History of Trefan Draus (book)

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A History of Trefan Draus

by Paralien Rautavala

The Dwarves recite flamboyant lyrics about their "ancient mountains." The S'kra Mur speak of their ancestors as "the first." What care we, the Elven, for such rhetoric? Before the oldest and wisest lizard slithered out upon the primal rock there was the Ocean and soon, too, its lover, the first of the Elvenkindred. We are of that Elven kindred, and we love to distraction even as our distant parent once did.


Chapter Zero: Our Distant Past

We begin with the Ocean, for all things begin with the Ocean. It was infinite in expanse and uncontainable. Yet the Ocean wished for company and so created children within herself. Later still she sought companionship outside herself, and thus created the land and all things that dwell upon it, including our first ancestors.

They were happy and unconcerned upon the Ocean's shores, following the dictates of her Voice and prospering in her attention. Occasionally we would discover signs of other peoples moving great distances across the plains far to the west. They furnished speculation for the first songs and tales the Elvenkindred made that were not about the Ocean and themselves. Doughty, short, bearded warriors. Or taller folk not unlike ourselves, but stronger. We waved and sought their attention, but they never responded. We were told they were younger children who had already forgotten the Ocean in their desire to know the rest of her creation.

One night and day was much like another near the waves' caress, until that fateful time we were sent away. No reason was given why we must leave our beloved Ocean. The Elvenkindred merely felt the Voice declare this one day, packed their meager belongings and left. The Voice has not returned since then, and all that remains is the heart's echo of pain, cutting across generations of River Elven like the distant roar of surf. It beats within us; that, and the knowledge that we must remain steadfast until we receive the Call. Only when the Call is heard shall we Elvenkindred find once more the sight of our beloved Ocean, our tears melting into her waters.


Chapter One: A Home is Sought

Bereft of lover, parent and counselor, our ancestors sought what relief could be found in distant images. Their steps turned westward, and they traveled long before coming upon the Namafal-- misnamed, perhaps. It is not very salty but blue as the eyes of day, and its banks sparkle with a rainbow of crystal deposited over the centuries.

The Namafal runs strong and swift between 2 ranges of hills which Humans have since named The Teeth of Akroeg, but which we call Clethian Tiera and Clethian Foril, meaning The Entry and Egress towards/from Regaining Strength. (Likely the fact that we address either range as Tiera or Foril depending upon our emotional states confuses other races, prompting them to select a single, fixed description. Some sentient species have little appreciation for the mutability of nature, however perceptive they are in some other respects.)

Thick, forested carpets of fruit trees and clustered palms gathering for miles along the Namafal's winding sides. There is little access to the river unless one can scale craggy cliffs like a lizard or roc, save for the very occasional gap between The Teeth.

Directly inside one such gap we created our encampment, a well- protected region of river, shores and woods, marred only by excessive heat. As the days stretched across time into years this encampment became our trefan, Draus. Its history is worth examining, for of all the Elvenkindred we alone remain steadfast to the elden ways. Since the River Elven are the eldest, our ways and the ways of the Salt Clan are those from which all else has diverged.

Now do not think our ways of living merely an echo of the past. We preserve nothing which is static and fragile. Rather we invest our traditions with the belief and energy they deserve, and they grace and nurture us. They are living traditions. They direct our energies into paths which benefit all.

Consider for instance our system of government that rules both town and countryside. It is a pure monarchy, based on laws of primogeniture. This is not because we believed monarchies superior to other forms of government now or then, nor primogenitur the best method of choosing a monarch-- but because they are the simplest means to manage the transfer of government. "In governing well lies the wisdom of leaders, not retaining power," wrote one of our earliest social theorists, Malkiene. And she was, as always, right.

Malkiene spoke those words at the first Council of our first ruler, Lord Gallaenin. He approved her comments. (Both words and their reactions have been transcribed and retained since that meeting within the fai'ren of the Council Chamber. Only Council members may consult it, though anything quoted from the fai'ren thereafter becomes available to all.)

You might reason that this accord was because Maliene's remarks cemented the foundation of his throne. Far from it. Malkiene led the party that caught Gallaenin after he fled from Trefan Draus upon hearing of his investiture by the Council. For Gallaenin wanted no part of rulership, being a fletcher and herbalist by trade who preferred his own affairs and his own ways in the woods. He wished no welfare of others to be dropped upon his shoulders like a bindweed net. Several of his subsequent Laments survive in our bards' repertoire, bitterly eloquent about his burden.

The Council was not insensitive to Gallaenin's pleas, for the rights of all Elven are equal before the Ocean and her children. But somebody was needed to make decisions about Trefan Draus, and the shadow fell across Gallaenin. He proved an excellent choice for those times, a serious ruler whose judgment proved uncannily accurate time and again. Such was required, for we Elvenkind do not relocate our settlements easily.

