Corwyn Vale knelt at the altar of Corellon within the Temple of the Cathedral of Corellon in the Elven city of Home Tree. Above him the ceiling soared, the night sky magically imprinted by the Magistrates, hanging silently before the vaulted arches. Around him, others of the faith murmured their own prayers.
A quiet voice spoke to him in his head, Look up Corwyn, your answer approaches.
Looking up, Corwyn only saw one of the Elders of the Woodsinger Clan. Dressed in flowing, multicolored robes, the aged Elf moved slowly Corwyn’s way, smiling at him as he approached. Rising, Corwyn stepped toward the elderly elf.
“Ah, Master Corwyn, I was hoping to find you here.” The elderly, light haired elf looked Corwyn up and down, as if making sure he was the person he was actually searching for, before continuing, “I have something of import to discuss with you. But I forget my manners, I am Elder Birrina.”
Extending his hand, he grasped Corwyn’s forearm with the ceremonial elven greeting.
“Well met Elder.” Giving a slight nod of his head,as was expected of one of his station, Corwyn continued, “And what brings you into the presence of the Divine?”
“An odd thing actually, a dream.” Looking at Corwyn with ancient eyes, the Elder Birrina continued, “The Divine sometimes speaks to us through dreams, does he not?”
The question hung in the air between them. Corwyn had been having such dreams the last few nights. Dreams of the Verge, dreams of danger, both to his people and the world outside the Harken Forest. Only now did he remember the words of the High Priest of Corellon, Master Nallithe, as he had spoken them to Corwyn the last time they had met, “Corwyn, even the Gods must dream, otherwise where would we come from?”
Coming back to the present, Corwyn looked at Elder Birrina, “Tell me of your dream and of my part in it, but in private,” he continued as the Elder started to speak.
Turning he led the elf to a private alcove. Corwyn looked past Elder Birrina to see who, if anyone, might be observing them. Seeing no one, he let the purple curtain drop behind them, cutting off their conversation from the rest of the Temple.
* * *
Corwyn looked up at the various Elders seated around the Hall of Elders. Though reduced in numbers from previous years, they still had an imposing presence. He currently stood in the center of the chamber while the dozen or so Elders sat around him in the stadium type seating that was the heart of the city of Home Tree. Their seats seemed to be a part of the massive tree of which Heartwood Hall was a part, as well as the walls of the chamber in which they stood.
“Step forward Corwyn Vale,” Elder Birrina called out. Looking down at Corwyn, he motioned for him to do so.
Stepping toward the Elder whom he had recently spoken to, he knelt before the ruling seat, signified by its increased size over the other seats. The Elder Throne it was called, though Birrina was no king of the elves. Even so, Master Birrina was obviously the council ruler.
“Rise Servant of Corellon. As I’ve told the council in private, I have already informed you of recent events. Do you agree to the task at hand?” Elder Birrina looked down at Corwyn with a questioning glare.
Rising, he addressed Birrina and the rest of the council, “I serve the needs of the council as long as all is in accord with the plans of my deity.” Looking around, his eyes came to rest on a younger elf with a shock of red hair and dark brown eyes, eyes which even now regarded Corwyn carefully.
Warning sounds went off in the back of his mind, and Corwyn noted to meditate upon this further at the next possible opportunity. Stepping back into the Circle of Questioning, he awaited the council’s response.
“Bring in the others.” was all that was said.
The doors leading to the area outside the Hall of Elders were opened by elven guards dressed in the ceremonial garb of the Heartwood Guard, gold and green. The massive doors swung open soundlessly.
Beyond the portal stood three others led by another Heartwood Guard. As they stepped into the light of the hall, Corwyn gasped. One of the three almost looked like a dark elf, but not quite. More of a cross of his people, and the drow, he realized as the trio grew closer.
A murmur ran through the council chamber as they realized that an outsider was present within the sacred, inner hall of Home Tree.
“What is this abomination doing here?” The elf who had been studying Corwyn earlier roared, “Guards, remove him at once!”
The guard accompanying the group in looked up at Birrina who held up his hand as he turned to address the outraged council member, “Who rules the council Elder Cutasyr?”
