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C.A. Oliver owns, or has title to the rights to, all of the items that make up this Document, particularly the text, names, maps and designs. It is prohibited to reproduce, represent, distribute or redistribute the contents of the Document by any means whatsoever, whether in whole or in part, without the prior express authorization of C.A. Oliver. Such action constitutes an infringement of rights for which penalties are provided under Articles L. 335-2 et seq. of the French Intellectual Property Code.
Llewenti Islands and all associated marks, logos, creatures, names, races, insignia, devices, logos, symbols, locations, maps, characters, products, games, designs, illustrations and images from the “Tales of the Llewenti Islands” world that appear on this Document are registered trademarks of Copyright © Llewenti Islands 2016 – All rights reserved.
Any reproduction, whether in whole or in part, of said trademarks and said logos, made using parts of the Document without the prior authorization of C.A. Oliver or any assignee thereof shall therefore be prohibited, within the meaning of Article L. 713-2 of the French Intellectual Property Code 13.
Tales of the Llewenti Islands existing publications
Nyn Llyvary, BOD 2016
Nyn Ernaly, BOD 2017
Tales of the Llewenti Islands forthcoming publications
Gwa Nyn (2018)
To the Council of Colours, my primary source of inspiration,
To my two Elvin daughters, Marion the Hawenti and Mathilde the Llewenti, for their joyful enthusiasm and boundless confidence,
To Agatha, my Irawenti muse from the city of Cariocas,
And finally to the first readers of Nyn Llyvary for their keen eyes and encouragement
C. A. Oliver was born in 1971. He spent most of his youth in Bordeaux, but also studied for several years in Oxford and was greatly influenced by his numerous stays in Great Britain.
Working as a financial executive in the entertainment industry, he developed extensive experience in international finance.
As a former war game player and role playing game master, he created his own strategic campaign game to entertain his best friends, which he developed over a period of more than ten years.
In the early 2000s, C. A. Oliver began to devise the ‘Tales of the Llewenti Islands’ and developed a complex geopolitical and historical environment which is the setting for the six books of the series.
He now lives between Paris and Rio de Janeiro.
Major Elvin nations, factions and characters
CHAPTER 1: Dyoren
CHAPTER 2: Nyriele
CHAPTER 3: Camatael
CHAPTER 4: Saeröl
CHAPTER 5: Curwë
CHAPTER 6: Aewöl
CHAPTER 7: Moramsing
Geopolitical map of the Llewenti islands
Clans and Houses of the Elves – Genealogy
The assembly of the Gods
Chronology of events
Visit the ‘Legends and Lore’ section of the Tales of the Llewenti Islands web site to enhance your reading experience.
Discover dozens of exclusive illustrations and maps and learn more about your favourite characters.
The Hawenti accepted the gift of the Gods and became immortal.
The Wenti refused the gift of the Gods and remained free and mortal.
The High Elves are called ‘Hawenti’ in the language of the Llewenti, as opposed to the ‘Wenti’ who identify as ‘free’ Elves. The Hawenti accepted the gift of immortality offered by the Gods. They are immortal in the sense that they are not vulnerable to disease or the effects of old age although they can be killed in battle. They are divided into two main nations: the Gold Elves (the most prominent) and the Silver Elves. The Hawenti have a greater depth of knowledge than other Elvin nations, due to their natural inclination for learning as well as their extreme age. Their power and wisdom know no comparison and within their eyes the fire of eternity can be seen. This kindred of the Elves were ever distinguished both by their knowledge of things and by their desire to know more.
The Night Elves are called ‘Morawenti’ in the language of the Llewenti. The Morawenti are a subdivision of the Silver Elves, the second of the Hawenti nations. They are therefore counted among the High Elves as they accepted the gift of immortality offered by the Gods. Morawenti are immortal in the sense that they are not vulnerable to disease or the effects of old age although they too can be killed in battle. Morawenti tend to be thinner and taller in size than other Elves. Their very pale skin, almost livid, characterises them while their gaze is deep and mysterious. They all have dark hair while their eye colour varies between grey and black. They favour wearing dark coloured tunics with grey or green shades and robes of fine linens, cotton or silk.
One of the seven nations of ‘free’ Elves, they are called ‘Llewenti’ in their language, ‘Llew’ meaning ‘Green’ and ‘Wenti’ meaning ‘Elves’. They were so named, because their first Patriarch’s attire was green. They are counted among the nations of Elves who refused the gift of immortality offered by the Gods. Llewenti enjoy much longer life than Men, living for five to six centuries depending on their bloodline. Their race is similar in appearance to humans but they are fairer and wiser, with greater spiritual powers, keener senses, and a deeper empathy with nature. They are for the most part a simple, peaceful, and reclusive people, famous for their singing skills. With sharper senses, they are highly skilled at crafts especially when using natural resources. The Green Elves are wise in the ways of the forest and the natural world.
One of the seven nations of the ‘free’ Elves, they are called ‘Irawenti’ in the language of the Llewenti, ‘Ira’ meaning ‘Blue’ and ‘Wenti’ meaning ‘Elves’. They were so named, because their first Guide’s eyes had the colour of the tropical seas and azure reflections emanated from his black hair. They are counted among the nations of Elves who refused the gift of immortality offered by the Gods. Irawenti enjoy much longer life than men, living for four to five centuries depending on their bloodline. Their race is similar in appearance to the Green Elves but darker and wilder, with greater physical powers and a closer empathy with water. They are for the most part a free, joyful and adventurous people, famous for their navigation skills.
Having sharper connection with rivers and oceans, they are at their strongest and most knowledgeable when aboard their ships. The Blue Elves are wise in the ways of the sea.
