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Madness and Entropy: A Tale of Zelia

Darkness

Narrow light cut a path through the ragged tunnel of the Cavern of Ages, in a time long since lost to dust, decay, and memory. Upon the golden hatching sands, milky white eggs speckled with jewel-colored flecks grew firm and large. A great female drake, purest of silver in body and brilliant emerald in eye, dutifully dug her snout into the heated sands to rotate the eggs. She was not as enormous as many of the other drakes of her time, but nearly fragile in body, with delicate wings webbed with cool orange hues. She was unassuming in appearance, this drake that now lay beneath the great rocks of the Dragonspine, waiting for the eggs she had clutched to be firm enough to allow for her departure. Yet her eyes possessed a light in their emerald depths that was unsurpassed. She could meet any gaze, and it was rumored that even the great black drake Beh'Amant refused to stare into their depths more than once. She was the silvered drake, Cha'Anamos. Chaos.

As she spent her months upon the sands, waiting for that moment when she could return to the outside world, she grew bitter and angry at the brood that would not allow her to be free. The peace and calm of the birthing grounds was not in the least to her liking; it was too ordered and precise. Long nights would find her away from the eggs, lying stretched along the obsidian floor of the entrance tunnel. Her diamond-shaped head rested at the cave's opening, emerald eyes seeking the fiery orb of Tilaok high in the dark Elanthian skies.

Within the cunning Cha'Anamos something began to twist and break. Her times spent in the long tunnel grew longer and longer, her back always turned toward the sands behind her. Her yearning for the craggy pits of the far off red moon, and the rolling chaos of its surface, filled her so completely that she forwent all life around her. Consumed with longing, the drake went without the necessities of basic life, ignoring her body's needs, simply staring with craving in her eyes upon the distant orb. She devoured nothing, not food or water, nor power or air. Her muscles became cramped with atrophy and her once delicate wings became brittle and opaque. So ravished by her longing was she, that the time to leave the caves had been forgotten, and her yearning for great Tilaok became her focus of life, and then finally, resulted in her death.

The stench of Cha'Anamos's body blocked the tunnel into the birthing sands. Without light to illuminate and air free flowing, the Cavern of Ages became a stale tomb of near-dark existence. However, the sands did not grow cold from the lack of sunlight. Heated by the great hot spring that passed beneath the very bedrock the sands rested upon, the birthing grounds remained hot enough to harden the silver drake's eggs without her aid.

It was a moonless night when the thirteen eggs cracked open as one, the noise akin to an explosion in the sealed off cavern. The sound bounced upon the high ceiling and echoed through the vault, only to grow louder and thicker in volume. Fledglings rolled and rocked beneath the growing cacophony, their own piteous cries rising in fragile bugles, as they instinctively fought each other for dominance in the utter blackness of the cavern.

Great Cha'Anamos had breathed her last breath as her children fought for life and dominance. Pressed against the tail of her mother, a runt of a drake screamed at her brethren in an attempt to fight them off. Her cry was silvery and fragile, the only cry to stand out amongst the deafening noise that rolled about the cavern. With glistening wings spread she flapped for balance upon the pad of her mother's foot. After a short time, only her wildly flailing wings moved in the cavern; her brethren dead. With a shriek of triumph, she moved to feast upon the bodies of her siblings, only to stumble by a sudden movement.

Cha'Anamos's death throes rippled the muscles of her enormous paw, impaling her only living daughter upon one ebony claw. This was the moment of Zelia's birth. She rose from beneath the body of the frail runt that cried now with both the hunger and pain as that life sapped from it. Into the midst of this nest of life and death, longing and hunger, Zelia emerged, young but grown. She was waif-like in body, short by the standards of most other Arkati. Her open face was fresh and unassuming, lacking the cunning intelligence that most Arkati were born with. Her eyes were like those of the great Cha'Anamos's - filled with a strange fire trapped in brilliant emerald. Her hair hung limp, devoid of color, to just below her shoulder blades. The moment of her birth was noted by the shift of color in the night skies. However, the moment was lost to many and none would see her for thirteen days. Trapped in the rolling sounds of birth and death, Zelia was forced to claw her way out of the Cavern of Ages. Confusion from her birth soon changed to desperation tinged with insanity from being locked in such a place. Upon seeing the light for the first time, she wept tears of pure silver from eyes that would forever more have a slightly crazed cast to them.

