OF THE AXHÁI
f I’d known where it would all lead, well…. I’d have become a Forest Tracker! But the wind is changing. I can feel it even here.”
There is a rustle as she moves, and her skirts follow her. She is dressed in fine clothes. She is beautiful beyond words. What little light there is in this dark, dank place; pales in the light that comes from her form. Long golden hair is tied with what seems like cobwebs dowsed in dew. There is no doubt that she is an elderly elf: her features worn by concern and time, but she has not yet begun to age.
“Once, in the oldest and, for the most part, forgotten tales of elven lore, the elves wandered the whole of the lands of the world. They drifted from place to place. There was no distinction between land and sky, earth or sea, form and unform, there were no tribes and no other race but themselves.”
The delicate female figure allows a sigh greater that runs deeper than all the dwarven caverns of Caelereth, to pass her lips and into the air, marked by the condensation of her breath in the frozen air. She turns and continues, “But to dwell on those youngest of days is foolish for they are long gone. Eu’reóll was burnt and the elves split in two by its hiding: those who remained close to it or returned to be with She who was first among us, within the confines of the Thaelon and who are still close in spirit to the first moments of the Dream; remaining on the whispers of the wind. Those of us who were trapped away from the Thaelon or chose to remain, are bound to the land. To be bound to the land means that we will be born and reborn and to live and never reach a hereafter, unless perhaps the Dreamer wakes again, when we will be released to what lies beyond the confines of this dreamt world. In either event elves have long given up wandering the land and cling to their beloved forests. With the bloodshed the world has seen, what elves would not choose to remove themselves from the terror beyond their forest canopies? And therein lies the tragedy: that generations of elves live and die never knowing the perfection of the starlit night or the power of the roaring ocean. Many never know anything except the immediate surroundings of their birth. We are owned by the very nature of the dream, yet how can we claim to be one with it, as doubtless we are meant to be, unless we see its every facet?”
She walks to the water and murmers softly, then pauses and looks up.
“With the burning of the Tree of Life and the War of the Chosen, the lines that define our physical existence were drawn. Though do not let it be said that those lines, from time to time, cannot occasionally be bent. For it seems that certain powers, while they have a love of the ironic, will often tip fate to suit those of us who are coupled to the soil. I tell you that we, all of us, regardless of race or belief must have a petitioner in a very high place: for life in its entirety is more beautiful than any one thing within it. I am loathed even now, in my oldest of age, to lie it down…. But I chose that fate long ago, and never would I change my decision, child, for I say it once again, life, physical life: to touch, to feel, simply to be; is the greatest gift our Goddess Avá endowed. Even pain, for I have known my fair share, has its place. For the greatest of accomplishments taste only sweeter when the bitter has come before.”
She smiles. “You wonder with what authority I speak? That is fair given the circumstances and what I have driven you to do. Many say I have no authority on which to speak, for, they say, I am quite mad. And perhaps they are right. I have regrets in life now that I am old, but I would not undo what I have done nor would I change what must be done because of those choices; for my regrets are given by hindsight. It is the gift of the Gods: hindsight. It is there to give old age its wisdom, otherwise the closing years of life would be a bitter pill to swallow, even for an elf. I speak only with the authority of experience, child, only that and no higher.”
There is a long silence and the watchers in the entrance shuffle uncomfortably as an unspoken complaint echoes off the walls. The elf seems oblivious. “But I dither, and you are here for only one purpose.” In the silence a sword is drawn. The Lady raises her head, “But watch the whole tale, I ask only that. For many a mistake has been made for lack of hindsight.” There is more shuffling, more pronounced and more uncomfortable than before and hushed muttering. There is finally a grunt of agreement from the watcher. A sword is sheathed and one of the watchers moves toward the elf. She drops a pebble, images flicker in the stagnant water, and the spell is complete.
The girl drags her feet in the dirt, she grumbles for a while. And then she sits….refusing to go any further.