KINGDOM OF GWARYSTAN
THE ROYAL HOUSE OF DOR ILORM
The Hawenti ruling House of the principal realm in the Llewenti Islands
Norelin Dor Ilorm: King of Gwarystan, Sovereign of the Hawenti, Protector of the Llewenti, and Overlord of the Islands
THE GUILD OF SANA
Secret Guild in the Llewenti Islands
Saeröl Dir Sana:
Master of the Guild of Sana
FOREST OF LLYMAR
THE CLAN LLYVARY
Llewenti clan, principal and historical members of the Council of Llymar Forest
Lyrine dyl Llyvary, ‘the Lady of Llafal’
: Elder Matriarch of the Llewenti
Nyriele dyl Llyvary, ‘Llyoriane’s Heir’
: Llewenti Matriarch, High Priestess of Eïwele Llyi in Llafal
Tyar dyl Llyvary, ‘the Old Bird’:
Warlord of Llafal
THE CLAN ERNALY
Llewenti clan originating from Nyn Ernaly, members of the Council of Llymar Forest
Mynar dyl Ernaly, ‘the Fair’
: Warlord of Tios Halabron
Voryn dyl Ernaly, ‘the Ugly’
: Captain of Tios Halabron
Lore, ‘the Daughter of the Islands’
: Gran Druidess, Envoy of Eïwele Llya
Dyoren, ‘the Lonely Seeker’
: Knight of the Secret Vale
THE CLAN AVRONY
Llewenti clan originating from Nyn Avrony, members of the Council of Llymar Forest
Gal dyl Avrony
: Warlord of clan Avrony
HOUSE OF DOL ETROND
Rebel Hawenti House originating from Ystanetrond, members of the Council of Llymar Forest
Curubor Dol Etrond, ‘the Blue Mage’
: Guardian of Tios Lluin
Almit Dol Etrond
: Lord of the House of Dol Etrond, Warlord of Tios Lluin
Loriele Dol Etrond
: Noble Hawenti Lady
HOUSE OF DOL LEWIN- SECOND BRANCH
One of the twelve Hawenti Houses of the Kingdom of Gwarystan, originating from Mentolewin
Camatael Dol Lewin
: Lord of the House of Dol Lewin, Envoy of the King in Nyn Llyvary
COMMUNITY OF MENTOLLÀ
Group of Irawenti and Hawenti refugees originating from Essawylor across the Austral Ocean, members of the Council of Llymar Forest
: Commander of Mentollà
: Herald of Mentollà and Master of Essawylor Halls
: Counsellor and Master of Essawylor Halls
: Hunt Master of Mentollà and Aewöl’s servant
1 See also in the annexes the geopolitical map of the Llewenti Islands and the heraldry lore of the Hawenti Houses, Irawenti clans and Llewenti clans
2712, Season of Eïwele Llya, 78th day, Nyn Ernaly, Hageyu falls
The tree was about to fall. Axes from both sides had hacked their way towards the centre of the great trunk, and the ancient oak was creaking forwards over its newly formed hinge. The men dropped their tools and threw themselves out of harm’s way.
“Move!” shouted the Chief Slaver, as the thick lower branches of the oak crashed into the humid soil below, obliterating every plant within their reach. As the tree fell, a loud howl tore through the air, as its soul were fleeing its ruined shell in terror.
All hope of saving the great oak had gone. Several hours of heavy downpour had not prevented its end. The moment the great trunk lay motionless across the earth, the rain ceased. Eïwele Llya, Mother of the Islands, deity of nature and fertility, had wiped the tears from her eyes. She knew that there would be more wailing to come, for the old order was passing away.
Midday approached. The forest, indifferent to the loss of one its oldest inhabitants, was suddenly gaining new life. Birdsong emanated from the bushes, scampering squirrels rustled between the tree branches overhead, and even an unseen predator added its low growl to the melody of the woodland. A light breeze carried the murmur of a distant waterfall.
“Marshal the Giants of Chanun,”2 ordered the Chief Slaver, eager to win back time now that the rain was over. “Move faster, you lazy scum!” he barked.
The chief of this site was a tall man from Nat-Lim,3 that faraway maritime empire whose main island lay beyond the Sunset Ocean. Though he was a Westerner, the man relied on the local language to communicate instructions. Over the centuries, the language of the Llewenti4, owing to its simple structure, had become the common tongue throughout the Archipelago. The members of his unit came from various human tribes of the Mainland, whose loyalty was now sworn to the Empire of Nat-Lim. The Chief Slaver frowned, his face made pale by his lack of sleep. As he looked about him, he stroked his beard, as he always did to conceal his worry.
“Get those beasts to work immediately, or this won’t be a day you’ll forget,” he warned. The cold hatred in his eyes guaranteed the sincerity of his threat.
Then came the screech of steel grinding against steel. A score of slavers, escorted by a dozen soldiers, led three chained Giants to the site of the fallen tree. Each day, from sunrise to sunset, these enslaved behemoths would clear the forest floor: ripping out ancient stumps, pulling up thick roots, and heaving gigantic logs and boulders. They would then dig deep trenches into the desecrated earth. After this carnage, other men would light fires on the hillsides, which blazed through the destroyed woodlands, leaving fields of smouldering black earth. A third team made of farmers and peasants then planted fruit trees, methodically organizing new orchards that would turn out to be as ordered as any farmland around Tar-Andevar.5
Since their conquest of Nyn Ernaly,6 the men had slashed and burned their way through most of the island’s forests, amassing timber and clearing the way for farming. In the wake of the invaders, the soil, now unprotected by the trees, had become eroded by the rain. The impoverished land could no longer regenerate as it had done so for centuries, meaning the insatiable men had to keep expanding their devastation ever further. It was as though the land of Nyn Ernaly was bleeding. The men, as they relentlessly turned over its red soil, were feeding their insatiable hunger with the earth’s blood.
The havoc was overseen by a dozen Western guards, led by a mounted Commander. These soldiers were tall and strong, covered in plate armour and equipped with halberds and lances. The weary and weatherworn Giants were constrained by enormous chains that bound them all together. They were worked to exhaustion, breaking, cutting and weeding out what little resistance the landscape had left to offer. The slavers denied them any rest until they had completed their day’s work: logging a dozen trees each. That was the price to pay for their food and night-time rest. If the Giants’ progress ever faltered, they would soon feel the slavers’ fury upon their backs. These men relished in reminding their captives who their true masters were: whipping, beating and administering all manner of cruel and degrading punishments.
With each of the slavers’ threats and blows, the Wood of Silver Leaves was being destroyed.
From their high castle windows some distance to the south, the Sea Hierarchs of Tar-Andevar, the Rulers of Nyn Ernaly, contemplated the Giants’ efforts with satisfaction. It was they who had ordered this unprecedented deforestation; as their town’s population had swelled the need for timber had grown ever greater. The landscape around them was being transformed. There were many other groups of slavers and Giants at work, wrecking the same unrelenting destruction for miles around. The southern lands of Nyn Ernaly were being torn apart. Acres of forest were disappearing from the hills. Discoloured rivers mournfully swept the forest’s broken branches and scorched leaves out into the sea. The hills, so recently adorned with a thousand ancient trees, now stood bare and sad, tamed and beaten by the corrupting human invaders. The richness of the hills had been destroyed and extracted to the sound of the slavers’ whips and the cries of the Giants. It flowed out towards the glorious town of Tar-Andevar as if from slashed veins, and the men pumped their stolen lifeblood into the holds of their ships that waited hungrily in the harbour.
