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The Legend of Halcyon Hills

Generations ago, long before Rone Wehnimer stumbled across the place where he would later build his port city, and eons prior to Melgorehn placing his Keep near Lake Eonak, a group of wandering sylvans of the Lassaran D'ahranal clan decided to settle in what we now know as Upper Trollfang.

The sylvans built their homes high in the tree canopy, and far below the roots of those trees, a long-established dwarven colony was tunneling away at the earth, seeking the beautiful gems concealed within the rockbed. When it happened that the two groups encountered each another, they were initially surprised by the contact, but over time and as they continued to cross paths, they grew friendly and settled into an amicable system of trade. The sylvans provided the wealth of the forest in exchange for silver and mithril from the dwarven caverns.

Less than 10 years had passed in this fashion when something went terribly wrong for the dwarves. Even long before Red Rot, dwarven miners would occasionally fall ill when carving out some new area foreign to their clans, mainly sickness of the respiratory system. This time, they broke into a primeval cavern deep underground, disturbing the spores of ancient fungus were, and after inhaling the fine powdery substance, many of the miners fell wretchedly ill.

Their breathing was ragged and strained, and their hearts weakened. Known medicines and food seemed to give no relief or nourishment. The contagion spread like wildfire throughout the colony, leaving more than half of them paralyzed and anguished, and the other half fearing they would catch the plague at any moment. Even their prayers seemed to be of no avail.

At first, the sylvans tried to help their trading partners, but, to their horror they discovered this plague could strike at sylvan lives as well. The symptoms appeared somewhat milder, yet the results were just as devastating. None of their medicines worked to cure the illness either. For the sylvans to survive, they would need to leave these wood, lest they suffer the same fate as the doomed dwarven colony. Quickly, and as is their way, they dismantled their aerie homes and destroyed all evidence of their encampment before they fled -- leaving the trees in their natural state once again.

Despite the plans of their kin, a handful of sylvan healers remained with those afflicted, determined that they would die before abandoning their stricken patients. At the sylvan healers' advice, the dwarves collapsed their tunnels, and moved into makeshift lean-tos constructed beneath the trees. Both colonies lived, worked, and slept together, as they tried to combat this plague.

One by one, the healers perished alongside the dwarves, until three more were dead and the last two were ailing. Beseeching Imaera, the goddess of healing, they asked for her assistance in finding a cure, as each day they ground new combinations of herbs in an attempt to stop the plague. To their shock and joy, one of the dwarves finally began to show signs of recovery! The healers had discovered a successful treatment, and rejoiced that the two colonies would be saved.

Hearts sank again, however, as it soon became clear that the cure would not assist the sylvans. Something about the way in which the disease afflicted the sylvans was simply too different from the way in which the disease afflicted the dwarves, and, although almost a third of the dwarven colony was saved through their efforts, the remaining sylvan healers quickly perished to the vicious disease.

Somberly, the dwarves laid the dead sylvans into cavern graves -- near enough for the comfort of the earth, as in dwarven burial rites, and below the trees the wood elves so loved. There they would remain, undisturbed and unmolested, for all eternity. Then, the dwarven colony abandoned the area, for they feared that their tunnels might encroach upon the fungus plague's domain again, and, although they knew how to cure it, they did not know how to prevent or eradicate it.

Time passed. The migrating sylvans from the encampment rejoined others of their kind, and the surviving dwarves crafted a new home as well. Nothing more might have been said or done of the matter, if an old dwarven priest had not seen Lake Eonak and the path leading to the burial cavern in a dream. He gathered his clan and told them that he had to return to that place, and asked who would come with him. Roughly two score set back towards the forest, to see what had become of it.

Normally, dwarven hearts are not lifted by the beauty of land, but by the beauty of a perfectly faceted gem or the gleam of a frozen crystal river coursing deep beneath the bedrock. This was an exception. Finding the obscured path of the vision, they ascended it, and then paused. They stared... for, where there had once been only a wild forest and the sylvan encampment, stood glorious wildflowers blooming in profusion, their colorful petals lifted to the sunny sky and crowding around an entry to a cave. Each blossom was so marvelous in symmetry and hue that all paused in astonishment at the sight.