Elothis is an elven Bard and Prophet, and he is old. The Gods have gifted him with the longest life of any elf that has ever lived in his tribe. He has seen much, but not in all his days has he learnt to deal with children. He sits down by the child. For in truth she is no more than that, she has not yet even come of age. She traces her fingers in the grit and dirt of the road, if one can even call it a road. Her hair tumbles in waves around her waist, the colour of autumn leaves. She is her father's daughter, no doubt about it, for there is not a trace of the child’s maternal grandfather to be seen. Her younger sister, though, is just like her grandfather, Anthioullsn's spit, with her dark hair and obsession with the things of men and dwarves - but somehow Elothis just knows that the elder is......right....there is something about the girl. Maybe it is in her huge green eyes, maybe some vision of the Ionmis that has lingered in his mind, dormant, from long ago when he wielded the globe for Anthioullsn. He smiles in the memory of his friend, his protégé and ultimately his own teacher. He does not know why he needs the girl, he just knows that at this whole mess, if it can be resolved, she must be there. Perhaps only as the sacrificial lamb to break the cycle, as though this line of the Ylfferhim elves has not suffered enough already, but he and the present Leias Minthail both agree that she must go with him.
She is in a mood. Elothis has walked her a long way on her, as yet, not fully grown legs, without explanation or excuse. He has taken her from her parents and her brother and sister, from the forest home into a world that the Ylfferhim are brought up to fear and hate. He looks at her. She does not look afraid, but still she will not meet his gaze. He sighs.
“There are, reasons for everything.....” He pauses. He knows he has her attention, though she still will not look him in the eye, but how can he hope to explain everything? He continues:
“Your forest home, the Quallian, stands in a province of the United Kingdom of Santharia. Contrary to what you have been told, this great Kingdom, ‘the outside’ as our people call it, has stood, peaceful and relatively untroubled for very nearly three centuries. Now is the time for great innovation, building and the creation of art. Never has the Southern continent of Sarvonia shone so brightly. Gone are the days that caused the Ylfferhim to hide away in the forest. Gone are the days when great wars were waged in the land. The human kingdoms are united and finally at peace with their elven and dwarven neighbours. Though, I cannot pretend that certain prejudices still linger on and tensions still bubble to the surface, though more in words than actions......The time for violence has passed! We still hide, though perhaps we no longer need to.
But be sure that the outside has not always been that way.
Six centuries have passed since all things dark and evil were called to the Southern Sarvonian continent by the coming of Melór'terqán, the Night when the God of Destruction himself would be incarnated in earthly form. His forces raged through the Tandala Highlands and descended from the Northern continent to destroy the elven forest of the Calmarios in their haste to reach the site where Coór was prophesised to appear.
The elves begged the Regent of Tharania, the most powerful man then, perhaps even in the whole world, for help. But, the human King long remembered the bloodshed that the elves had caused his people in time long past. He laughed at the elves. He told them to fight their own battles.
So the elves did for a time. At their head, the Ava'ránn of all elven peoples, Aía'mer'án, the daughter, so legend tells, of the Lady Daletár. She was one of the Four Axhái sent out to teach the elves of the High Gods and to dictate to the world the Odosía, the everlasting books. But, despite her best efforts, she could not prevent the coming of Coór as Coór’melór. One night he slipped silently into her chambers, and seeking to spoil all that was good and pure, raped she who was good without equal in that time. She gave birth to two twin sons, and died soon after, but her tribe, the Aellenrhim, raised the children out of respect for their Lady. An Orc raid rode through the Bolder forest to take the child of Coór’melór, told by legend to bare a birthmark. They found the eldest child, but missed the younger, for Eyrin always looked simply human. The raid nearly destroyed the forest and decimated the tribe, a few survivors were left to repopulate their simmering forest. The boy Eyrin was taken to the High Ava'ránn who kept him safe in the bows of the Eu’reóll.
By this time the humans, and indeed many other races joined the war, though my knowledge of their participation is limited. The next Ava'ránn was Axiastras. Oh my, she was a different kettle of fish altogether! Aia'mer'án was quiet and gentle; Axiastras was volitile, driven, unafraid of risk. Time drew on and the great war against Coór’melór was being lost.
In that dark time emerged an elf, named Saban, and much that name should have meant….for many of the darkest elves in history have borne that name. Saban Blackcloak went unaccompanied into the forests of the Ahrhrim where Axiastras lived and told her that he would capture and imprison Coór’melór. Axiastras simply laughed at him! When all the armies in all the world could not stop the Great God of Destruction, how could one lone elf possibly hope to stop him? But out of options, the Ava’ránn told Saban that she would ally with him if necessary.”