After the Westerners had conquered Nyn Ernaly, they had settled with almost nothing, save for the depraved ambition they brought with them wherever they roamed. Less than a century later, they had tamed most of the fertile land, squeezing everything they could out of its soil. Furthermore, the men had defended their new territories with the same ferocity of their barbarous appetite. They had fertilized their stolen land with the blood of their enemies. The broken corpses of Giants strewn across the fields and the mutilated bodies of Llewenti rebels hanging along the roads bore witness to the violence of the human regime.
The Lords of Tar-Andevar showed no mercy. They were possessed by a higher purpose. When they looked out upon their neatly ordered plantations that not even the storms of the Austral Ocean7 could disturb, they felt proud, like captains at sea impervious to Eïwal Ffeyn’s8 wrath.
The lands of the Llewenti Islands controlled by the Sea Hierarchs were populated by many thousands of men, most of them young and strong. They were tireless workers, unafraid of toil and sweat. Nevertheless, as with all territories the Sea Hierarchs had colonized in the Mainland, slavery had become common practise across the Archipelago. Yet in Nyn Ernaly it had reached a higher level of cruel sophistication. The Sea Hierarchs had managed to enslave Giants in great number and bend them to their wills. The men claimed that these creatures, whose height could typically reach twelve feet, had no soul and no sanctity, that they could not even be considered to be living beings. For proof, Westerners would cite the fact that Giants were born of the earth and that they could not engender children of their own. They found further justification for their views in the ancient Llewenti legends that stated Giants were created by Gweïwal Agadeon, the Greater God of the Underworld and sent to the Archipelago to challenge the Islands Deities’ power, punish them for their rebellion, and wreak chaos across their lands.
Nevertheless, when dealing with Elves from the Kingdom of Gwarystan,9 slavers of the Sea Hierarchs were mindful of what they said about this sensitive topic. They argued that their own treatment of slaves was far more respectable than the customs of the barbarian tribes. They stressed that they only used limited violence to keep the Giants in check, that their charges were amply fed and that the beasts were adjusting reasonably well to their new condition.
The truth was somewhat different. Despite their carefully phrased remarks, the Western slavers of the Sea Hierarchs treated their captives no better than any other merchant of that evil trade. They too relied upon torture of the body and mind: Westerners would go so far as to carry out punitive amputations, and threats of execution always loomed heavy over the captives.
Since the signing of the Pact that had transferred rule of Nyn Ernaly to the Westerners, the Elves that still lived on the island had come to accept the practise of slavery. Most of the Elvin folk inhabiting the First Sunset Island were of Llewenti origin. It was a mixed population who had long ago abandoned the traditions of their ancient clans, at first bending their knee to their Hawenti conquerors. The Westerners had then supplanted the High Elves, and the inhabitants of Nyn Ernaly were given new masters. Wisdom and prudence dictated to accept their ways, so long as their own selfish interests were preserved.
Never had there existed any kind of friendship between the Elves and the Giants of Chanun, as this race was called in these parts of the Archipelago. Historically, they had always been the scourge of Nyn Ernaly’s hills. These huge, ugly and hostile creatures would attack those who ventured into the wild part of the island. In their forgotten days of glory, they could muster terrifying forces and plunder Llewenti settlements. Such expeditions would mean slaughter and destruction for the Elves. However, since the Westerners had assumed their rule over the First Sunset Island, those dreaded, colossal foes had been hunted down in the remote and isolated places where they dwelled; mountain ranges and underground caverns alike had been systematically searched out, and the fleeing Giants had been irremediably enslaved.
Their simple language was as rough as the rocky quarries from which they emerged. At the site of the felled great oak, the sun was already high in the sky, and sweat poured from the Giants’ bodies as the summer’s day reached its hottest peak. One of the three Giants of Chanun began to express his discontent in wild yells.
“JURK, BOTA! JENKCHE! KRABAK! ORKY SU AKAGO LAKBRAR?”10 The chains that ensnared Old Gamo, as was his name, to his unfortunate companion, who was now completely motionless, were severely slowing him down. Fear of punishment soon flooded through Gamo’s mind.
The second Giant, who had been named Big Bota, did not seem to hear these complaints. Every ounce of his limited intellect was focused on something else: something invisible, odourless and soundless. Giants of Chanun, natives of Nyn Ernaly, were usually short and stocky in comparison to other Giants of the Llewenti Islands. But Bota was much larger, towering above his two other companions from a height of fourteen feet. He was also extremely muscular, capable of hurling huge boulders. The comparative shortness of his limbs made his thick arms look all the more fearsome.
“TUK FOMEK?”11 Old Gamo asked, guessing that Bota must have been suffering from the same hungriness that tortured him. Giants of Chanun possessed a very high metabolism and, as a result, needed a great quantity of food. These colossal beings would devour almost anything and they were not averse to eating humans or elves.
The lash of a whip suddenly interrupted their exchange, and Old Gamo felt the pain searing across his back. The slavers’ punishment had come but a moment after they had paused their work. Now Gamo was angry with his companion, who still seemed absorbed in his inner torment. By stopping, Bota was paralysing the progress of all three Giants, endangering them all. In Chanun society, betraying one’s tribe was the worst possible evil, and though the hierarchy of Giants was determined by a combination of physical strength and appetite for food, solidarity was the cornerstone of their relationships. Big Bota’s refusal to move would lead to retribution.
“TEN KE ANKAR!”12 ordered Old Gamo. The stress in his voice indicated that his limited patience was already spent.
The only answer he could extract from his companion was unintelligible. A horn blew, and soon Western guards were reaching for their spears and halberds. The impending punishment promised to be severe.
Suddenly, Big Bota started to move erratically, his hands reaching up to cover his ears. His huge, muscular body was convulsing violently. He then began shouting ferociously, as if possessed by a wild spirit.
“Can you hear the music? Can you hear that evil sound?”
Big Bota was expressing his anguish in Llewenti.