Dawn

Zelia left the cavern behind her without a backward glance, her eyes cast upward upon the great moons of Elanthia. Seeing the disks hovering in the dark, she was drawn to them and filled with the same yearning as the silvery drake. The great orbs were the first light she had ever seen, thus she felt them to be a saving grace and was filled with a kind of wonder for them. Still young and new to life, she begged any that would listen to her pleas to show her a way to move to the moons and upon them.

Unsightly and gangly, the young Arkati was desperate in her need to find the heavenly bodies above. She did not go unnoticed by the other Arkati; indeed she drew the eye of both Koar and Eorgina in their own right. Each, though, found the child-like being to be immature and naive. So wild and erratic was her nature that they were at first repulsed and then later dismissive of her. She instantly became beneath their notice. Others, those that paid attention to the powers that flowed in the world, regarded her with either indifference or pity. This was a child, undeserving of the title Arkati, and certainly undeserving of their attention. She was so mercurial, so untamed and wild, that never once was she considered to be a power that could even be manipulated. Her curiosity was an annoyance, her unending dialog of constantly changing topics was difficult to follow, and her sudden rants marked her as insane. Where Sheru held fear as a tool to craft and mold the insane, Zelia reveled in its freedoms. It was not long before the other Arkati, their interest at the newest of their kind waning, separated their paths from the whimsical woman. Many scorned her cries for aid to seek the skies as distasteful. Why would someone want the skies when there was power to be had on Elanthia and mortals with which to either control or aid? Her desires and erratic behaviors were alien to them, even if they might be harmless. Turning away from her kind, Zelia began to beseech the first drake that she could find for aid.

Seeing how ill at ease the other Arkati were in the presence of the young Zelia, and yet also seeing the potential within her pale face, the drake acquiesced. Thus did the mate of delicate Cha'Anamos take Zelia under wing and bring her to the heavenly bodies she yearned for.

She stayed with him for many years, traveling from moon to moon at his side and whim. She questioned him constantly on the many facets of the moons, from the great storms that traveled across pitted Lornon to the rolling chaos of ruddy Tilaok. At one moment tormenting him with questions and then cajoling him at the next with tales of songs, she would hear upon the shiny surfaces of Liabo. The drake was amused by this tiny Arkati, for her moods were mercurial and reminded him of his own youth. Zelia in turn grew fond of the darkly violet-hued drake, which would not give her his name though he was never far from his side.

She never grew beyond her simple inner beauty. She never possessed the striking splendor of Eorgina, nor the soft, glowing radiance of Lumnis. Her strength was not that of a fighter, nor was her mind that of a scholar, and she shunned most of her fellow Arkati in preference for the company of her violet-hued drake. She stayed unassuming in appearance, though her eyes always held that captivating quality deep in their emerald depths. Many thought the quality was marred, or that perhaps she was fragile because always lurking in the depths was the hint of her insanity. For the most part she was a gentle soul, her fickleness and ravings never taking place near any that could see or be harmed.

Nearly eight decades passed with the pair jumping from moon to moon as the mood fitted them. The young Arkati grew to learn what she could gain from each moon's presence; she grew in strength and power as she listened to the mortals below calling out to the moons for guidance and strength. After a century of such cajoling, and with the great drake's permission, Zelia began to make small forays into the lands of mortals. At first the trips were out of curiosity and numbered few, but soon the need to put faces to the voices she heard drew her closer and closer to the elves and lesser races.

Upon one such travel she was brought into close proximity with a pale, beautiful Arkati possessed of dark wings. She was so solemn, so cold and distant that at first the emerald-eyed Arkati thought her to be a statue crafted by an elven artisan. She approached the statue quietly, her lips pursed as ever in a barely suppressed giggle and reached out to touch the other. As her slender fingers brushed the moss green fabric of the other's robes, she felt once again the desperation, anguish, pain, and fear of her birth. The longing of great Cha'Anamos filled her so completely that she fell over in a dead faint.

Her mind felt ripped from her body and she found herself floating in grey mists that bore the deepest cold that she had ever known. Panic gripped her being when she gazed upon the grey world that she suddenly found herself in. All around, faces that she did not know, people that she had no understanding of, played out the final moments of their life. Such death and destruction created a crack in her personality and she both wept and laughed at the scenes that paraded before her.

