As I begin taking leadership of the local Druids and Shamans around Stoon, molding and training them into a new Grove as Sheela molds and provides their familiars training, I realized that I should document my journey here. How this all came about and the goals and plans that I have for the Grove. Sheela has been studying the precepts of the Order of the Jade Flame, and studying its conception with Cairos. That she is able to learn so much from those who built her order 100 years ago gives me hope that my words may reach as far. I guess there’s nothing left but to start with…
The Phoenix Moths were first discovered by a group of Deniers of Death at the beginning of Harvest Moons. The Rangers heard of it through a tertiary effect from the Deniers of Death corrupting one moth. The first moth who was corrupted created a blighting effect on the land near it and made the dead spontaneously rise. After the group of Rangers dealt with the now Death Moth and finished dealing with the group of Deniers and Childer who had been corrupting the moths, they realized that there had been a group of three moths. One had been corrupted into a Death Moth and one had been outright killed. But one moth had survived the encounter in one piece. Luckily Salvatore, after studying the chrysalis before him managed to remember enough to know that he was looking at a dormant Phoenix Moth.
Phoenix Moths haven’t been seen in Shaintar for over a millennia. They had become myth, and in fact had been mistaken for full phoenix. If a Phoenix Moth survives to its full metamorphosis and hatches, the effects are… mind-blowing. But that’ll come later. What was important was that a Phoenix Moth was here. And it was in a vulnerable state. Immediately I went to the grove with Sheela. Some of the local Druids arrived soon after I did, having been informed of the Moth’s presence by Artivan. I was first awed by the meaning of what was hanging in front of me. That the Ascended would coalesce their will such a manner stunned me. The others arrival and subsequent reverence gave me a chance to look over the grove we were now in.
We decided that we could fortify the grove easily enough. There was a local Druid who had studied with the _____ Druids who grow the Everwood Forest _____. She was willing to work with some of the local Druids to grow the trees in this grove such that they would turn into a maze, and could confound all who entered. Others would work spells to Sanctify the grove and an area around it in hopes that the very earth would assist in protecting the moth.
One of the Druids approached me, a Dregordian I had worked with before and whom had helped me when I was studying more about the Ascended and the flows of Magic. Rrassa Life-Scales nodded to a tree a little off from the others and we stepped under it to see that his crocodile familiar was sunning itself in a small break in the canopy. We watched Toothfull sunbathe until Rrassa was able to piece together what he wanted to say. He mentioned that while we might want the help of the local Goblinesh Shamans it might not be a good idea until closer to when the Phoenix Moth was ready to hatch. He didn’t mention why and I knew he had a reason but was not ready to share it, so since secrecy was going to be as much of a defense as actual defenses, if not more so, I agreed.
I knew that most of my focus would be on this grove and those Druids working here, but I had previous commitments with the Rangers that I could not abandon. They needed me, as much as the local Druids did. Maybe more.
The Rangers and the Goblinesh were heavily distracted over the last remnants of fall and into winter. Cairos started a training event that was very effective, and highly useful in the end. He worked with the Goblinesh leaders to gather those among the Goblinesh of Sog who were capable of fighting, and started training them in combat tactics. A week long war game with the Goblinesh and the Rangers paired up and facing each other. Kassegore led one of the main forces in this skirmish, and traded off between groups so that they could come accustomed to having to face something as terrifying as him in battle. It was a great success, the Goblinesh who were included in these games learned coordination, the ability to work as a unified military force, and how to face true fear in battle. Kassegore got to wet his teeth with the blood of commanding a force of men, and those Goblinesh who didn’t participate had a week of war games for entertainment and gambling.
In the days after the war games were over, a group of Prelacy operatives started working in and around Sog. We didn’t find out about it until they started activating their plans to burn down Sog and attempt to take out some of the Ranger and Goblinesh leadership. I was afraid for the Phoenix Moth and the Druids in the grove around it since we didn’t know at the time who was attacking or what their goals were. While I coordinated the defensive (and interrogation efforts on those captured) from the Ranger Headquarters the others raced around Sog putting out fires and capturing Prelacy members. From what I could tell, the Prelacy had no notion of the existence of the Phoenix Moth, though it was hard to tell when we weren’t mentioning anything about it while interrogating them.
After a full day of fighting fires all over Sog Artivan came barging into headquarters demanding that the others be summoned back immediately. Whomever was attacking Sog had led the Rangers all over the city, yet beyond the initial attack on the Rangers at the Hero’s Hart Inn there hadn’t been a fire nearby all day. Sheela called out to everyone and had them all head to the Hart once they’d finished taking down the emergencies they were on at the moment.
We did not get to talk to the leader of these Prelacy, though everyone else we talked to had indicated that Sog was the target. I had Sheela tell the Druids at the grove that they should keep an elevated watch for the next few weeks, and increase the magical defenses as soon as they were able. Sanctifying the land in and around the grove such that approaching would be difficult for any being corrupted by Darkness or Flame, Obscuring and concealing the aura of what was present. We knew it wouldn’t be enough to keep forever, but we had to hope that it would last at least until the Moth could hatch.
