Lajoen Mūreid Jua
By Xávier G. S. Ferguson
Far west of the mountains, past the armies of Nolim, and the barachs of Ovainia, lied the greatest forest in Pethusia: Kirthōrn. Very few ever dared to venture into its borders, and those who braved, seldom left; therefore leaving the contents of this forest a mystery to many. Now, to the many inhabitants of Pethusia, who had never voyaged past its shores, The trees were greater that any in existence, at least, that was all that the outsiders saw.
Those wise, and fortunate enough to be invited into the forest by the Elves, were the only ones who ever saw the elves, at least in several hundred years. Those who were not elves, that were trusted great enough, were even privileged to learn the great secret of the Maricu trees. Roughly four thousand, and a half feet; that is what the tallest was rumored reaching. The true secret (Evidently not witchcraft as it was often accused) was that they grew that way naturally, not exactly in Pethusia, but in the far, far west, beyond the ocean, Äsi. The land called Alpela, the true home of the Elves. I am afraid to say that Pethusia was slightly larger than Alpela, but the great woodland stretched all across the face of the continent, leaving few empty spaces.
How did they come to live in Kirthōrn? Well if you go back about three thousand years before the time of our story, you may see that Kirthōrn was not a forest, but a wasteland cleared of all its vegetation, and structures by multiple Typhoons, that came without warning, and killed all inhabitants of that area. It is known by those who remember, or have been passed the story, The Plague of Water. Before other men could reclaim their land, the Keinlendi had arrived first, simply exploring, and looking to expand their territory as our founding fathers did years ago, and had already sown the seeds of the Maricu trees in the rich soil. The men who had come unprepared, were run out by warriors, and for three millenniums, waited, and watched the wood rise to tower, to dwarf any creations of men by their scheer, and seemingly impossible height. The story I am about to tell takes place around one hundred ten thousand Keirad (Approximately ten Earth millennials) after the first settlers came to dwell in the forests of Apela, and later to the southwestern corner of Pethusia they named Kirthōrn.
In the great forest, there was one Maricu tree, sitting on the very edge of the woods, where one could see the southern ocean, stretching on until it hit the horizon, and ran into the sky. Nestled in the roots of that tree, in a large grotto hewn between the stone and the wood of the tree, was a cottage, built using the shape of the tree. In this tree lived the only human ever to dwell in the forest: one named Aladai, who lived with her elven husband Elban. They had met in a twisted turn of events, which is a whole different story that will take too long to tell. But in the cottage, they lived with their two children: A girl named Ézia, who had aged 132 Keirad (11.3 Earth years) and a boy named Iduil, who had aged 89 Keirad (8 Earth Years).
From the time they were born, they were raised in the culture of the Keinlendi. When the time came for the eldest to begin her training, at the age of two Earth years, (as any Elf would) she was presented before the council of High Elves as any Elven child would be. It was the custom when a child became of age, 24 Keirad, that he or she was brought before the High Elves, and they would be assigned a mentor, who would train them the art of Tastena every day. When they were presented Ézia, all of the mentors, except for one, refused to train her because of her race. This elf’s name was Feilkora. She had just joined the ranks of the Soturi, and if it were an elf she was training, it would be denied, for a lack of her experience. But since she wasn’t training a full blooded Keinlendi, she was granted permission, because they figured it wouldn’t hurt anything. When it became time for Iduil’s training, the exact same situation happened: the only one who stepped up to be his mentor, was Feilkora’s younger sister, Arken.
Feilkora and Arken turned out to be phenomenal teachers, and their students were among the most talented Elven martial artists ever seen. The beginning of our story is not too long after Ézia had been named a full Sotur, at the rare young age of 110 Keirad. (The average age is around 178) Her younger brother was very close to becoming one, an estimated time of thirty some Keirad away. But sadly, not even the elders would admit that their talent, because they were half human, but the law required them to be added amongst the Keinlendi Soturi. But instead of moving to live with the army, they both decided to live with their parents, in the cottage by the sea.
The beginning of our story.
I am afraid to say, it isn't a happy one.
It was raining lightly, and the sky was covered with clouds. Through the gloom, the lookouts had seen shapes emerge. Rumors were spread about ships full of men of an unknown origin, parked on the Elves’ shores, visible from the Cottage of Elban. The many spies sent to investigate, learned of their plot to take Kirthōrn little by little. They underestimated the Keinlendi, and the Keinlendi ready to fight underestimated the men. Few who were stationed hiding on the shores made it back alive, and the first battalion of men were caught by surprise, and retreated. But the elves became outnumbered, and those who did not meet their demise retreated, and blew the warning horns right as the men advanced into the forest, raiding the homes, and sparing not even the women and children.
By the time Ézia and Iduil had heard the horns, the enemy had made it to their front door, armed, and ready to ravage the bungalow. Without a word, the two siblings had grabbed their weapons and armor, and made it to the main chamber.
Their father and mother were nowhere in sight.
The two men stood and talked to each other in their own tongue. Ézia could comprehend very little of the speech, but enough. Her jaw dropped in shock, and she fell silently to the floor, her body shaking violently.
“Mitä e sanova?” Iduil said, asking what they were saying in fear,
“Horla in kasi rumista…” “They have two bodies…” “Keinlendi... ja Miende” “An Elf… and a Human.”
“It is not our...” Iduil belted back in his own dialect, “No!”
Ézia stood up, and both of them began weeping heavily, but with a sudden jerk, she pushed her brother to the wall.
“They are coming now,” she said with a quivering lip, “there are two of them!”
She began walking towards the door to face the men.
“Ei!” Iduil said, grabbing her by the arm, “I will go first. Do not argue.”