The two other Giants of Chanun looked at each other in total disbelief. There was no sound around them but the loud orders the Commander of the Westerners was giving to his troops to begin the punishment. A dozen guards, their weapons raised high, started to encircle the three wretched slaves. The air grew tense with the promise of imminent bloodshed. The slavers, whose sole duty was to supervise the Giants’, work, chose to retreat cautiously, knowing that their whips and short swords would be of no use in what was to come.
“Do you hear the music; do you hear that evil Elvin song?” Big Bota roared. He gestured chaotically, driven to madness by some unknown soundless witchcraft penetrating his mind.
“The music must stop! Do you hear? It must be stopped!” He cried, now totally lost.
Bota pulled at his chains, and the third and smallest Giant was toppled over violently. Rushing towards him, Big Bota started to beat the fallen slave with his huge fists, still shouting out in that Elvin tongue that was not his own. “Ogo! Stop the music! Do you hear? The music must stop!”
But Young Ogo could do nothing to help him. He had been surprised by the sudden violence of his companion. His meagre resistance to the series of blows crashing down upon his head soon faltered. Before long, Ogo was nothing more than a bloody, motionless corpse, his brains seeping out from what remained of his skull onto the humid forest floor below.
Old Gamo was terrified. He decided to flee. But the chain linking him to Bota soon became taught, and its sudden steel resistance knocked Gamo to the ground. In a heartbeat, the mad Giant was on top of Gamo, raising a large boulder high into the air. With all the strength that only madness can produce, he hurled it down at his helpless companion.
“The music must stop!” he repeated incessantly, his horrible voice degrading the Elvin words.
Not content with the devastating wounds inflicted upon Old Gamo by the boulder, Big Bota set upon the now defenceless body of his companion. The unrelenting blows of his fists soon crushed Gamo’s head into the earth.
Until that moment, the Guards had observed the bloody scene, keeping strictly to their ordered, defensive formation. An encircling wall of their large shields denied any hope of flight to the mad Giant. At the bark of their Commander, the soldiers aimed their lances forward, forming an even closer deadly circle around the Giant. Behind their iron visors, their gaze showed resolution mixed with no small anxiety. They had heard similar stories in the taverns of Tar-Andevar, tales of Chanun Giants who, bewitched by Elvin sorcery, had savagely killed many soldiers of the Sea Hierarchs’ army before the rebellious slaves met their own bitter end.
From atop his horse a few yards from the melee, the Commander of the Westerners was coordinating the final assault. Everything about his attire demonstrated his high status and prowess in battle: the glistening plate armour, the navy blue cloak around his broad shoulders, and the golden helmet bearing the insignia of Nat-Lim, a wide sun setting over the horizon of the sea. This Commander had seen many battles, mostly at sea but also on solid ground after the Sea Hierarchs had conquered Nyn Ernaly. He was an experienced leader. Safely positioned a few yards behind his troops, he could never have anticipated what was about to occur.
Bota rushed towards the charging guards, dragging the corpses of his two former companions by his chains. Ignoring the stabs of the lances and the cuts of the halberds, the Giant broke through the circle. After smashing three Western soldiers to the ground, he grabbed two other Guards with each of his big hands. With his unnatural strength, galvanised by the pain still pounding through his head, he threw the desperate men, one by one, across half a dozen yards away towards their Commander. The first human projectile hit the horse’s front legs, nearly causing it to topple. The second crashed into its head and ensured its fall. The Commander was caught. Failing to remove his heavy iron sabatons from the stirrups, he came tumbling down with his mount on its left side. His leg was snapped and crushed in several places, and the searing pain left him just enough consciousness to hear, rather than see, the continuing bloodshed around him. One by one, his soldiers fell to the wrath of the mad Giant, as they tried in vain to bring him down with their weapons. The last four guards, abandoning all hope of defeating the monster, decided to flee, casting their shields and weapons down onto the forest floor as they ran.
Though he desperately tried, the Commander could not free himself from the weight of the dead horse that was trapping him. He heard the thudding of the great Chanun Giant approaching, still dragging behind him the heavy corpses of Old Gamo and Young Ogo.
“The music must stop!” were the last words the Commander heard. He caught only a glimpse of the madness in Big Bota’s gaze before the Giant ripped his helmeted head from his body.
Some distance away, up the grassland at the edge of the forest, the Elf Dyoren, wrapped in his long brown cloak, was almost invisible. He was hiding behind a broad old oak which, though gnarled and weather-beaten, was still living. Flower-rich meadows such as the ones surrounding it were unlikely survivors from the days of old, particularly so close to a site of reckless deforestation. But here, the ditches helped drain the winter floodwater, and the thick reeds provided sanctuary for the birds. Butterflies supped from the nectar of the colourful wild plants all around.
Dyoren’s long, thin blond hair was fading to a golden white, and his face had become tanned from the long days he had spent outdoors. His gaze was clear and focussed. The Lonely Seeker then stopped his soundless chant, ending the powerful spell of ancient Llewenti tradition that had drawn away much of his forces.
Recovering his senses, Dyoren peeked out from behind the oak, chancing a look at how the situation was evolving at the slavers’ site below. A single Chanun Giant, the sole survivor, was just now contemplating with horror the carnage he had wrecked. Indifferent to the numerous dripping wounds about his own body, the Giant began to cry over the corpses of his two former companions. It was the first time the Lonely Seeker had seen one of these Giants express pain in such a demonstrative way.
However, spurring himself into action once again, Dyoren set about anticipating what his enemies’ next move would be.
He darted towards a nearby pine, which rose towards the heavens as straight as an upward arrow, and started to climb. Now a hundred feet above ground, he orientated himself by looking to the tops of the Arob Chanun Mountains on the distant horizon. The tips of two twin mountains towered above the rest. Hawks and falcons circled around the slopes, barren of trees and vegetation. Only birds of prey such as these could use those peaks for their hunting ground; the sheer cliff edges kept other predators at bay. Drawing a long flute from his satchel, Dyoren began to play a strange tune. The instrument, carved from rare Llymar wood, emitted no audible sound, at least to the ears of men. Dyoren played his instrument for a long time. Though he kept an eye on the wailing Giant below, his attention was mainly focussed on the flight of the birds of prey to which his silent music seemed destined. As they soared through the air above the mountains, perhaps more than two leagues away from him, he could not be certain they would hear his call.
