In more ways than one.
This road has been long. We find ourselves, yet again, at the beginning of this path. Back on a ship and headed to Alexarta. Which means we are once more on the path toward Qualton, and to Tir na'Friar.
All things are circular, and cyclical.
It seems we still have things to do here before we can proceed onward. I feel as if I have been given a second chance to correct the misconceptions I had when I was here previously. A second chance to save the sylvan tree, and to restore balance to this area. I mean to take it this time.
Perhaps by taking my focus off of the minutiae of faith, and focusing once again on the balance of life around me, I have found the quiet voice of guidance again. Even I can still be caught up in the excitement of something new. I was so focused on the smaller things that I lost sight of the larger. My faith has not yet been restored to me, but I feel like I am on the right path after all.
So I have also come back to the beginning. Maybe it will ultimately bring me clarity at last.
The party continued on the road towards DragonSpire, discussing what might happen when we encounter the dragons there.
The whole conversation makes me uneasy, as dragons are volatile at best, and I don't think they will be willing to simply let us in. The fact that the dragons are responsible for the eradication of the druids as they were doesn't do much to settle my thoughts.
I made a comment that there was a better than average chance that the dragons might want to kill us ... me.. on sight, but it was taken badly, so I refrained from commenting further.
I've still been somewhat lost in introspection since the Maker left us. He gave me much to consider, and the continued disconnection from the Sacred has left me feeling somewhat bereft.
After we had crossed through another plain, and come upon the bottom of a black stone ridgeline, Kel Lyn made mention of a very strong residual magic that she sensed. She believes that the ridgeline is where she and some previous party members accidentally caused a tower to explode. She cast a spell to determine where the energy was coming from, and recalled that this plain was cursed by an extremely strong Destroy Plant spell, in an effort of the mage from the then-tower to destroy the druids.
I wonder at the utter destruction of the druids. Why? Was the world so out of balance that it required the death of an entire people to restore it? What happened that caused such hatred towards those druids of long ago?
The more I hear, read, and learn about the death of those that came before me, the more wary I am of making my own powers known. Perhaps it is for the best that I cannot access my connection at the moment?
After another week's worth of travel, we encountered an ancient forest. Old growth, and an extremely holy place. It took us two days to reach the center of the grove, where there was an enormous tree with crimson colored bark. The other party members called it a "redwood", and I - with all of my years - have never seen an entity quite like it.
My faith might be broken, but my respect towards nature remains. Entranced by the giant before me, I walked up to the tree and put a hand on it in a greeting. It's odd to describe the communion that happened between us, the tree and I. I don't even know if it's something that those with limited life spans could comprehend.
The oldest living things in the world. Ages unnumbered have nourished us, and we stand in absolute serenity, shedding years and cares like drops of rain. Time, the slow, measured passage of eons, is more like one giant river. Flowing ceaselessly from beginning towards some incomprehensible goal. Centered and balanced, the tree and I exist. His roots reach deep within the earth, his branches reach high into the interminable sky. As above, so below.
In connecting with the smaller things, the cycle of life here, the give-and-take; I also connect with the larger universe.
I do not know how long I sat against that tree. All else faded except that shared moment of calm certainty.
The next morning, there was a second, smaller tree there beside the great heart of the grove. An Ent. The Keeper looked at me, and with tears in my eyes, I spoke with him. I asked for guidance, and I told him of the sylvan tree that I am striving to save, and I asked if he might be able to provide some instruction on what I should do.
He told me that The things which are part of my tradition are those things which I must do. He reminded me of the symmetry inherent in Elven tradition, and reminded me too of the circular nature of the druidic traditions. There should be a way to repair what is broken.
Then he took the book that I was given, The Initiate's Guide to Sacred Druidry, and he turned it over. Upside down and reversed, he bade me read it again.
Elves have a gift of perfection in speech that - in his measured words- is almost Ent-like. He told me that if carefully managed and studied, that which is done can be undone. He said that he did not know how to heal the sylvan tree, but he said that if the tree had the energy and the desire to live, then it would continue on. I asked him what I can do to help him as thanks for the peace of mind he has given. He replied that I was not yet ready to help him, but that I could return when I am.
Kel Lyn offered to make him some rocks to use in defense and protection of his grove. He agreed, and she began crafting rocks and boulders with her magic. She botched a spell, and the haywire magic went into the giant redwood. I reached out to touch the tree to make sure it was not harmed, and found myself underground in the roots of the tree as it decided at that moment to impart a gift of knowledge to me.