Elothis pauses and sighs, carried away by his own thoughts. Ah, if only the course of history would have taken another turn... Then, after a while he continues in his narration.
“Little did Axiastras know that Saban, who was often, from this time on, called the Móh’rónn, the Dark Lord, was the elven child stolen from the decimated Aellenrhim. He had been raised by the orcs and all darkfriends, but unlike them, Saban did not believe his Great Father was the saviour of the dark friends and sought to be greater in power and achievement! He wooed his father’s followers to come with him and that year he returned to the Almatrar, the forest of the Ava’ránn, parading behind him a captured Coór’melór, promising to imprison the incarnation of Coór in the Sea Graves Of Cyllahoi, ending the third and last great Sarvonian War. There would be a price however. Axiastras would have to marry him, effectively granting the dark elf Lordship over all of the elves in Sarvonia, or he would release the furious God, right there in Axiastras’ beloved forest. She had no option but to agree. So he kept his new wife a virtual prisoner, and forced her to bear his son Serveran, remember that name. He was a talented elf.
So now we come to your grandfather, my dear. No doubt you know the story well. Angry at Saban’s treatment of the Ava’ránn, and increasingly aware of who exactly Saban was, the High Elven Circle elected your grandfather, Anthioullsn the first Ava’rónn of the Circle. Long and hard did your grandfather fight over who was rightful Rónn! It cumulated in a great battle where both Anthioullsn and his son, your uncle were slain, but before that time your grandfather and I managed to capture and kidnap the Móh’rónn’s own son, Serveran. He like you was born with the Oh’mód’hál, the spirit of his grandmother was sharp within him. Some say that he even looked like her. I hid the child with the Sanhoirhim, for he would be safe there, the tribe was hardened by past war yet still had good peaceful hearts.”
Elothis looks at the young girl. “Cariála, are you listening?”
She looks around at the Elverground and for the first time in three days journey speaks, “I know all this. You’ve told me a million times. I don’t see what digging up ancient history has to do with dragging me into this forsaken place. I’m sure even Coór could improve this hole.”
“Do not even joke! For I’m sure Coór would change it if he could, and not for the better. Not all places look as beautiful as the Quallian, but it does not make it any less valuable.” But even in this telling off, Elothis cannot deny himself a smile. There is more of Anthioullsn in the girl than he had first thought.
“It is, as you will see, history is far from ancient……Sadly. But, as you know so much,” he shoots the girl a look, she simply rolls her eyes, “I will cut the story short. Serveran rose against his father trying to end his reign of terror. But Saban’s end was not Serveran’s destiny, but that of Eyrin. The pair, followed the Móh’rónn and all his dark followers into the volcano of Hèckra, and so it is said put an end to evil once and for all.”
“Except...,” again Elothis sighs with utter despair so deep that Cariála turns and looks to him with interest, “this last part of the tale as it is told among our people, is untrue! Yes, the Móh’rónn is indeed dead, and evil things walk no more here in Santharia, but it does not mean all evil is gone forever. For know this: Coór’melór is still here, perhaps still imprisoned in the Great Cyhalloian Sea Grave. Perhaps he is weak and formless, waiting to take a new form and come again, for certainly not all the prophesies about him have been fulfilled yet! Hopefully these unfulfilled prophesies will never come to pass, for the oracles see many things that may not come to be but have been possible at a certain point in history, and Ionmis certainly may be clouded by its holder’s own thoughts and fears. We can only hope. And Coór has many more servants than those who followed the Móh’rónn down the volcano. For example the High Demon, Enphyrosh, is still said to be at large in Aér’ái’chán, though who knows where, for certainly there have been no true sightings for many a century….and in that time so often do truths slip into obsucurity……”
Seeing the confusion on the elfling’s face, Elothis stops, and feels embarresed.
“Ah, I have slipped into the ramblings of an old elf again I see….Ah when you have been blessed to live the 853 years that I have counted on the leaf falls so far there is so much to tell. You not need be concerned with Enphyrosh this day, for he is not the present concern. Remember earlier I mentioned Daltár, one of the Four Axhai that spread knowledge of what we are to the elves?”
