The Dark Age Chronicles: The Fall of Night.

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The Broken Nest

Ihloden moved about silently in his room. He was half dressed and groping about in the semi-light to find his jacket. Dawn was still a fair set of hours away, but he wanted to get an early start on his hunting. His hands closed on the tough hide of his leather sleeveless jacket. He quickly pushed his arms through the holes and straightened the rough cloth. The end of it just brushed the top of his trouser waist. He reached for his unstrung bow and swung the quiver strap around his waist and secured it there. He grabbed his shoes and slipped out the front door on bare feet.

The entire village lay in the misty blue of the late night. There was a comforting silence about the village as if even the houses were asleep. Ihloden walked through the village; the cold air freezing in his lungs. He had been kind of hiding from going out for the past week since his warning from the tree. Every stranger that had passed through Molvn, he looked upon with suspicion. But after a while the warning had begun to dim in his mind and it seemed as if the tree was wrong. And he had had no chance to ask them anything, for they had suddenly grown silent. He reveled in their silence. He had been able to lead a fairly normal life for two days. But despite his gladness he was also uneasy. It was extremely unusual for the trees to stay quiet for so long. He wondered if he had somehow chased them away. While the thought should have made him happy, it did not. He found that deep down he missed the soft woody voices of the trees and mostly the even deeper whisper of the land itself. He sighed and shook his head, angry with himself.

He approached the edge of the village and turned towards the east and began to head into the Forest of Behrud. The sky was a little bit lighter and the wind had begun to die down; it was now only a small breeze kissing his skin lightly. As he approached the forest he could just make out the outline of a small house situated on the edge of the tree line. He shifted his course and headed for the house. The grass was soaked in dew and his feet were thoroughly wet by the time he had reached the house and was tapping on the door with his bow. The door opened and a woman with broad shoulders stood in the doorway, her entire bulk filling the frame.

“Ihloden,’ she said in a matter-of-fact voice.

Ihloden grinned, “Nurilah. You have a space in there for me to finish my dressing?” Nurilah grinned back and pulled him inside.

The house was dark and warm inside. A fire was roaring in the fireplace. It cast a red glow over everything and made the entire room seem larger than what it really was. Ihloden looked around and sighed in contentment.

“I have to get a house like yours someday, Nurilah,” he said setting down on a wooden bench, “I would love to live like this.” Nurilah smiled and poured a hot liquid into a rough cup.

“It’s not easy,” she said, “You have to hunt almost every day and it’s a killer in winter.”

“But you make it alright,” Ihloden protested.

“I’ve lived like this for years,” Nurilah chided gently, “I have adapted to it.”

Ihloden grudgingly nodded and placed his bow on the floor. He proceeded to try and wipe his feet dry, with a small rough cloth he carried.

“Oh, sit near the fire boy,” Nurilah said with a laugh when she saw his antics. He grinned and went and placed his feet in front of the fire and groaned a bit for the pleasure of the heat on his cold skin.

“So where are you off too?” Nurilah asked as she handed him the cup. Ihloden took a sip,

“Hmm...” he said and swallowed, “this is good.”

Nurilah smiled patiently. Ihloden hurriedly wiped his mouth, “Hunting, maybe a little north this time. I haven’t been close to Upper Behrud for a while so I thought that maybe I will try my luck there.”

“So you will take about three days to reach and find game and about the same amount of time to come back. A totally of six days; make it seven for delays,” Nurilah mused. He nodded and took another sip. Nurilah sat thoughtfully at the table.

“A small Star fell north here a few weeks ago,” she said suddenly. Ihloden jerked up.

“A Star!” he exclaimed.

“Yes, about the size of my forearm,” she stretched out her arm. Ihloden looked at the broad arm all knotted with muscle.

“Small?” he asked with a mischievous grin, “that was one huge Star.”

Nurilah pulled her arm back self-consciously and then tapped the back of his head. Ihloden laughed and drained the rest of his cup.

