips. He barely heard the whispered words "Hush - danger - still". The stranger motioned back up the slope where the fosterlings' camp lay, gently pushing the youngster up the slope.

As quickly and quietly as he could, he made his way up the slope, and towards the camp. He could see no fire, but could sense smoke rising where the fire had been. The air seemed acrid, unpleasant.

Presently, they topped the ridge, and were at the campsite. In the gloom, and through the smoke that rose from what remained of their fire, he could see the group huddled under a great tree. Several strangers stood about, at watch. One murmured barely audibly to their guide, Erýnos, who looked up as Kélroth approached.

The stranger behind him gently directed Kélroth to the guide, and stepped forward.

"He's lucky, this one," said the stranger, and Kélroth was surprised at the soft tone; his benefactor was almost certainly a woman.

Erýnos nodded, and tense and worried as he clearly was, managed a wan smile, which flashed briefly, to be replaced by a look of deep chagrin.

"It's my fault. I should have known; should have sensed them...."

Kélroth's 'saviour' shook her head. "Not these, old man. They were far older and deeper than any even I have ever seen. It is a miracle we lost no one."

"We will watch the perimeter until sunrise," the stranger added. "Get some rest, Erýnos - and you too young man."

Kélroth was then overcome with an overwhelming sense of weariness. Erýnos helped him to his bed roll, and despite a nagging sense of foreboding in the back of his mind, Kélroth was soon lost to sleep. His dreams were filled with high peaks, falling water, deep forests.... and a darkness, dread and fell, older than the hills.

Miscellaneous Content: 

Journey to Ábrelyn

Journey to Ábrelyn (a tale of Emélrenè) - Part I - the Call of Home

Kélroth and his companions had travelled several days on their journey up the Legáma river valley from Ráleth, making their way along the trail through the foothills of the Jerinálian mountains. They had been provided hospitality at Hiténos keep, the seat of the Earl of Negáros.

The group's guide, an aged émhlè, had been warmly welcomed by the Earl's constable, and they had been provided with accomodation of a higher standard than Kélroth had encountered either at home on his uncle's humble manor far south in Berémashire, or anywhere else on the road. Rumour was that the Earl was away hunting or possibly even south in Beréma; Kélroth and his companions were not privy to such details.

After Hiténos, the group continued up the river valley for some time, but then the trail turned northwest, striking towards a pass between two high peaks - one of which their guide informed them was mount Negéros. The going was much harder than it had been along the river banks, but they made good time, and soon stood on the saddle, looking down upon the valley of the Marnad and the lands of Neóma fief beneath the heights of mount Tîrdhwy.

Neóma, their guide reminded them, was the official seat of the Duke of Jerinál, Anávras al Edhélen, designated heir to the throne of Emélrenè - but that, of course, they were scarcely likely to see, let alone meet, the Duke. As they made their way down the trail towards the castle and its settlement, their old guide told the tale of how the current Duke came to hold the title, this being granted by Her Majesty Queen Yólanda when the previous Duke's son had chosen to "take the Freedom". Some of the group knew this tale, but the reminder of possibility that some of them might end their journey by chosing the "Freedom" caused a buzz of amongst them. Not for the first time, Kélroth's mind turned to what life as one of the émhlèn might entail...

As they had been warned, their stay in Neóma afforded them little opportunity to come in contact with the Ducal household; they stayed instead in a hostel devoted specifically to providing accommodation to groups of pilgrims and youngsters such as they on their way to fosterage with their clan's émhlèn-aína ('sibling-clans').

Kélroth's 'sibling-clan', the Ámeldhen, were a minor émhlèn clan who dwelt high in the Jerinálian range, on the upper reaches of the Marnad river. They shared a 'range' known as Márnasem, and owed allegiance to the émhlèn mélkula (middle-noble) clan of Súdhrem. The Súdhrem were 'siblings' to Kélroth's uncle's liege, the Baron of Daímin. Kélroth would foster with them for at least a summer; longer if he found the "free" life conducive and they would have him.

From Neóma castle, the trail became even less defined, but their old guide had travelled this route many times. They were accompanied by other pilgrims and fosterlings, but the group had come to know each other, and stuck together. Travel up the Marnad valley was relatively easy, until they reached a ford in the river.

As they prepared to cross, the old guide drew Kélroth aside.

"Young Master Ámelar," he said, pointing up the river valley, where the high mountain forests loomed. "There lie the lands of your sibling clan, and the vales where you will spend your fosterage. They are good lands; with fewer dangers than most, especially in summer," he added.

Kélroth simply nodded. He was still in awe of the ancient émhlè, who despite his age, seemed hardly to tire throughout the whole journey.

"But first, we must journey to Ábrelyn, the Home of the Free, so that you may become an initiate of the Covenant...." The old man's voice had dropped to a hush, and all of the group were attentive. Everyone knew something of the sacred Covenant, but all were eager to see if their guide would share more.

He did not. He simply smiled, and urged them across the ford, and up the trail that rose higher into the mountains.

After several hours, they reached another saddle, and high to the northeast loomed a set of great peaks. Here he paused, and pointed towards the highest of them.

"There is great Hérelym, under which Holy Ábrelyn lies. There lies our journey's end; but the beginning of your days as full Eméla!"

His voice was filled with pride and fervour, and none in the group failed to feel a swelling in their hearts as they looked upon the mighty snow-capped peaks.

After a short pause, he hurried the group forward. Kélroth, however, held back, his gaze held transfixed by the mountains, the rushing streams, his blood pulsing with the very spirit of the land....

At that moment he knew, without any doubt, that he would not return to the quiet lowlands of his uncle's manor. He was home, and he knew it.

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