Dyoren stopped his strange flute’s song. Something was happening below. To the south, down the path along which the surviving four soldiers had fled, a dust cloud appeared. It likely signalled the arrival of a troop of riders.
The Lonely Seeker did not have to wait long before his theory was verified. Indeed, two entire units of Nat-Lim cavaliers were riding swiftly towards his position. The group was fifty strong, mounted on sturdy war horses and covered head-to-toe in plate mail. They were no doubt part of the elite army who served the Sea Hierarchs directly. The charging soldiers proudly carried the banner of the setting sun behind a golden tower: the emblem of Tar-Andevar.
“To arrive this quickly, fully equipped for battle, they must have been waiting nearby,” thought Dyoren. “Someone has positioned these cavaliers anticipating I would strike again. This may be a trap.”
He then made out, among the navy-blue cloaks of the soldiers, one particular man mounted on a great black steed. This confirmed Dyoren’s fear. Now that the riders had approached the site of the fallen oak and the surviving Giant, the dark horse was galloping to overtake the rest of the cavalry, eventually positioning itself at the front. The cavalier who rode it was no ordinary Nat-Lim Commander. Dyoren recognized his order immediately from his headdress: a ruby-red cloth wrapped about his face and head, masking everything but his eyes. His plate armour, covered in a large cloak the colour of blood, was of the finest Elvin quality. He wore a gauntlet upon his left hand, a Golden Hand of rare design and a deadly weapon in close combat. The gauntlet had six fingers.
“Find the Elf! Find the Elf!” the Knight of the Golden Hand ordered, his growling voice rising above the stomping of hooves as they spread out from the dirt road towards the edge of the forest.
None but the Knight of the Golden Hand seemed concerned by the fate of Big Bota, the mad Giant who now stoically awaited his end, standing tall and proud at the centre of the battlefield. The navy-blue cloaks continued charging up the hill towards the trees at the forest’s edge, carefully circumnavigating the Chanun Giant. But he who appeared to be their commander stopped his black steed thirty yards from the rebel slave he now intended to dispatch. Slowly, without a word, the Knight of the Golden Hand drew from his saddle a heavy war hammer that had hung by the flank of his horse.
The weapon’s handle, as long as a halberd’s, was of a hard, dark wood, and the weight of its fearsome head could be sensed from a distance. This was a new kind of pole arm, designed to be used against other riders from horseback. The formidable war hammer had been developed by the Westerners during their war against the Elves. The blades of swords and battle-axes tended to rebound at high speeds on horseback, losing much of their impact, especially against the high curvature of Elvin plate mail. War hammers such as this could inflict great damage without penetrating armour.
This particular instrument had also a spike on one side of its head, making it more versatile. It could be spun round to pierce flesh, mail or hide.
Wielding it with his covered left hand, the Knight started swinging the fearsome weapon high above his head. Dyoren was amazed at the quickness of the movement given the hammer’s size and weight.
Seeing that the end was near, Big Bota charged. For the final time, he dragged forward the chained corpses of his two companions. But the Giant of Chanun did not get far, and his attack was soon thwarted. The terrifying war hammer flew through the air. It hit him directly in his head, tearing off the left side of his skull. The Giant faltered, his hands reaching for his forehead. Blood and brain matter covered his gnarled fingers.
As he let out one last cry of pain, the war hammer began circling back towards its master’s outstretched gauntlet. The Knight of the Golden Hand spurred his dark stallion forward, before releasing his weapon again. The full force of the hammer hit the Giant straight in the chest. Big Bota fell backwards, defeated.
“The Golden Hand is looking for me,” Dyoren suddenly realized.
Still in shock after the demonstration of power he had just witnessed, the Lonely Seeker knew he had to move. Reaching out to a nearby branch, he then slid down the pine’s trunk to ground level, concealing himself with the thick lower branches. Without looking back, Dyoren started to run, his broadsword Rymsing13 dangling on his back with its blade bare. Multiple thoughts rushed through his head.
‘If this is a trap, if that fallen oak was the bait, then other Knights of the Golden Hand with their own units will be positioned in the woods all around here. I must withdraw quickly to the falls. I can make it to the Hageyu River and escape.’
But soon, with the steepening slope, his breath grew short. The dense vegetation was slowing his progress. So he started to sing. Dyoren intoned the war chant of the trees that he knew so well. His mother, a powerful Matriarch of the clan Ernaly,14 versed in the ways of Eïwele Llya,15 had taught him those sacred lyrics long ago. As he sang louder and louder, he ran faster and faster. A path was continuously opening before him as he fled, as though the small trees, wild plants and thick shrubs wanted him to escape and survive.
“Find the Elf! Find the Elf! Find the Elf!” the Golden Hand’s orders rang out throughout the forest. The hunt had commenced and, this time, the Lonely Seeker was the prey.
Dyoren kept running through the forest. He was concentrated intensely on which route to take. His objective was to reach the Hageyu River, which flowed down in waterfalls from a large lake up in the hills. Once he reached this haven, he would be safe, for no man knew the old paths of the Elves beyond the Hageyu Falls. Obsessed with maintaining speed and afraid to find his route blocked, the Lonely Seeker opted for short cuts, meaning ever rougher terrain and even steeper slopes.
‘This is getting too dangerous,” thought Dyoren. “This errand has become ineffective, even suicidal. I will have us leave this dreaded place and return to Nargrond. Our holy quest calls us to the valley, not to these old woods. Nyn Ernaly is lost.’
A few hundred yards downhill, a group of men were pushing though the wild vegetation and ancestral trees with difficulty. Their skin was dark and shone with sweat. Wearing rough brown tunics and walking in tired mountain boots, they carried with them scythes of gleaming iron. With them were a pack of ferocious hounds, barking and grunting, straining to be unleashed to follow his scent. Dyoren moved forward up the hill, putting as much distance as possible between him and the hunting dogs. He drew from his pocket a small vial and, still running, sprinkled its powder onto his clothes, shoes and hair. Its powerful scent would confuse the hounds. The Llewenti Matriarchs, versed in the ways of Eïwele Llya, had been preparing such potions for centuries, and no animal in the Islands had ever been known to elude its effects. Dyoren accelerated his pace, controlling his breath, his blade beating reassuringly upon his back. The colour of his cloak blended into the woodland, making his progress almost undetectable.
“I must be less than one league away. I am almost there,” he murmured.
