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When all the Land is in Ruins
Navarr, Highguard and Dawn; Imperial Conclave
The vallorn of Brocéliande stirs, putting forth tendrils of choking miasma to reclaim what the Navarr have taken centuries to liberate. Ettercaps and vallornspawn come spilling from the depths of the forest, and devastation follows in their wake. The Thorns and the Vates have kept it at bay for a season, but the green tide shows no signs of slackening - quite the contrary.
If the Navarr are to protect the steadings of Brocéliande they will need to keep fighting - and they may struggle to keep the vallorn in check alone. Perhaps aid will come from bordering Highguard and Dawn; perhaps it can be secured from more esoteric quarters.
Or perhaps the Scions of Terunael will need to make another sacrifice…
The attack had come without warning; great rending roots bursting from the ground around the gate tearing it assunder to admit a river of monsters. The thorns did what they could, but nobody had expected to be subject to such a savage assault. A wave of husks had washed over the steading, and for every one that fell two more seemed to shamble out of the woods. Just before she had gone down Tita had seen her brother Aubie and his wife fighting back to back near the cookhouse, rods dripping with magical venom, desperate to protect the children. She’d been trying to make her way across to them when she had fallen - a great beast half again as tall as she was , wrapped in vines with branching wooden antlers, had swept her off her feet and sent her cartwheeling against the wall of the wayhouse.
Now she lay on her side, breathing shallowly. She had no idea what had become of her brother and Korra; hopefully they had barricaded themselves with the children and would be able to hold out until help arrived… assuming any help was coming. There would be no rescue for Tita. She could not even risk calling out; even if one of the surviving defenders heard her, she would still have attracted the attention of the vallornspawn.
To die now was bad enough… but here? With the vallornspawn attack had come the miasma and all that implied. Every Navarr in Brocéliande knew the reality of their situation - that they risked death on a daily basis but even if it found them there was a chance that it would not “take”. Like most of the steading she had assumed that the clean air of Elerael would protect them from the fate worse than death… but it seemed their optimism had been misplaced.
The worst of it was perhaps that even with the threat of eternal enslavment to the vallorn looming as her blood seeped out of her, the magic did nothing to mitigate the pain of her shattered ribs. Every breath was agony. She closed her eyes, trying to control the panic rising insided her. It would be easy to just accept it, to give in, and to let darkness take her. She wondered disjointedly whether she would be aware of becoming vallornspawn. Would she know what her flesh did once the inevitable happened? She hoped not.
She felt a shadow fell across her then, and opened her eyes. A young woman was leaning over her, her face a mask of pity and compassion beneath her voluminous hood. Tita did not recognise her, but for a moment she felt a surge of hope - cruelly dashed a moment later as her eyes took in the rest of the details of her “saviour”.
The womans eyes were unnatural emerald green, and a delicate spray of thorns outlined either cheek, like razor-sharp freckles. What she had initially taken for spiralling tattoos on her face she belatedly realised were actually raised trails of dark brown bark. The briar had clearly sliced her own skin in intricate patterns, a mockery of the designs favoured by the Navarr.
“Don’t be afraid,” said the briar woman gently. “This is not death. You are becoming something beautiful…”
Tita turned her face away, but the briar took her chin fimly in her hand and made her look at her.
“This life of sorrow and iron” she said, gesturing to where Tita’s spear lay just out of her reach. “This is the true death, and you are being saved from-”
She stiffened then, suddenly, her eyes becoming unfocused. Her jaw twitched spasmodically and then a river of thick red blood spilled out of her mouth and spatteredd Tita’s face. The briar was jerked suddenly up and away, tumbling like a discarded rag doll. Behind her, where she had been standing, another stranger; one that nobody could mistake for a Navarr.
Hairless, it’s skin as black as the night sky, it towered over the fallen Tita. It wore an open robe that seemed to be fine green silk over a pair of tight red trousers. Its legs ended in cloven hooves, that pawed gently at the ground as it leaned forward, mirroring the action of the briar woman mere heartbeats before. The creature’s face was halfway betwen that of a human and a deer, its eyes bottomless pools of darkness in which distant stars flickered. Sinuous lines snaked across its skin in a thousand gently drifting shades. In one hand it carried the seven-foot greatspear it had used to dispatch the briar woman. The tip of the spear was black with blood.
It studied her face for a moment, its doe-like ears twitching, and then it turned and let out a melodious bellow, like a stag in Spring. It leaned forward again, and laid a three fingered hand against the side of her face. The creature’s skin was soft as silk and warm to the touch, and she felt unaccountably comforted despite the horror that surrounded her. Her breathing slowed, and she was dimly aware of a gentle pressure over her broken ribs.
A moment or two later, the pressure was released and she was aware of a woman pulling her jerkin aside and gently examining the wound beneath with delicate fingers before pulling out a pot of deep jade cream and starting to apply it liberally to Tita’s chest.
“Stay still, be calm,” she said absently. “You are safe now. We are here. You are going to live to fight another day.”
As the physick worked, Tita could see another half dozen of the peculiar robed warriors fighting the vallornspawn between the remaining buildings. Over by the cookhouse, three crimson-haired warriors in heavy chain fought a great twisted tree beast, fending off its crushing blows with tear-drop shields and working in close harmony to ensure that it could only face two of them at a time. And everywhere, the quick moving forms of Navarr thorns pressing the husks back with spear and burning venom.
“You’re safe now,” whispered the physic again. “It’s going to be alright.”
Tita breathed out a great sigh, and let herself tumble down, down, down into a dreamless sleep.
Following the Autumn Equinox, the Navarr and their Wintermark ally have managed to prevent the vallorn expanding in Brocéliande but the abomination still seeks to swallow the region of Elerael and Boar’s Dell.
You can learn about what has happened, and what can be done to continue to resist the vallorn, here → http://bit.ly/WoF_Ruins
In addition to detailing possibilities for aid from Dawn and Highguard - whose nations border the deep forest - there is information about assistance offered by the eternals Llofir and Tharim and by the Great Forest orcs. There’s also some discussion of how the Navarr may abandon the woodlands - at least in the short term.
This is a long Wind of Fortune but we’ve done out best to provide summaries throughout.
#IfYouGoDownInTheWoodsToday, #TarryMinionsForTheWin, #ItIsLiterallyOnlyGoingToGetWorse