Hearing the living invade her vision, the winged woman took pity upon the young Arkati and drew her away from the visions. Thus Gosaena and Zelia became aware of each other for the first time. Saddened that the young one would be forced to endure what she herself took as commonplace, she wrapped her arms, and in turn her wings, around the other woman. She could do little to repair Zelia's broken mind, but found she could ease her sadness by showing her the peace of her embrace. Unfortunately, the much older Arkati knew that their contact would change Zelia forevermore. Using her will and no small amount of her personal power, Gosaena left the young Arkati with the ability of foresight but shielded her from the horrors of death. While she eased the ability of foresight into the other's being, she changed it ever so slightly. Zelia would not see death, though she might witness what led to it.

Withdrawing from the vision, Gosaena did the only thing she could think of and called upon the only other Arkati that could understand the burden of foresight. Leaving her in his care, she removed herself from the workings of mortals and Arkati so that no more accidents might occur.

Jastev, understanding Gosaena's wishes and distress at accidently causing harm, stared down at the wild-eyed woman, his eyes betraying nothing of his feelings. It is hard to say what he saw in the youthful appearance of the seemingly frail Arkati, but in time one could easily assume that he grew fond of her. Perhaps he saw in her the life he cherished and yearned to see lived, something that drew his eyes away from the visions that plagued his waking days. Whatever it was, Jastev and Zelia became odd friends.

In the days that followed her waking, Jastev explained to Zelia what had befallen her, though it was not an easy task. Weak, exhausted from the encounter, and struggling to make sense of life, Zelia did not at first comprehend what had happened. Jastev, however, was patient with his teachings and marveled that the younger woman did not froth or turn violent. Instead, she was filled with questions and though some of them did not make sense, Jastev answered her. Frequently, she would find some small beauty or wonder to share with him while she listened to what he had to say, though just as frequently she would be erratic and unable to follow anything he said. There are those that believe her whimsy and fancies briefly filled him with a lighter heart and that his finest pieces of artwork were created in her company.

Returning to the moons, Zelia sought out the drake who was her companion. She searched the cavernous wastes of Lornon, the flat plains of Liabo and the rolling chaotic mists of Tilaok. The drake was nowhere to be found. Casting her eyes high into the lunar skies, Zelia's gaze fell upon the soft viridian glow of Makiri. It was there that she found her beloved guardian, sitting in a deep crater half in slumber and thought. Filled with excitement and wonder at her most recent travels, the young Arkati began to weave fantastic tales and vivid songs for the drake. She danced and laughed as she spoke to him, her feet never staying still and her eyes always wide with the marvel she had seen. The drake, bemused again by his little Zelia, listened avidly to each detail as though they were the last he would ever hear.

Comforted by her sudden friendship, and ignoring the definitive signs of her growing insanity, the drake encouraged Zelia to return to Elanthia to meet with others of her kind. Zelia acquiesced one spring and traveled the lands during the hours that the moons were at their fullest. It was thus that the child-like Arkati experienced her first solar eclipse.

With the pull of Liabo upon her, Zelia was becalmed as the bright white orb traveled through the sky. Unaccustomed to traveling by day, she wandered on the edge of a town and watched the bright sun travel closer and closer to her beloved moon. Confused by the prospect and not understanding what it might mean, Zelia stumbled into a clearing where a man only slightly older than her stood in the golden splendor of the brilliant sun. Gasping, for the man was breathtakingly beautiful to the young Arkati, Zelia stood in awe as the gold-haired Arkati turned to smile at her. The brilliance of his features and his similarity to the sun above instantly captivated her.

Standing before him, just as Liabo drew the sun into full dark, Zelia introduced herself to the man. His merry laughter at their meeting was warm and filled with irony.

"I am Phoen, fair Zelia," he bespoke her. "And it is you who eclipses me."

Instantly, the woman fell in love with the Arkati of Summer. She regaled him with all manner of tales, and in turn he listened to her with the rapt attention of an older brother to a younger sibling. Throughout the summer, whenever the moons - any of them - shared the sky with the sun, Zelia sought out Phoen and reveled in his company. Her mercurial moods and finicky fancies brought him to laughter, while his strength and confidence astounded her at every turn. Emotions warred within the young woman and she felt a compulsive obsession overcome her for the dazzling older Arkati. Whenever they were apart she was despondent and filled with strange, erratic fits that ranged from laughter over a memory of being in his presence to rages for him being gone from her side.

For Phoen's part, the younger Arkati was fun to be around. He thought no more of her when they were not in each other's company than he did the elven child that hid under his covers in the dark of night. Unfortunately, he was oblivious to the growing affections of Zelia and when they were apart continued his courting of Oleani.