The thick bushes before him finally opened out into a small glade, bathed in sunlight. A rapid, furious torrent cut through the clearing.
“Finally, I have reached the Hageyu River!” the relieved Dyoren exclaimed. “Though I must be way downhill, I am not safe yet.”
Suddenly, he saw a movement in the bushes beyond the river. It was a short man on foot, an axe in his hand, hacking his way through the foliage of the forest. The short barbarian, bearded and filthy, was attired in rough leather clothes. The man was thrashing at the vegetation as if possessed by rage. Each blow swept away entire sections of wild vines. Dyoren recognized him immediately as a scout: an H’ontark,16 one of the barbarian woodmen that the Sea Hierarchs employed to track Elvin outlaws in the wildest parts of Nyn Ernaly. The Lonely Seeker hesitated and eventually decided to hide. His anxiety grew when he discovered that the man was not alone. He was leading a full pack of barbarians, whose purpose was to open a path into the thick woods that surrounded the Hageyu River. Soon, some of the woodmen were on the near side of the stream. Dyoren had no choice. If he wanted to reach Hageyu Lake, it was essential that he crossed the water and made it to the woods on the northern bank. Sweat pearled on his forehead. Twisting his head and snorting like a fierce wolf about to attack, he reached for his shining broadsword.
“I need you now. But we will know better days, I promise you,” he muttered.
Now that he held Rymsing in his hand, Dyoren began his war chant, his voice clear and loud. Despite the small chance he had of surviving the fight to come, his heart was filled with hope, and he leapt forward to meet those who dared challenge him in his own land.
Immediately, a dozen raised axes glittered in the rays of the midday sun. The combat began with all the ferocity of opponents who are enemies twice over: man versus Elf, and bounty hunter versus outlaw.
Dyoren fought with calmness and strict technique, as if he were back practicing in Llafal with his friends from the clan Llyvary.17 Hindered, no doubt, by his injury from the Battle of Mentollà, where he had lost his precious blade to the enemy, he nonetheless fenced with prudence and skill.
Dyoren quickly dispatched his first adversary. He struck him with a mortal thrust, the broadsword piercing his enemy’s heart.
Then, with a swinging blow as fast as lighting, Dyoren stretched out a second opponent upon the grass with a wound through his thigh. This scout put up no further resistance and surrendered his axe, so he moved forward.
Dyoren forced his third adversary back so vigorously that, after retreating several paces, the man soon took to his heels and disappeared amid the trees.
Against the fourth, he fought purely and simply on the defensive; when Dyoren saw his adversary tiring, the Elf sent his axe flying with a vigorous side thrust. The disarmed barbarian stepped back in retreat, but in so doing slipped backward into a crevasse.
Dyoren was over his fifth opponent in a bound, surprising him by jumping over the tumultuous stream before pushing him to the ground. He screamed at the barbarian scout to yield, his sword at the man’s throat.
“Miserable barbarian, you should have never come to this pla…!” But Rymsing, as if acting out of its own rage, wrested itself from Dyoren’s control. The shining blade ripped open the barbarian’s stomach, thus sentencing him to a slow and painful death.
Five of his dozen enemies had died in the blink of an eye, taken aback by the quickness of Dyoren’s movements and the power of his shining glaive, which he wielded as lightly as a mere dagger. The morale of the remaining troops started to wane. These men were barbarian scouts; though sworn to the service of the Sea Hierarchs, they were not defending a cause, still less their own self-interest. Abandoning the glade to the victorious Elf, they began to regroup beyond the wild stream, clearly intending to run away. But they were stopped by the arrival of a second group of men as the sky suddenly darkened, as if clouded by a swarm of locusts.
Drawn by the cries of war and the clashing of swords, another unit of barbarian scouts was joining the melee, rushing out from the depths of the woods. Flocks of birds were plummeting from the sky into the forest, darting downwards between the branches. Horns were blaring, and no doubt other units would soon converge upon the glade. If any of the surviving members of the first group were still tempted to flee, they soon thought better of it; a formidable Knight rode forward, holding in his golden gauntlet the severed head of their unfortunate fleeing companion.
This Knight was unnaturally tall and strong for a man, towering above his soldiers from a height of over seven feet. His muscular body was naked but for his tanned leather breeches, boots, and a red headdress that masked his features. As for his torso, his scars seemed to be the only protection he required.
“Find the Elf!” he roared and, like a wild cat pouncing on its prey, the fierce warrior ran towards Dyoren, marshalling his men as he did. He drew a long scimitar from his scabbard and launched the severed head through the air, throwing it with incredible force towards Dyoren, twenty yards away. The Lonely Seeker swiftly sidestepped the improvised missile.
“Another Knight of the Golden Hand!” he deplored. “Now is the time to flee.”
The multitude of birds cried out in support, as they simultaneously took flight from the lower branches of the forest around the glade.
Dyoren looked around; attempting to deduce the quickest way to the river. He decided to head north up the hill. Then, just as he was leaping from a large boulder, flocks of vicious birds of prey lashed down upon his enemies like torrents of hail pouring from a stormy sky.
Their impact was as deadly as it was sudden. The air was filled with a blizzard of darting birds, a swarm of hawks and falcons swooping down onto the men: tearing and piercing flesh, pecking at eyes and ears with sharp beaks, slashing skin and armour with their knifelike claws.
Men screamed out in pain, struggling vainly against the onslaught. They floundered through the bushes, striking out with their axes at random, and before long the barbarians were scattered far and wide.
Dyoren looked back. He saw briefly the Knight of the Golden Hand emerging from the whirlwind of birds. His body was dripping in blood, with fresh wounds adding to the myriad scars that already covered his exposed skin. He had lost his headdress in the fray, which had symbolized his high rank. His head was bald, his eyes small and mean; everything in his face betrayed his unthinking violence and base desires. Now, the Knight of the Golden Hand was on Dyoren’s heels, a mere twenty yards behind. The chase had begun.
They ran for a long time, each of them failing to gain much advantage over the other. The Wood of Silver Leaves echoed with the sounds of their passage. Leaves rustled, dry branches cracked, water splashed and small animals hissed, all to accompany the mighty battle of wills that was playing out between Elf and man.
Finally, the chase came to an end. Dyoren, who had been cutting a path through the branches and vines with his enchanted blade, now ran out of ground to cover. He found himself rushing towards a steep cliff overlooking a large pool of clear water, fed by roaring waterfalls. Without hesitation, without even slowing his momentum, he leapt head-first from the precipice. He dove into the water thirty feet below like a meteorite striking the ocean.