“Well I will look out for your Star. What shall I do if I find it?”

Nurilah laughed, “Bring it back home of course.”

Ihloden grinned at her then got up and slipped on his short leggings that reached from his knees to his toes and pulled on his shoes over them. Nurilah had strung his bow and was tightening his quiver strap. She handed them to him and held his arms for a moment.

“Be careful,” she said seriously,” there are rumors of strange things in the forest these days. It is best to stay away from things that we do not understand...for now. So maybe if you find that Star…well…let your heart lead you as to what to do with it.”

Ihloden felt a certain dread fall upon him and he nodded back to her, just as seriously. Nurilah suddenly embraced him in her thick strong arms. The embrace was gentle but it held a certain fear in it. Ihloden wrapped his arms around the tall woman and suddenly felt like crying. Then he was out the door and warmth of the fire was shut out from him behind the thick wooden door. He pulled his jacket around him and set off into the woods.

The sky was now a rosy pink and the wind had stopped. He rain lightly across the field and dove into the forest. The new dawn did not pierce the thick leaves enough to show that the morning was here. Ihloden breathed in the still air and smells in the darkness and set off with a happy feeling in him. He always loved it at this time when it was just him and the trees alone. He crouched low and allowed his eyes to get adjusted to the nothingness. He gradually began to notice that there was indeed a faint light and massive trunks of the trees stood as dark sentinels in the diminishing gloom. Then he rose and began to move. He slipped through the trees staying near the trunks, darting across clearings and avoiding where the brushed thrust their branches outward. There was still complete silence and only a faint shift in the leaves of the forest floor to show where he had passed. He weaved and twisted; stopping every now and then to listen to the silence for any wayward animal that felt safe in the darkness. But there was nothing. Then a faint breeze ruffled his hair. He looked up and saw that the leaves were looking greener. ‘The sun is now greeting the Krogas,’ he thought and the as if to vindicate his words and the whole forest began to lighten up. Ray upon ray of sunlight shot through the spaces in the canopy and hit the carpet of leaves below. Then as if on cue the forest burst into song. Ihloden closed his eyes and took in the music. He sighed and the within his mind came a soft brush and familiar voices touched his mind again. He opened his eyes and looked around at the towering statues of trees.

“Took you long,” he said to them, “where were you?”

There was much for us to do,”they said, “Proceed to the range that is called Krogas.”

“Why?” he asked. But they had fallen silent again. He felt a strange twinge of jealousy that they had had something more important than him to see too. It had never occurred to him that there may be like him. He shrugged it off and started through the woods.

The forest was now alive and bathed in light. The sounds of waking animals drove the trees command from Ihloden’s mind as he spotted a pack of deer moving between the trees. He knelt quickly and hooked an arrow in the bow. The deer moved in front of the trees and stopped. They began to nibble on the surrounding bushes. Ihloden grinned and raised the bow; he covered a tall broad deer with the arrow and pulled back the string. He focused and set his jaw. The deer raised its head and his fingers began to loosen. Suddenly there was a bright light in his head. A wall of pain struck him.

“Ahhh!!!” he yelled and the arrow shot forward. He was flung back with the intensity. He could hear the cries of the deer and the sound of their running and he knew that he had missed. Yet the pain did not relent, He squirmed on the ground, holding his head.

Go the range called Krogas” the trees hissed in his head. Their voices were forceful.

“You?” he asked his voice so low that he could hardly hear it himself. The pain strengthened. He cried out again and rolled onto his stomach and then onto his back. “Okay, I’ll go!” he screamed. There was a moment where he thought that they would not let him go. Then the pain slowly subsided. He lay there for a while and then got up. The deer were long gone. Hatred filled him up as he saw his arrow hooked up in a bush. He retrieved it and with a huff he set to get out of the forest.

The sun was hot outside. But Ihloden was so mad that he didn’t notice. He never thought that the trees would turn on him like this. ‘That’s what you get for trusting plants,’ he thought angrily to himself, ‘You see you are actually happy to hear them for one and then they throw you on the ground and force you to do what they want.’ The wind brushed up against him.