His brother, on the other hand, was a creature as much of the night as Zelia was and had noticed the young woman's unpredictable behavior during the long hours he roamed the land. Concerned that his brother was leading the mentally-frail woman on, Ronan approached Phoen with the problems he saw. Phoen dismissed his brother's concerns and accusations.

Taking matters into his own hands, Ronan approached Zelia one night when all the moons were in the skies and his stars were nearly overshadowed by their full brilliance. Zelia gazed into the dark Arkati's face as she listened to his words. Anger flashed within her eyes, confusion and scorn warred within her heart. Turning her back on Ronan, and despite his protestations, Zelia raced to where she knew Phoen would be. The brother of the night attempted to stop her, knowing that she would not like what she found, but she was too difficult to pin down. Despite his best abilities, and afraid to physically harm her, Ronan was unable to stop her as she crashed through the clearing where Phoen spent his nights.

Curled in slumber, the golden-haired Arkati shared a sleeping pallet with the lovely Arkati Oleani. Anguish and betrayal caused Zelia's throat to rip asunder as her heart broke into a thousand pieces and what fragile grasp her mind had on sanity finale shattered. Startled awake by the ravaged cry of denial that split the air, Phoen and Oleani gazed on in shock as Ronan attempted to comfort the broken Arkati. The moment, however, was not long lived, for the second the Lord of Night touched her, she screamed at him savagely and instantaneously withdrew herself at incredible speeds to the moons.

Phoen, at his brother's insistence, never attempted to speak to Zelia and shortly after the episode forgot that it even occurred. In the years to come, Ronan would attempt to bespeak to the wounded woman, but she would ever deny him and fly into savage fits of anguish. Eventually, Ronan, with a heavy heart, gave up his attempts.

Pained by her time amid the others of her generation, Zelia refused even the tenuous relations that she'd managed to create in her earlier years. No more would she visit with Jastev to share her tales and watch his art. Even the brief times that she would visit the seas and watch Charl spend his wrath, or Niima moon dance on the waves, were left behind.

Needing to find solace from the pain that burned in her soul, Zelia sought out the one person that had always been true to her. She returned to Makiri and the drake that had gifted her with the moons. Anguish filling her posture, she slipped exhausted into his folded arms.

The moment her pale skin made contact with the softly shimmering, violet-hued scales she was overwhelmed with vision after vision of her distant cousins moving en mass to Liabo and Lornon. Enraged by the prospect of this vision, she turned to the drake with a scream. She felt betrayed by his allowance of the others, crushed by the prospect of having to share what was her own and viciously bitter at the sudden presence of unwanted company. This collision of emotions within the normally mild, if erratic, Arkati caused a change to her physical appearance. Her hereto then straw blonde hair began to take on the hue of her anger, a deep crimson shade, and became a wild mass that flared up around her face like a living flame. The mischievous green orbs turned an even darker, emerald hue laced more severely crazed cast that she had upon crawling out of the Cavern of Ages all those years ago. The drake left her upon Makiri, filled with sorrow at what must be, wrapped in her angered ravings to return to Elanthia; it would be some years before the pair would meet again.

She moved like a wraith between the moons, at times gentle and mischievous and at others curious or angered. After each encounter with her brethren upon the moons that she had always thought of as her own, Zelia grew more distant and crazed. The voices that once called to her were gone, leaving her wallowing in a silence that she abhorred. In place of that silence, she was given other Arkati; the likes of whom she had never cared for or wanted.

Dusk

The years progressed with her slowly turning inward. She kept to herself during the long days and nights of the occupation of the moons. She shrugged off the companionable attempts of the other Arkati and was quickly discarded as a lesser Arkati not fitting of the power she had gained. Her mind had grown fragile and she continuously found it difficult to hold a thought for overly long, she spoke to herself mostly and stayed in the chaotic mists of Tilaok. Two exceptions were made, one for Jastev whose kindness she had always remembered and the other to Niima the equally as young daughter of Charl whose company she enjoyed for the pure mischief and merriment the pair could find. Even those encounters, as the years progressed, became far and few.

One clear night several years after the invasion of her beloved moons, Zelia lay huddled in the cold craters of Makiri, the very spot where she had first felt her bitter betrayal at the hands of her beloved violet-hued drake. An unusual calm stole upon her, which caused her skin to tingle with premonition. Tilting her wide, green eyes to the star strewn sky, she was filled with a deep dread that was chokingly strong. Time was stolen from her as the dread grew, until she was barely breathing from the great press of it upon her limbs, chest and head. Sunspots burst to life before her as her lungs struggled for air. Trapped within each sunspot was a vision of horror. Beasts born of nightmare battled the Arkati's beloved drakes. As each spot burst to life before her eyes, Zelia was consumed with raving grief. Over and over the horrors played, each a different drake waging a different battle.