“I will not lose you,”
He began crying again, looked into her eyes, and shoved her backwards onto the floor faster than she could react. Her ears were met by a sudden short, but shrill cry. The two soldiers were not expecting any more people to be inside, and they definitely did not expect her to come out armed with dual Yatagans, screaming a war cry in anger. The first, she kicked off of the ledge, falling almost fifty feet to his demise. The second, she hit on the elbow, and also fell from the berm to meet the same demise. There, she bent over her brother, and the bodies of her mother, and father.
“Iti!” she cried, shaking the body of Aladai, “Isä! Hertä! Ei! Ei! Ei…” she began weeping heavily.
“Ézia?” A voice said, and she turned to find the pale face of her brother on her.
“Iduil!” she said, then her brother coughed up blood; he had been hit in the ribs by a mace.
“You can make it! Come with me!
“No! I’ve served my purpose. It is time for you to serve yours.”
Ézia stared into his eyes, and found herself suddenly angry at his stubbornness.
“I didn’t give you an option.” she said. As she attempted to lift him from his resting place, he winced in pain, and gave a feeble shout.
“Ézia!” he said, “Let it be! There’s nothing you can do to stop it!”
She was shocked at the bravery he showed. She fought hard not to cry.
“Iduil!” she said,
“Listen!” he was now in very obvious agony, “I have no idea why I have to say this, but I do. Go-- Go to the mountains. Go to the mountains and don’t come back!” he whispered with a smile on his face, seemingly free of pain for the moment.
“I- I- I-” His eyes began to roll mindlessly in his head, and his face grew paler than what seemed possible. “I don’t know.” he said. There was a slight pause, then he inhaled deeply, closed his eyes, and with a completely different voice, said “Itholdur awaits there! I don’t know how long, but one day, you will find him.”
“Itholdur? That’s only a legend!”
Iduil grimaced and coughed up more blood. He came extremely close to dying, but he was able to fight just enough to pull one more breath into his shredded lungs, and bark “GO! NOW!”
“No, No!” she shook him by the shoulders, “You are coming with me!” she yelled in his face. His head bobbed, lifeless, and his empty eyes stared out into the abyss of the stars.
Ézia kissed the head of her brother, laid him down, and obeyed. Taking her seemingly only option, she scaled the branches of the tree. Her hair became wet with tears, and her hands violently shook with shock. When she reached a branch twice as high as their dwelling was from the ground, she bellowed with all her might "Zuldas! Zuldas, Ata!” and the magnificent painted Lohikarm, rose from the battlefield to come to her aid. She had always known this dragon, for Feilkora was her rider, and he had always loved her and Iduil. He let loose a thunderous outcry in response, and flew to her aid. The archers that she alerted of her position, let loose a cloud of about twenty arrows in her direction. Only one found its mark, but was stopped by the leather armor on her back, and the impact sent pain down her spine. Watching the Lohikarm rise, then descend to her level, she stood, and paid close attention to its position in the sky. Right before he dove under her, she leapt, and landed on his back, just behind his wings, and was able to catch one of the dragon’s horns, just as it banked upwards. She made her way to the shoulderblades, and used her leather backplate as a makeshift saddle.
What did he mean by “Itholdur awaits”?
She whispered instructions to the beast:
“Leta itan, ala lopea.” “Fly east, and do not stop.”
Sitting on the back of the dragon, Ézia heard the sounds of war in the distance. Once again she began to weep, for a large number of reasons.
Mother! Father! Iduil! What have I done? Abandoned my people? I am fleeing on the back of a dragon that isn’t even my own. They need me, and I am running away!
She thought back to her brother's last words.
“Into the mountains”
The shock returned, her family was gone. Then, suddenly, the old shock left, a new began, and she began to comprehend the reality of the situation. Her mother, father, and brother were gone… forever. Then her lip stopped shaking, and her shoulders began. She cried out, as one in severe pain, then, her head collapsed into her hands, and she wept.
Zuldas grunted in sorrow as he learned of one of his best friend’s death.
More soldiers from the north arrived at the dawn of the next day, and drove away the army of men. When Zuldas returned and explained the reason for Ézia’s departure, many Elves became filled with spiteful hate for her; they did not understand why she had to leave. Ézia herself never learned exactly why Iduil told her to go to the mountains for nearly 34 Keirad. More soldiers from the north arrived at the dawn of the next day, and drove away the army of men. And the dead numbered four hundred and sixty seven. Once every five Keirad, every Elf in the forest would gather on the battlefield for a solemnity that they called Lajoen Mūreid Jua, meaning the Feast of Those Lost.
Ézia never knew this. She flew beside the sunrise, bobbing up and down. Below her was the rolling grandeur of the forest she dared call home, completely oblivious as to how many had died, aside from her family. The curiosity never ebbed: day by day, she wondered what it was, and why. She deserved to know, but she didn’t dare dishonor her brother’s last request. After weeks of travel, the dragon and its rider landed at the mouth of a small valley well into the heart of the mountains. Ézia looked west into the falling gloom of a thunderstorm. What was her home like miles away? Slowly, sitting on a stone as Zuldas departed to rejoin her master, she began to recall her plans that she had just the evening before. For all she knew, Kirthōrn could’ve been burned by now. And she was at least a thousand miles away, safe from danger. Distress took her mind, partly because she couldn’t decide if she had done the right thing: was he just delusional or did he actually have a vision or something of the sort explaining how my destiny was to come to this forsaken rock?
These things hung heavy on her mind: She was alone, she was afraid, and she was but a young girl. She had traveled more now than many had in their lifetimes, and nobody knew where she was except for the beast. She might not even survive the night.
In the silence, she told herself she was strong, and that she had no choice but to live. But one thing was branded into her heart, or rather, a piece was taken out of it: she had lost everything in less than ten minutes. So ever so solemnly, she sat. And she watched.