The dwarves searched high and low, to see whether anyone had tended the area, but they could find no evidence of other travelers. Only one, the old priest, saw anything at all. His voice was hoarse with awe as he described the graceful young sylvan dressed in robes of leaves and flowers, that he had seen kneeling among the nearby trees as she caressed a lacy white flower. None present doubted that the old priest had seen the goddess Imaera.

Upon returning to their home, the dwarves spoke wonderingly of the miracle, and many others asked if they could go and see it. Word spread slowly outside the first dwarven encampment, about the place where Eonak's consort had blessed the sylvan graves, and, though most of the first travelers were dwarven, the rumor gradually reached other races as well. Sylvans, clerics of Imaera, and other curious people asked to be led to the beauteous fields.

The dwarves kept the location to themselves, and would refuse to guide those who would not keep their silence as well. They did not wish the gravesite's peacefulness to be violated, but generously would lead those who wished to pay respectful visit. As the rumor drifted very slowly across the face of Elanith, it came to pass that the descendants of the sylvans who had first deserted the woods, learned of the colony's survival and they were deeply moved.

By now, over a century had elapsed, and the old dwarven priest had long since been laid into the ground near the graves of the sylvans. The surroundings had seemed to sorrow at his passing, for the flowers did not bloom as brightly, grow as strongly, or smell as sweetly as they once did -- or, perhaps, Imaera no longer walked among the quiet yet constant stream of visitors.

More bodies had been laid into the ground, for word of the place's sacred nature had spread quietly among the various worshippers of Imaera in Elanith, and, as more burials were held, more people came to honor their own ancestors rather than to pray to the Lady of the Green. Compared to the great tombs among the elves or the battlefield cemetaries of the humans, it could be considered an unimpressive gravesite, but it possessed a peace unlike any other. Many planted their own remembrances as well, but these flowers did not grow with the grace of those that the old cleric had seen, still they grew and blossomed, even when the climate and terrain were not well-suited for them to thrive.

With the rumor of the place confirmed, the sylvans contacted the dwarves and asked very humbly to know the location of the memorial, so that they might go and pay respects to their dead kin. After little debate, the dwarves consented. Almost instantly the sylvan visitors were so moved by their initial sight of the place, and so saddened by the loss of both colonies, that they took up the mantle of caretakers, swearing never to abandon their fallen kin again. Once more, the garden bloomed in riotous color, and many who visited were stunned into silence by the sheer awe and wonder.

Despite the dwarves' efforts to keep the garden safe, stories of this hidden graveyard reached a half-elven necromancer. His exact motivation cannot be guessed, but the nature of his visit became hideousy clear when the caretakers were awakened by the agonized, semi-melodic keening of a newly-raised banshee. With tears of shock and dismay streaming down their cheeks, the caretakers were forced to take up whatever weapons they could muster in order to destroy the animated bodies that had once been blessed and laid into the ground.

The necromancer was successfully killed as well, though it cost the life of one of the caretakers. The survivors buried their fallen companion just outside the original cavern grave, and then dragged the necromancer's body away to a distant and unpleasant locale, before abandoning it to whatever wildlife might wish to make a meal of him.

On the wings of a gyrhawk familiar, the sylvan caretakers sent word to the dwarves about what had happened, and informed them of their desperate plan. With the first light of dawn they would seal the garden against any further intrusion, shielding it with a powerful protective magic, so that no one else would ever desecrate its sacred soil. They asked the dwarves to come one last time, intending to teach the dwarves the secret of traveling in and out of the magical barrier, so that they would not be barred from the graves of their kin.

A party of dwarves left their encampment immediately, to make the night-long journey, but they never reached their destination. The necromancer had not acted alone; his allies were waiting on the most likely road leading into the wilderness, intending to join him, yet wondered why he had failed to appear at the appointed hour. When they saw the dwarves, they were nervous, twitchy, and itching for a fight. They fell upon the first group, and, despite the mithril armaments that the dwarves always carried, the magical attackers were regrettably successful.