When the visions finally faded, some thirteen days later, Zelia found herself looking at the dawn of a new day. Upon the day that would later become Olaesta first, she flew from the craters of Makiri to the moon of Liabo screeching her warning of the horrors that were to come. Her words made no sense to the other Arkati. It was unheard of that something so horrid could happen; the drakes were too powerful, too cunning for anything to cause them harm. The Arkati's love of the drakes blinded them to the importance of her words, and her past activities did not lend any weight to her words. None would listen. Her pleas fell on the deaf ears of apathy and distrust. Traveling as quickly as she could, Zelia strove to find any that would listen to her upon the craggy wastes of Lornon; pleading with those present to speak to the drakes on her behalf. She began to tear at her hair, great clumps of it clutched in fists as she screamed in panic and concern. Still none would listen. Zelia retreated to Tilaok, her lips curled back with scorn and anger. She continued to rave for long hours into the chaotic red mists of the moon.

It is rumored that Jastev and Niima took pity on their friend during her time of duress and that they spoke to several of the other Arkati on her behalf. It is further rumored that they were the source of her armor and weapon, as well as the chariot drawn by a pair of grey mares. Whatever truth there may be to this story is lost to time, what is known is that Zelia left Tilaok on the eve of the Ur-Daemon attacks dressed only in a simple shift with the grey armor over it and a sword in hand. She rode her chariot through the skies bent on reaching Elanthia and the violet-hued drake.

The horrors that greeted her were numerous, far too many for a mind that was already fragile and bent. With each horror witnessed, Zelia's hair began to bleed out its crimson hue until finally her tresses were pure silver. She fought none of the Ur-Daemon, but moved as swiftly as she could at the edges of many battles. At one point she was forced to abandon the chariot, her mounts devoured in a chasm of lava and freshly forming obsidian. On foot she searched for the drake and it was only as the few remaining drakes gathered to cast out the final Ur-Daemon that she found his still form.

Riddled with grief, the Arkati wept great torrents of tears upon the dead drake, her silvery tears sliding across his deep violet scales into the thick foliage beneath him. Weeks later a clan of passing gnomes saw the woman still draped across the dead drake. A few stayed behind while the rest of the clan moved ahead. It is said that the matriarch of the gnomes fed her a brew that aided her in forgetting her pain and loss. Years later, the tears of sorrow she shed during those long days would become the first moonflowers.

When she was healed of her hurts, the gnomes packed up to leave, but Zelia asked the small matriarch to travel with her. Unable to refuse the strange Arkati's request, the gnome stayed with her as a travel companion for many years. However, Zelia's mercurial moods, fickleness and mischievous ways caused the gnome to be left to her own for many days at a time. During one moment of calm, some decades later, Zelia hoisted the gnome to her repaired chariot and drew her into the skies. The passage was at once exhilarating and chaotic; causing what was left of the frail mortal's mind to unravel into quiet laughter. At the end of the voyage Zelia placed the gnome high in the skies.

As the years passed Zelia traveled the lands infrequently, preferring the solitude of her now empty moons. When she did feel moved to return to the lands below, it was always at the behest of a voice that played within her mind. Sometimes a child of the moons who sought their power, others a soft prayer that a loved one be saved from Sheru's growing madness and yet still more who sought out mastery of chaos.

Over the years Zelia would take a particularly devout follower with her to the moons, and the two would share an odd companionship for a time. It would never be long, though, due to the Arkati's strange nature, and she would eventually ship the follower off to sit with the first of her companions, the gnomish Matriarch. This select group of followers became known as the Handmaidens of Zelia, a strong sisterhood of moon worshipers and the insane.

Her touch became known as a release from the mundane and confinement of a tortured existence that allowed those who became her followers freedom and peace. Others worshiped her for her mastery over the moon, seeking out some facet of the great orb's grace for their own. Soon Zelia's worshipers blossomed and ranged from witches, seers and soothsayers, to the insane and even fewer chaos riders. Though many would wish it, Zelia never chose between Lornon and Liabo when Koar and Lumnis strove for a pact between the two pantheons, even as she watched the proceedings like a wraith at the edges of a forest. Her erratic behavior and sometime flamboyant nature has kept her from being truly accepted by either pantheon; thus she remains outside them all and true only to herself and her curiosity.



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