The giant taught me a spell that will allow me to locate water sources, with distance and direction of each source provided.
Once the tree had completed the teaching, I was released from the earth, and the party rested for another day to make certain that I was fit to travel.
I made note of the grove in my journal, and hope to return someday. The giant heart, and his Keeper have much that they could teach me, I wager. The serenity that they were able to help me attain, however, is something I have no way to thank them for. Reminding me of who I am.. of what I am.. and allowing me to refocus has been a priceless gift.
In the road out of the grove, there are fields and fields of odd looking plants with large green leaves and sweet-smelling yellow flowers (strawberry plants) I gently transplanted two into a container to carry with me, in hopes that I may cultivate them for my own gardens later.
After we had been on the road for about a week, we came to a ridge line, and a large black stone wall in the distance. Kel Lyn says that this is where there was a curse on the land that she and some previous party members helped to break, and that there was a mage tower here that they accidentally caused to explode.
Accidents seem to happen quite a lot around her, I've noticed. Perhaps the lack of control is due to her age. Tobias confirmed that this was where the tower was, and where he found the elven emperor's armor that he now wears.
Shalev slaughters one of the oxen, as we needed to replenish our food stores before undertaking the trek across the barren ridgeline. Amit was given the largest portion of the carcass, and we all eat well. The rest of the meat is preserved carefully and added to our travel rations, and after a day of rest and preparing, we head across the ridgeline.
It takes us about 5 days to reach the bottom of the first ridge, and another 10 to reach the top of the next. We reached a plateau here, where there is a sixty foot crater in the center. Kel Lyn says that this is where the tower used to be. She casts a spell, and too late, remembers that there is a magical defense still remaining over this place that triggers a violent electrical storm. We all go to the center of the crater, as it is the lowest point that we can safely go to to avoid the lightning that flashes down around us.
Kel Lyn attempts another spell in Fyrewerian to create shelter for us, and accidentally ends up transporting us across the continent to the shores of Darkmoor, in Penicia.
She is quite upset about being here, and is acting rather irrationally. She's quite incoherent about anything other than getting away from this place. I gather that this is where she is originally from, and that she left under a certain amount of duress. We travel to the main harbor, trying to convince KelLyn to remain hidden, but she is behaving unreasonably, and will not listen to what we are trying to tell her.
Shalev uses his family name, and his own nobility to gain us passage on a ship in the Grey Harbor, and lodgings in the Golden Swan inn. While we are there at the inn, he acts with accordance to his nobility, and we are given quite a lavish meal. I noticed that the nobles of the town who were here all vied to be seen in view of him, and I wonder if he realizes that it is HE that draws the respect and attention, not his family name. I am introduced as his advisor, and Tobias and the rest of the party are introduced as his bodyguards and maidservants to maintain the impression.
The meal provided to us is full of delicacies and is quite delightfully flavored. I will hand it to him, he knows how to make an impression, my student.
After a night in the inn where we are all able to refresh and rest, we make our way down to the docks to find the captain Mauri Lyn to book us passage back to Ambralia.
It turns out that this is KelLyn's brother, and there is a moment of instant recognition between them. He tells her - somewhat angrily - that their father is dead, because of the price on her head, but agrees to carry us away from the city with all haste. We board the ship, and as soon as we set sail, we are attacked by two assassins from the Black Hand, who are after KelLyn They are dispatched in rather short (and messy) order, and KelLyn notes with wry amusement that these assassins bear the sigil of her goddess Leilanna.
Perhaps she needs to have a conversation or two with her deity.
Thankfully the rest of the trip goes uneventfully, and we arrive at the port of Ambralia.
So here we are again. Back to the beginning of the road we were travelling.
Things have come full circle in more ways than one. Now that we are back here, I have every intent on visiting Qualton again, to see what information can be gathered in speaking to the vintner and his family. Then there's Basil and his gardens. We could use a restocking of healing potions, and I need to check on the entlings he has there. The ranger encampment outside of the city also bears visiting, as they have completed the compound bow that they started to build for me.
Then the next step is to take care of the sylvan tree, and the evil that lies below the elven city of Tir na'Friar. If I can safely remove the tree, then I will carry it back to Basil's gardens, or the family of vintners to care for and restore. Perhaps in restoring the tree, my own connection to the Sacred will also be repaired.
But in the mean time, I have found what peace I can. I will continue on, and I will maintain as I always have, the serenity and ageless wisdom of who I am.