When the Knight of the Golden Hand reached the cliff edge a moment later, all he could see of Dyoren was the centre of the impact and the rippling waves across the surface of the water.
Dyoren had to swim underneath water for some time. He finally managed to cross the width of the pool, remaining invisible in the basin’s depths. When he found enough strength to get out of the water, the Lonely Seeker could no longer see where his pursuer was. He then passed through the dangerous passage where the falls cascaded onto rocks, before finally reappearing behind the cover of the waterfall. Dyoren could now pull himself out of the water.
‘I thank you, Rul Dol Urmil, for teaching me to swim and hunt underwater in the creeks of Nyn Llorely. No doubt you had Irawenti blood in your veins,’ he thought.
Still breathing heavily, the Lonely Seeker first made sure that Rymsing was still securely fastened to its rope. Bruises and flesh wounds covered his body, but he did not linger to tend to them. A dangerous climb now awaited him. In the cave behind the waterfall, there was a narrow passage, known only to Elves, which led to a higher plateau of the Wood of Silver Leaves, near the mighty Hageyu Falls. The way up was slippery, treacherous and unpredictable, for the structure of the near-vertical tunnel was constantly changing with erosion. Dyoren approached the tunnel, scrambling over the rough terrain of the cave and pushing aside rocks as he went. He then began his ascent. The Lonely Seeker climbed the first few feet very slowly but then, curiously, as his pace accelerated, he closed his eyes, relying on the touch of his hands and his feet. Dyoren felt a kind of lightness, as though a higher power were drawing him upward. He once again felt hope. In his mind, he was no longer climbing, but rather gently flying towards his sanctuary ninety feet above. He felt so light that decided to try another path, this one steeper and more direct. It felt like the forest breeze itself was carrying him upwards to unknown heights. How long was he climbing in that state of peaceful darkness? Dyoren did not know. But, when he finally reached level ground without further injury, he rolled with relief onto his back. Suddenly he was laughing. It was a genuine kind of joyous laughter, as clear and honest as the mountain water he could now see cascading down into the pool below. He marvelled at the broadsword in his arms kept laughing aloud.
“Rymsing, Rymsing! With you I feel invulnerable!” he exclaimed through his laughter.
Looking down at the wall he had just climbed, Dyoren shivered, only now comprehending the feat he had achieved. Finally processing the reality of the peril he had just escaped, he was seized with severe vertigo. At that very moment, he knew, Dyoren could easily be lying crushed upon the ragged rocks a hundred feet below, his body reduced to broken bones and seeping flesh. But he was still alive. To make sure of it, he feverously ran his hands over his whole body.
‘I am alive. For that I must be thankful,’ he thought, smiling now at his broadsword as if it were a deity he wished to honour.
Dyoren decided to rest a while, unburdening himself of his cloak and satchel. He stood just a few yards from the dangerous cliff that looked out over the pool. The day was hot, and the few pine trees dotted around him did little to protect him from the sun.
“Every year, the season of Eïwele Llya18 gets hotter and hotter,” mused the Lonely Seeker, “as the forest gets smaller and smaller.”
As he dug into his satchel to retrieve some water, he suddenly heard heavy breathing, the sounds of someone straining in extreme physical exertion.
Dyoren then looked in horror as a clawed human hand reached up over the cliff’s edge, clinging onto the rocks. A second hand, wearing that same golden gauntlet with six fingers, found another hold on a nearby outcrop. The Lonely Seeker shivered, so stunned he could not move. The man let out a strange battle cry before hauling himself up and leaping to his feet. He hesitated only for a moment, judging how best to reach his prey across the boulder-strewn ground. Then he started running. The bald man’s immense size did nothing to impede his agility across that rocky terrain. He was upon Dyoren in an instant. But that precious moment of hesitation had spared the Lonely Seeker. Dyoren had reached for his enchanted blade. Or was it Rymsing who had flown to him?
The broadsword slashed through the air quick as lightning, reaching for the Westerner head. The bald man avoided the deadly swipe, but his right ear was cut clean from his skull. He cried out in agony and withdrew a couple of paces. Rymsing sprung forth once again and disarmed the Knight as he was reaching for his scimitar. The shining blade then danced through the air with the swiftness of a dagger, driving the man closer and closer to the cliff’s edge. Seeing that his end was near, the Knight of the Golden Hand suddenly ducked and rushed forward, with the strength of will that only fear of imminent death can procure. With savage ferocity, the man head-butted Dyoren, elbowed him in the face, and bit his shoulder like a rabid animal. The bald man then tried to grab hold Dyoren in the hope of pulling him to the ground, but then suddenly stopped. He had been impaled by the sharp blade of his enemy. He staggered back and looked with disbelief at the blood spurting from his stomach. Even then, the Knight of the Golden Hand bent down to draw a vicious-looking black dagger from his leather boot. He took a few more steps back, but before he made any use of his weapon, he slipped backwards off the cliff.
In shock after the sudden violence, and bleeding from several new wounds, Dyoren kneeled down, to catch his breath and recover his strength. Then, with some hesitation, he peered down over the cliff’s edge. His enemy was nowhere to be seen: disappeared into the haze of the crashing waterfall below. The Lonely Seeker looked at his enchanted blade with renewed awe.
‘You did it. Once again you have saved my life. Without you, I am nothing.’
Still kneeling by the cliff edge, both hands clutching his sacred sword as firmly as an old Elf might hold his cane; Dyoren became lost in his thoughts, looking out at the landscape before him.
The foliage of trees moved in a languid dance, stirred by the ocean breeze. The Wood of Silver Leaves, or what was left of it, was still putting up a resistance: holding its ground against relentless human destruction. But its efforts were as futile as a jagged outcrop of rock attempting to stay the rising tide of the ocean.
Beyond the edge of the forest now lay the domain of men: first came the roads, orchards and farms, then castles overlooking small villages, and then finally their city with its vast harbour. Tar-Andevar, that ever-swelling city of the Westerners, swallowed everything and everyone, without distinction, to satisfy its unappeasable and growing appetite. Beyond that was the Sea of Llyoriane.19
At last, Dyoren could continue his journey. But only reluctantly did he detach his gaze from the azure sea and the faraway horizon for, in the quiet after the violence, he had experienced a moment of absolute communion with the landscape. He turned away, inland, towards the Hageyu Falls and the Arob Chanun Mountains beyond, but with a profound sense of loss.
