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The History of the Sylvan Elves
Journey to Nevishrim

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The sylvan army buried their dead and spent a few days to rest and mourn the lost. The Faendryl seemed as stunned as their allies, and made no attempt to contact the sylvans following the battle of Maelshyve. Other allies also withdrew and, in coming weeks, seemed to drift away. All who had witnessed the holocaust seemed to exist in a stunned, depressed fog.

After five days, Oriahn called a meeting of his commanders. He told them that they would be packing up the following day and returning home to Nevishrim. Not even that happy news could stir the company out of their malaise. However, in an army, discipline triumphs over emotion, and the army began the homeward trek.

They crossed hills and valleys, traveling quietly. No track was left to show where they had passed, and there was little conversation among them to mark the passing of hours, days and weeks. Oriahn wondered if he remembered the way back after all the time that had passed, and was glad that he had scouts who had made the journey now and then through the years. As the Eranishal approached a tall hill, scouts brought word to Oriahn that there was an unnatural quality about the landmark, foremost being the fact that there had not been, to anyone's memory, a hill there before.

Oriahn called his mages to him, a select band that had helped greatly in shielding the sylvan army from the fire demons. These individuals ventured out toward the promontory, wielding spells of protection as they went. They soon returned, having gathered hints about the oddness of the hill. These wizards had encountered the same malevolent fluctuations in the fundamental magical power once before, at Maelshyve. It was deduced that one of the demons had escaped over the lands and taken refuge in the strange, black hill. And had probably made the hill, judging from its extreme angles and sheer cliffs. Erosion could never have created such a landmark.

Oriahn's whole being cried out for him to order his army to silently withdraw from this cursed place and find another way back home. However, as dawn began to tinge the landscape from grey to soft morning colors, he knew he could not leave the monster skulking safe within its lair, free to kill again once it was hungry enough. He ordered his troops to withdraw across a wide valley and take shelter on a mountainside far enough away for safety. He left orders that the army was to withdraw and journey on to Nevishrim within three days time, whether he had returned or not. And taking a guard of three soldiers, he set out to confront the enemy.

The sylvan army was too far away from the terrible hill to see any of the battle. However, lightning flashed across the sky and the ground rumbled and shook during the following night. Dawn of the second day brought an uneasy quiet, although plumes of dense smoke drifted up from the hill and filled the sky around it. And that night, the lightning and the tremors resumed. The following morning was as quiet as had been the day before, likewise with columns of smoke rising from the promontory. The soldiers were restive, having slept little as a result of worry for their general as well as fears born of their last encounter with a demonic entity.

As the sun rose into the sky, a sharp-eyed scout sent up a yell. Two dots could barely be seen crossing the valley floor, traveling toward them from the hellish hill. A cadre of the general's personal guard set out at a run to meet them, although the returning survivors were yet miles away. As the party finally arrived back, two soldiers were carrying the unconscious body of Oriahn while Nepheral, his bard and one of the three chosen companions, was supported between two other men.

Healers quickly took charge of Oriahn, while Nepheral was questioned as to whether the beast lived. They also questioned whether it was safe for the army to remain there while the healers tended Oriahn's grievous wounds. Bearing considerable injuries as well, Nepheral managed to stammer out that the demon had been slain. The other two companions had died in the battle. With that, Nepheral slipped into unconsciousness and was hurried away to the healers' tent.

The Eranishal camped on the slopes of that valley for a month, it being judged too dangerous to move Oriahn during that time. Finally, a litter was fashioned to carry the commander and the army made ready to travel. Despairing of their ability to save their leader, the army empaths hoped to reach Nevishrim with its resources of experienced healers and stores of medicinal plants.

As the army reached the edges of the great forest that sheltered Nevishrim, scouts were sent ahead to alert the city. The remainder of the troops followed more slowly, bearing their commander on his litter. He had never regained consciousness, wandering in a feverish haze of delirium and occasionally calling out and talking to people he saw within his darkness. After journeying for two weeks through the forest, barely stopping to rest, the army met the advance group of sylvans sent to aid them on the final miles of their long journey home. The litter was handed off to individuals who were fresh and the exhausted soldiers were given illistery, a light sylvan drink that drove away fatigue, aches and pains, leaving one refreshed and energized.

As the army marched silently through the gates of Nevishrim, the city's whole population was gathered around the arched entrance to greet them. However, the throng was utterly silent, with only the soldiers' footsteps and an occasional clank of steel and rustle of cloth to be heard. Then, whispered welcomes were voiced, as families found and reclaimed their own, and the proud sylvan legions disbanded, fraying quietly away like wisps of smoke.

The litter bearing Oriahn approached the gate. Suddenly, the general awoke and looked at his litter bearers, surprisingly with a coherent expression. He ordered them to stop just beneath the arch of the gate leading into the city, and set his litter down. They obeyed and his closest advisors drew close. With an expression of inestimable sorrow and deep weariness born of his years of service, he told them to raise the city's population as soon as possible and journey away from that place. He told them to seek seven great trees and there build a new home, away from the Cities of Elves and from war and greed. When they begged him to not talk and save his strength, he told them that he would never reenter the city, since to do so would risk bringing the shard of evil within him to his people. And a few moments later, he died.




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