Immediately after the fires in Sog, Nature provided us a blessing in the form of a massive blizzard. Travel in any direction was blocked and everyone was more or less on lockdown. We took advantage of the blizzard to fortify the grove. Well, I say We and yet I was locked in Sog too. Frustrating as it was to not be able to get back and assist in the building of the defenses it provided me time to meditate and think. I normally wouldn’t focus on writing down such reminiscence but I feel it may provide some perspective on the events that followed, and my actions there-in.
My meditations happened while I walked, worked among those trying to piece their lives together, slept, ate, and while I sat and contemplated Nature’s glory and power. The people reminded me about what it meant to be a neighbor. Communal homes were set up all over Sog, people’s homes were opened and nothing seemed to be held back. The comradery of the Goblinesh people seemed to know no bounds, and seemed strengthened between the war games and the tragedies that had befallen them. Children played their games in ways that helped their parents get their work done. Their tricks turned to acts of random kindness, food disappearing from places where there was much of it and reappearing next to hungry workers, or the sick and injured. Ogres and Orcs traveled all over town rebuilding and washing off the remnants of the prelacy potions which coated the buildings. Goblins and children ran missives and supplies, and cared for those who were not able to help, whether crippled by grief or pain. Meditating on where I have been, the things I have seen and faced, and the things I was seeing was enlightening. War and battle are unfortunate necessities, but they must not become all that we do. There must be balance to the fighting and a chance to see the Life we fight for.
Through moss strewn tapestries
Of stone and tree
To the boughs of summer
In the high green.
Currents of air,
The scent of trees,
In the heart of bees.
The bloom of rose,
High tilted cheeks,
Spin of a swell,
Blue of the sea.
Thrums in twos,
Drums in threes,
Bursting of night,
A summer could be.
As cryptic as that might seem at first glance, I assure you the message was more so at the time. We look at it now from the perspectives of those who have seen what comes to pass; and that clear sight may cloud the message that was as I convert it to words. The message was very personal, and very not. It was hope and Life, victory with a taste of defeat. A warning, wrapped in images and hinted at in wind. As the blizzard started to let up and the roads started to become passable we received our first indication of what was coming on the black wings of crows.
Artivan was called on by a Black Lantern operative to assemble a team for a covert mission. I elected to stay behind and continue the efforts of healing in Sog, watching with amusement as Magpie nearly hovered in excitement over the idea of actually getting to act in a truly covert mission alongside Artivan. He was much more optimistic about the chances of such a venture as well as the ability of Artivan and his team to succeed at such a covert mission. But I certainly wasn’t going to spoil his fun. They headed out with Magpie playing the part of a Prelacy General and I shook my head, leaving Cairos in direct charge of the logistics, and Sheela at his side for communications assistance, while I ventured out for my first look at the defenses that my fellow Druids had built around the grove where our Phoenix-Cocoon hung.
I arrived and was impressed. The trees had been grown thicker and stronger than before, and they created a dizzying maze that even managed to keep me out from the center of the grove, even while letting me feel that I was welcomed by those same trees. The power thrumming from the cocoon wasn’t so much as to overwhelm the spells being laid to hide it, though I knew from how much it had increased that hiding it was going to start to become problematic soon. I conferred with Rrassa and Winneth Mooncalled, who had asked me to step into a command role for the local druids back before the Phoenix Moths had been discovered. They were going to be able to keep things under control for a bit longer as I wrapped up things with the Rangers, but they also agreed with my assessment that I was going to need a reprieve from them soon.
I returned to Sog with my heart lightened and weighed down simultaneously. When I got back to Sog I was almost immediately confronted with a dire situation to the north involving a Black Lantern mission that we were needed for. Though we didn’t have any more information. Not happy about this I left Cairos in command and had Sheela send back to the Druids I had just left that they needed to step up security another level as a precaution. When the group arrived up north I was confronted with an evil I hadn’t ever been prepared for. The leylines were being corrupted in such a way as to be transmitting Darkness along them and having that Darkness literally Thrum out into the distance. I had one of the new Rangers who happened to be an Aevakar scout high in the sky so as not to be spotted and what she reported back only re-iterated we needed to get into the middle of things fast if we were to stop this corruption and possibly save the lives of a large group of innocents.
I grabbed as many as I could and burrowed into the middle of the group Muril had indicated was possibly in charge. The others had orders to come in as fast as they were able and we started to lay waste to everything in our path that didn’t lay waste to us. It was a hard fight, but we prevailed and managed to save the innocents as well. We discovered that someone, who was being referred to as The Chaimera, was attempting to rebuild the Chaimera’s Tower. I knew enough to know that we didn’t want that no matter if it were the actual Chaimera or just someone trying to play themselves off as her. The corrupted leylines had turned back after we defeated this group of necromancers and Builders, but the things they had been doing only let us know that this was a major threat.