Sputtering, the visibly livid Cutasyr stammered as he tried to respond. “Sit down youngling,” Birrina shot calmly back, “When you are council leader, then you can have him removed.”
Taking his seat, Cutasyr glared at Birrina. Turning his gaze toward the drow, Corwyn could visibly see him fume, his face becoming a red to match his hair. Corwyn caught a glance between the reprimanded elder and the only female council member.
His attention was drawn back to Birrina as he spoke, “We have before us the volunteers to travel to Pulstin to determine what has happened there. As I have told all of you beforehand, we lost all contact with Pulstin 3 days ago, and all attempts to contact them have been to no avail.”
“What of the patrols?” a young, dark haired elf, amongst the three recently brought in, stepped forward to ask.
“Ah, Sadron, astute as always.” Birrina paused as some on the council chuckled at his obvious joke. Birrina continued, as he addressed Sadron, “All patrols sent to Pulstin have not returned, or sent word. The council is at a loss.”
“And what makes you think we will succeed where others have failed?” Sadron queried further.
Looking Sadron into the eye, Birrina answered, “Because of a dream and your companion that Elder Cutasyr seems to detest so much.” Looking at a still fuming Cutasyr, he continued. “With him I feel that this mission has a better chance of success.”
“Dreams Father?” This from the light haired female, obviously one of the Magister judging from her robes. She continued, giving Corwyn a sidelong glance, “Was it any chance a dream sent from the Divine?”
“Yes my daughter. I have conferred with those at the Temple. I believe my dream was true, though I still wish you would reconsider joining this particular scouting party Aiwen, but knowing you, it is only wishful thinking on my part.” Sighing, Elder Birrina sat back in his chair.
“As fate would have it, I had a dream as well.” Looking up at her father, a kindness settled over her, “The Fey-mother has promised me her protection.”
Stepping back, Aiwen bowed her head in thought. A silence descended upon the chamber.
“If I may?” A quiet voice spoke up, almost a whisper.
Elder Cutasyr rose to his feet, a protest forming on his lips as the drow, who had stepped forward, waited to speak. A warning glance from Birrina stifled what Cutasyr had been preparing to say.
“From my travels in the West Harken Forest, I can assure you that we should be safe as long as we are in Elven lands. And even if we have to cross over into goblin held areas, I am sure my connections will protect us.” looking to Elder Birrina he continued, “Though hopefully that will not be necessary.”
“Let us hope not Elkantor Hune. Like it or not, I hold you responsible for my daughters safety.” Glancing over the group and noticing Sadron’s fidgeting, Elder Birrina addressed the warrior, “Yes Sadron?”
“I feel like I can provide adequate protection for your daughter Elder.” he spat, “At least more than this drow can.” The venom apparent, he glared at the dark elf. Elkantor’s hands went instinctively to the blades on his belt. Sadron followed suite, going to the extent of drawing his blade slightly.
A few tense moments passed. Corwyn stepped between his new companions. “Master Sadron, please, the Divine needs his services.” Placing a hand on Sadron’s arm, Corwyn looked him in the eyes, trying to will calmness into the situation.
“Bah,” was Sadron’s only response, as he turned and walked to the other side of the chamber.
Elder Birrina laughed as he addressed the companions, “Are you sure you still want to be a part of this expedition Master Corwyn?”
Corwyn looked up at the Elder. Grimacing, he turned toward his companions on this dangerous journey. Looking at Sadron pouting on one side of the room and Elkantor, his hands still near his belt at the center of the room, he wondered how long it would be before either Sadron or Elkantor killed the other. Was he sure indeed as Elder Birrina had asked? The more he thought about it, the more he was not so sure.
Yesterday’s events in Heartwood Hall echoed through his mind as Corwyn prepared his gear for the journey ahead. They were to meet at the docks outside Home Tree. From there the four of them would travel upriver to a point designated by Elkantor as the best place to embark on their overland journey to Pulstin, a mere week away. Horses would be waiting for them, laden with the provisions which would last them on their trip.
Corwyn had hopes of a safe journey, though he felt they would run afoul of the more dangerous forest denizens at some point. But as long as they were vigilant they should fare well.