In those enchanting surroundings, the rocks and waterfalls could have been the converging essences of the heavens and the earth. The cascading currents had carved the stone and soil, leaving countless curious and fantastical shapes and sculptures. The Llewenti called this place the Divine Gardens; bound to the strange and ancient stones were the memories of times gone by, and the rushing waters carried secrets of the future. This pure, cool, sweet, thirst-quenching river had richly benefitted the Llewenti. The vibrant currents were seen as the blood stream of Eïwele Llya herself. The clear water teemed with trout and perch; a skilled fisher needed never go hungry with these fresh waterways nearby.
The Hageyu River, along most of its length, was not fordable, generally reaching depths of more than ten feet. Where the rocks of the banks squeezed the flow of water, currents would become rapids, making navigation by boat impossible. The few fords that did exist were the only way of crossing.
The name ‘Hageyu’ came from the Llewenti words Eyu, meaning ‘water’, and Ha meaning ‘big’.
Legend had it that Eïwal Ffeyn, deity of freedom and rebellion, had tried to seduce the beautiful Goddess Eïwele Llyi,20 deity of art and poetry. She escaped his advances, fleeing along the river with her lover, a great water spirit named Eïwal Ty. He was the son of Gweïwal Uleydon, and known to be frivolous and fickle, whereas Eïwal Ffeyn was thought of as strict and haughty. Eïwal Ty liked to dwell in Mountain Rivers and streams of the valleys, where he would play his romantic music and lure admirers.
Eïwal Ffeyn, unhappy in love and angry at Eïwele Llyi for eloping with the son of his worst enemy, had been unable to bring his wild temper under control. The deity of storms had brought the might of his rage down upon the river, severing its flow and thus creating the waterfalls.
From that day on, the Hageyu Falls were located where the river tumbled off the edge of the plateau of Mentobraglin,21 a few leagues upriver from its confluence with the Ningy River.22 Numerous islets near the cliff’s edge split the river into numerous waterfalls and smaller cascades, the total number of which fluctuated, depending on the water level. Approximately half of the river’s flow fell into a long and narrow chasm called Anarlaneo, or ‘Dragon’s Throat’.
The magnificent Hageyu Falls were at once beautiful and sublime, picturesque and fearsome.
These falls were known as the only entrance to the steep slopes of the Arob Chanun Mountains, a secret gate giving way to a natural temple, dedicated to the Mother of the Islands, Eïwele Llya.
Long ago, secret walkways had been built by the Elves along its canyons. Dyoren knew them well, so he could now walk freely around that place of natural beauty and power. He wandered without fear, finally reaching a natural pool that the wild waters of the torrents had carved into a most unexpected location: between a thicket of trees and an abrupt cliff.
Dyoren shook his head and his blond hair, as long as a wild horse’s mane fluttered through the air. He trod gingerly in his green boots among the wild flowers, as he walked towards the nearby pool created by the spectacular waterfall. Bending down until his head broke the surface into a series of ripples, the Lonely Seeker drank deeply. Still exhausted from the long chase through the wilderness, Dyoren finally raised his head and looked around the grove. The grass was particularly rich and verdant. Beams of brilliant sunlight penetrated the leafy canopy, forming exquisite shafts of gold. The Lonely Seeker continued to slowly sup the fresh water of the pool. He was gradually recovering his strength. What gave him his extraordinary endurance was the strength of purpose that possessed him. The cries of the birds from high above reminded him that he was not yet home. He summoned the will to continue.
Dyoren looked down at the northern trail he had taken the day before, which climbed steeply across a wide, rocky slope before disappearing into lush woods of aspen and pine. Then, in places, large meadows, speckled with vivid flowers, interrupted the green canopy of the forest. Glistening waterfalls too numerous to count spilled from the grey mountains above into green highlands, feeding the many brooks that formed a silvery network of waterways connecting the many lakes. There, nestled in the knotted oaks, dwelled Dryads, along with many other mythical little creatures, just like their illustrations in the Llewenti tales of old. All these beings shared the same passion for harmony and beauty.
At mid-afternoon, Dyoren decided to turn off his path along the narrow ledge and walk up into the high, windswept pass which led to the top of the mountain. After an arduous climb, he reached its summit and could suddenly see a multitude of mountain lakes and craggy peaks across the landscape before him, stretching away to the north and the opposite side of the island. The Lonely Seeker took in the view with deep admiration.
The Chanun Mountains at the heart of Nyn Ernaly truly made up the most pristine wilderness Dyoren had ever looked upon in the Llewenti Islands. For him, it was a profoundly sacred place. From this vantage point, he could see how the high peaks formed a ring; together, the mountains were braced in a protective formation against the violent attacks of ocean tempests. Even after the difficult approach to the bases of these mountains, the few paths that actually traversed them were incredibly hard to locate. Only the best scouts of the clan Ernaly knew how to avoid, in that hostile landscape, all the false trails and deadly crevasses.
From this height, Dyoren could contemplate the entire island and leagues of the wild seas surrounding it. Nyn Ernaly, known as one of the two Jewels of the Sunset, had been carved by the waves over the millennia. To one side was the rolling emerald vastness of the Austral Ocean, and then to the other was the more placid Sea of Isyl,23 which set the island apart from the rest of the Archipelago.
During the season of Eïwele Llyo,24 the Austral Ocean would rage with cyclones. Those dangerous storms generally moved down from the northeast, manipulating the waves into gigantic swells. The straits around Nyn Ernaly were not navigable during that season, and so the island would become totally isolated.
But, on that day, the weather was fair and the vast ocean’s surface was untroubled. Like its sister island Nyn Avrony,25 the other Jewel of the Sunset, Nyn Ernaly was exposed to very diverse natural forces. The warm currents of the Austral Ocean, originating from the Nen,26 clashed against the cold waters of the Sea of Isyl. Hot wind blew in from the southern Mainland, creating a warm and humid climate. That semi-tropical influence prevailed against the coolness from the pole. It brought a pleasant, relatively hot weather to the island’s shores, similar to winters in faraway Essawylor.27
To the south, the Sea of Isyl, surrounded by the Archipelago and the shores of the Mainland, was placid, like a pleasant azure field stretching out between the rocky shores.