Those dwarves who followed behind took up a swift and merciless revenge, hacking the necromancers' allies limb from limb, but as the red-gold rays of the morning sun crowned the sky, the sylvans had already sealed the forest path. The dwarves searched and searched, but their minds were clouded by sylvan magic, and they could not find the way. Eventually they gave up and head back for home, sad and defeated.

Years grew into decades, and decades grew into centuries. Many generations passed among the dwarves, although only a few generations passed for the sylvans. Within the memorial's magical shield, the sylvan caretakers grew old and died without ever leaving again. Outside, word of the marvelous memorial site dwindled away until it was thought no more than a legend. The sylvans told their children, but their children forgot to tell their grandchildren, and words failed even more swiftly among the much shorter-lived dwarves. Eventually, even the legend became dust.

Almost... For another group had taken an interest in the shrine -- a group of the Greengair gnomes. After hearing word of Imaera’s appearance, they took a great interest in locating the site, and they saw no need to bother with a dwarven guide. Unseen and unheard, one of these small people watched as a sylvan caretaker sat outside on that final day to watch for the returning dwarves, and then the gnome listened with care as the sylvan uttered the incantation that would part the magical shield of obscurity. Then, the gnome relayed this information to the elders of her group and asked whether so important a site should be kept out of gnomish hands.

It is difficult to say whether the sylvan caretakers ever became aware of the Greengair presence, for the sylvans left no writings of the kind behind, and enough time has elapsed since then, that local gnomish histories are unreliable. The Greengair slipped in and out of the magical barrier with consummate ease, but they sought to avoid sylvan attention as much as possible. It is well known that a gnome who wishes to remain hidden is almost impossible to find, particularly for larger folk. When the last caretaker died of old age, several of the gnomes buried him beside his companions and planted seeds on their graves, letting a beautiful field of flowers cover the caretakers' graves until nothing obvious remained.

That might have been the end of the forest’s tale, if not for a diary unearthed by a young sylvan woman among her great-grandfather's effects. Having died long before she was born, these possessions had been stored for generations before she unearthed them. Among them was a plain-looking leather book that she opened carefully, blowing the dust gently from its fragile pages, and turning them curiously. Squinting at the ancient, cramped handwriting, at first she was puzzled, then dismayed to learn the full story, including the fact that her great-great-grandmother's grave lay hidden in some unknown wilderness within a magical veil of concealment. She told some of the others who lived in her village about her findings, and gradually the truth came to light as people searched through old records and older memories.

For decades, she and a group of like-minded sylvans searched for a map or other clues that would locate he gravesite, but the few others who remembered hearing about such a thing dismissed it as legend. Fifty years after the uncovering of the journal, however, word reached the ears of a Wendwillow gnome who knew the story to be true. The Wendwillow contacted his kin, and those kin contacted their kin, and eventually the gnomes who tended the memorial garden learned of the sylvans’ search. This spawned a great deal of discussion and more than one argument among the gnomes.

After careful consideration, the gnomes decided to let the sylvan descendants know the truth of the matter. They agreed among themselves to grant the sylvans the exact location of the path's barrier. And there they found, in one of the cavern graves, a dusty tome that attempted to catalog all those buried in that hidden site. When confronted by the sylvans, and shown that members almost every race had been buried there, during the period as a pilgrimage site, the gnomes decided that it would not be sufficient to allow only the sylvans to pass -- but that all who would come in peace and with respect must be allowed entry. With their consent, the sylvans removed the barrier. Once more, the path was visible.

Upon the 10th day of Lormesta, in the year 5104 of the Modern Era, at three hours past noon, gnomes and sylvans reestablished a passageway, permitting all who wish to visit the memorial forest to do so. Now, all races are welcome to walk within the once-hidden site. As it is resting in the shadows of Melgorhen's Reach, it was given the name Halcyon Hills, for its peaceful location. The tale of the gravesites near Lake Eonak is known again, and will remain more than merely a legend.

Simutronics Corporation

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