It’s not what we want but what the land wants,” the trees whispered. Ihloden ignored them.

“Stupid plants,” he said out loud. There was a sensation of hurt for a brief moment and the wind passed on. Ihloden frowned away his guilt and turned Northwest to head toward the Krogas.

After endless hours the talk peaks of the Krogas loomed in the distance and nearer stood the tall trees of CloudWood. The sun had long gone past noon and it was now burning his left hand side. He looked into the forest and saw the shade. He wanted to go and walk through the forest and escape the heat while he made towards the Krogas but his pride held him back. He was extremely cross with himself. He could not make up his mind if the considered the trees his friends or his enemies. He looked at them again and stopped walking; he had to make that decision now. It was too much to carry the burden of fear in his heart. All his life since he had begun to fear his ability he had been plagued with that one uncertainty. Carefully he cleared his mind and stood facing the trees. The air became heavy and tense. The breeze swirled around him but the trees made no noise. And he decided. He sighed and turned away. The air lifted and he leaned back his head and laughed. He opened up his mind and the trees flooded his mind with their voices. He grinned as their woody voices sang and began talking all at once. Suddenly he was aware of a deeper voice. Not a voice really but a presence old and strong. He realized that the trees had stopped talking and the deep presence rolled into his mind. Emotions began to flood him. He noticed it as the force that had held him in the forest. He felt the intense approval of the Land itself and the warning that it imbedded in his mind. It then slipped into its usual rumbling in his mind and the trees took over with their usual banter. He continued his walk until he entered into the shade of the trees and continued towards the Krogas.

Night fell fast and Ihloden took refuge under the trees. He set his pack down and gathered brush together and took out his flint stones and set them to the brush. As he hit them together and the sparks flew out he heard a faint rustle above him. He looked to see the trees swaying. He shrugged and hit again. The rustle was louder. He looked up once more.

“What?” he asked.

Fire?” they asked.

“Yes. So?” he said.

Fire burns,” they trees whispered. Ihloden sighed and put away the stones.

“Can you keep any wild animal from eating me?’ he asked.

Yes,” the trees said in a relived tone.

Ihloden smiled, shook his head and spread out upon the forest floor. A faint tune, slow and soothing began to play in his head. He smiled wider as he recognized the tune as the one the trees used to sing to him when he was a child to get him to sleep; the song of the creation of the trees.

“You sing about this Cirvan quite a lot,’ he said.

Cirvan made the land called Cysia,” the trees said, “Without him, was none of us made.”

“Hmmm…” said Ihloden his eyesbeginning to feel heavy. “How did Cirvan make Cysia?”

He spoke the Words of Being and it was,’ the trees said.

“Spoke it?”asked Ihloden through a yawn.

Yes. And His first races; the Roners and Griffins also spoke this tongue,” the trees replied.

“Roners?” asked Ihloden again.

Yes,” said the trees, “the first race of Cysia.”

And with that they began to sing again. The last words that he heard were the trees singing of how Cirvan began the building of the race of Roners and then he dropped off to sleep.

Ihloden was up before the sun had flowed into the tress. He once again witnessed the almost magical transformation of the forest from night into day. With a regretful eyes he bypassed all the healthy flocks of deer, packs of squirrels and other wide assortments of plentiful game. His thoughts turned to his mother and sister and wondered how they would feel if he turned up home after six days without a single gain for his absence. His heart began to sink as his thoughts became more melancholy. The trees suddenly swished into his thoughts. He jumped.

“What?” he asked more harshly than he meant to.

You will not return home empty handed,” the trees rustled to him.

“Oh really?” he asked surprised, “you can get me game?”

We can’t kill,” the trees replied, “but we can guide.”