The girl nods. She has been listening after all.
“Well, there is an evil still in the world that is ancient beyond all words. It is called the Móh’hái. There were once four. It is said in legend that they were created in the moment that the High Ava’ránn granted the four Axhái, th elder elves, physical form and sent them out into the world. The Móh’hái are as shadows to the Lady’s brightness! They are hideous, deadly, dark shapes that are as bent on destroying truth, peace, harmony and balance of the Dream as the Four were to promoting them. Regardless of whether these stories are true or not, the Móh’hái certainly existed. Two of them, so it is told, ceased to be when two of the Four Axhái returned to the Thaelon and their true light form, for it is said that the existence of the Móh’hái and The Four physical forms are linked and as intertwined as Coór is to the Dreamer, Avá.
The other was killed by the human Dygan Heartswind, resulting, or so the Quaelhoirhim say, in the death of Daltár’s sister, the Lady Vi’alowén, as she could not cling to physical life without the Móh’hái’s existence. - Do you understand child? How their cannot be one without the other?”
Wide eyed the child seems to be thinking. Eventually she nods.
“Like light and shade?”
Elothis smiles. “Like light and shade. It is an old cliché! But yes, this is the nature of the relationship. My girl, if as you wish, to follow myself and your father as a teller of tales, then my you must be wary of cliché. You must also be travel hardy.”
He stands and lifts the girl, with some effort, for he is old now, and his beard is plaited nearly all the way to his calves, to her feet.
“The day is well advanced and we must reach Elving by sundown or else spend another night on the Elverground. I would hate to disturb the Tarkkin anymore than is necessary, we already owe him a great debt. Now where was I?” Elothis grasps his walking stick, engraved at its handle with the figure of the adamant dragon, Seargon the Eternal, and begins to walk eastward, the girl follows him. He thinks carefully how to continue, not wanting to scare the child. Part of him, however, can’t resist a little test.
“Ah, yes. Well Daltár left long ago to the sea. We all presume her gone, and the Móh’hái associated with her gone also, but it was a vain presumption. Whether Daltar lives or not, whether all I have told you so far is wholly untrue, which I doubt, the Móh’hái is stirring. The Ionmis sees it often. The oracle is sick with constant visions. The Aellenrhim librarians swear blind that the Móh’hái is readying himself to search for his master, he seeks only destruction, and Coór’s incarnation on Aér’aí’chán . So we must go, You and I, first to the Ava’ránn, and then to the King, and tell him what we know. Yes, that’s what we have to do.”
Cariála shakes her hair and stops still.
“I know nothing! Why must I talk to a human, who believes not in Coór, nor Avá, nor the Dream? I’m no Queen, nothing you have said has involved me. I want to go home!”
Elothis examines her. There is no fear in her eyes, though it is the lack of foresight of youth that explains this rather than any great courage.
“See this as your first experience as a bard. Now please cease your moaning. You see that plant over there? That is yahrle. It doesn’t grow at home.”
“The very same. Though other peoples in Aér’aí’chán link it to Coór in fact. Preparation of the herb with the use of certain Xeuá practices can heal a wound up to tenfold faster! Who needs Clerics, hey? Come on now, don’t look at me like that! I was just playing! Now Cariála, pray tell me to prepare the yahrle and administer with Magic?”
Elothis walks onward and Cariála follows without further prompting.
 A small globe that gives the bearer some amount of predictative foresight. [back]
 The leader of the Ylfferhim elves, an isolated tribe who makes its home in the Quallian forest. The Ylfferhim keep close contact only with their mother tribe, the Quaelhoirhim. Their isolation has made them rather strange to other elven ears, with their funny accents and their own peculiar brand of the elven language Styrásh. [back]
 Roughly speaking the elven equivalent to a human queen or monarch, she (and occasionally he) leads the High Elven Circle. [back]
 The natural ability to sense cár’áll, the magical aura of beings. [back]
 A goat-like patron of farmers, said to have once been the pet of the Goddess of Harvest, Jeyriall. [back]
 Elven term for the world of Caelereth. [back]
Story written by Wren