Ihloden nodded and smiled. And with a lighter heart the trudged the weary miles. The Krogas seemed a bit closer. It would take him at least another half day maybe to reach the East Base of the Central Range of Cysia and then goodness knows how long to find whatever the trees had sent him to find. He sighed and set his mind to his task. He wasn’t worried about food, he had stored plenty of that, but it was more of the many miles of walking he still had to do. He sighed and set his mind. He could not turn back now so he might as well continue.

Ihloden quickened the pace and in a few hours he had covered half the distance to his destination. He stopped by a small brook to have lunch, rested for a few minutes and then set off again. The sun was directly overhead when the vast base of the Krogas greeted his tired eyes from between the trees. Ihloden heaved a relived sigh and walked on moving away from the forest till he was right at the base of the mighty mountain range. The wind rolled around him and the voices of the trees, facing a little distance away from where he stood, spoke out.

Krogas! Krogas! The Smallest among the Ranges. Yet in thy halo of Forest lie the Legend to be fulfilled.”

A tremor of excitement ran through him but he controlled himself. Ihloden sat on loose rocks near the mountain base trying to get his wind back. Just then the trees rustled loudly as the wind coursed through their branches.

Hurry,” they said, “the time is almost past.”

With a groan he got to his feet and then strangely he felt the great force that always sat at the back of his mind push forward with powerful momentum. Suddenly the world had become home and the forests were his children. He felt the earth reaching down beneath him; the depth of it, the richness of it and the feeling of his children drawing life and strength from him and even stranger the sensations of the millions of inhabitants in it.

Go,” the Land intoned.

He dropped his pack and dashed off back into the trees. The land was no longer unknown to him. He had lived for many years and this patch of earth was just another part of him; like his arm or his leg. The trees blurred past him. He felt their consciousness touch his, just briefly, urging him on. His breath was controlled and deep as he weaved in and out of the thick trunks. Then he began to feel the force pulling back. His own sense began to register. He slowed down his stride as fatigue and pain stopped him. He stopped finally in a clearing, holding his sides and almost crying with exhaustion. He took a deep breath and steadied himself.

Look,” the trees said. He looked. And before him was a huge pile of rocks as high as the trees themselves. The rocks were arranged in such a way as to build a cave. He noted the depression in the ground around the rocks. He realized with a start that these rocks were dropped here. He shuddered to think of the size of the creature that could move rocks of that size. He walked toward the rocks. The cave seemed deserted. Still he moved warily with the air of a hunter as he approached the pile. He slipped around the pile and pressed his back against the rock. He then slowly dragged himself along the coarse wall of rock and then very cautiously bent his head so that he could just see into the cave. Inside was dark and warmness extended from it. It was definitely deserted. He then abandoned his caution and slipped into the cave.

The roof of the cave was high above his head. Whatever had lived here was very large. He walked to the back of the care, his boots scrapping on dull rock. He scanned the walls of the cave and saw blood smeared on it. He touched the blood. It was dry. He felt a little sick as he looked toward the back. There seemed to be something in the far end of the cave. Ihloden put back on his caution and approached stealthily. He took a while before he reached the end of cave, but what he saw was brittle piece of egg shell. He stooped and picked them up.

“A nest?” he asked and the trees outside rustled loudly. He looked around and saw another shell; this one was almost perfectly intact. The top had been neatly raised off and the rest had remained as it was. It was an agate colour and iridescent. Ihloden whistled in awe of its beauty. He reached out, touched it and suddenly it broke into pieces. He leapt back in surprise and stumbled over the other bits of shell. He hit the rock hard. He snorted and rubbed his rear. Beside him something fluttered. He turned quickly to find that it was a feather; of brown hue but as long and broad as his forearm. He sighed in disbelief. Nothing could be that big. Suddenly the trees hissed.

Ihloden, get out of there now!”

Ihloden spun around and ran out. There was no place to hide.

Up here,” a tree called and he climbed into its branches as fast as he could. He settled in the tree and waited. A few minutes later two creatures emerged from the trees and stood in the clearing.

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