Other races cannot begin to understand this fact, however quick of apprehension they are. We are not like those tribes that discover a suitable spot unoccupied by their neighbors and simply claim it. Where Dwarven will mine, Halflings plant and Humans hunt without a thought save to their own welfare and their children's future, the Elven seek first their rightful place in the local culture. Are we trying to settle within a forest, or perhaps by a desert? Then the forest or the desert must accept us, and we must live by its rules. This is a clue to the different-seeming natures among our kind. River, Forest, Bone, Mountain, Sand, Snow or City: all are Elven, yet distinct. Because all live according to the ancient litany that whispers through and governs each place.

Carefree they call us, these other races, the Children of the Summer of the World; but only because they see the results of our efforts without observing the long effort itself. What comes almost magically to us-- the fruit of the trees, the bounty of stream and earth-- these are gained in exchange for our allegiance. And long, and hard, is the path towards that.

But I appear to digress and jump ahead of my tale. Time is a concept that the Elven treat differently from other races, and I must temporarily retreat from the cross currents of air back into the slow directional movement of the Namafal itself. We return to Trefan Draus, and the moment of its birth.

Chapter Two: The Settling of Trefan Draus

Thus it was when our people first settled between The Teeth, and formed the Salt Clan. We were rootless for many years, uncertain how to proceed, living in a home that had not yet welcomed us and granted permission for its occupancy. This was a great weight upon our people, and that combined with our naturally low birthrate and the riGors of life in a different region and climate led to a sharp decline in our numbers.

We persevered. Under Lord Gallaenin we slowly built our homes, using red-veined, cream-colored brick made from mortar and crushed conchshells. Gleaming dark bartani scales formed the roofs over our heads and reflected back the intense, enervating heat. We developed new nets of green bindweed, less intricate than those of old, to catch fewer of the small, delicate fish that swam in the local streams and the Namafal. Slowly we learned the right times to pick each kind of wild nut and berry in the neighboring forests, and how much to gather without taking from those who needed it, too, and had prior rights.

But even then our travail was not finished. The first visitor to Trefan Draus since we formed it came unseen, unwelcome into our midst. She bore pain and a feverish frenzy in her touch, and she stroked the brows of more than three-quarters our early inhabitants. The signs of her visitation were terrifying-- a thirst that could not be quenched, the rise of pustules across the body, a general dulling of the intellect. The pustules burst after 3 or 4 days, causing a horrific stench but providing some relief and sanity for the sufferers. Alas, it was a mockery. They almost always died within 24 hours of that.

Draus was not a large town before she came. It barely qualified as a village after she faded from our presence. Scarce 200 names are reckoned on the lists in those following years, and many of these were children and the elderly, or those left sickened or brutalized by disease.

Some River Elven grew disheartened. They wished to find other places to settle, even if this meant losing the voice of the Ocean's call when it finally came in the distance. Sadly, more than half our kindred departed at that time from Trefan Draus, moving (as we discovered later) to other lands.

And this is the origin of the various Elven families. We know that many will claim differently, but their memories are flawed by loss of contact with their origins and by years of doings, large and small, in the matters other races. You must understand, we are not better than Humans, Halflings, Gor'Tog, S'kra Mur or Dwarves. But we are different; and in preserving our meralion lies our greatest strength. When we give this up, when we take on the affairs and viewpoints of these other races, we lose that which sets us apart, and only disaster can follow.


It was shortly thereafter that we made first contact with sentient creatures that were not Elvenkind. This, too, was not an auspicious meeting. According to the fai'ren, 9 men and women appeared over the plains to the east of The Teeth one day. They made directly without asking for the smallest, cleanest lake that lay 25 yards outside the gap and watered their mounts. Then they smashed the Bowls of Drinking and encouraged their animals to foul our drinking supply amidst much laughter. Finally they approached to within 40 feet of Draus, and yelled out insults.

Shortly thereafter our Lord walked out alone, as he had wished it. This was Lord Besana Devilion: once strong and wise as his recorded deeds prove, his strength now gone in age but his wisdom great. He forbade any others to join him as he confronted these people, though our Council dearly desired this for the rightness of his honor and that of our Trefan. But Besana was loved and respected, and his thought in this matter prevailed.

The men and women who stood there in easy confidence wore a varied assortment of worn and damaged leather and chain armor. Dirty linen gauze folded turban-like bound their hair in place, and their belts held many weapons. At the time we did not know what to make of their varied shapes, but now we realize they were Humans, S'kra Mur and Gor'Tog.

Their leader was the largest Human of the group, a bald, scarred giant who loomed over the rest. "You will throw open your gates, and let us in to take what we wish," he said. His followers grinned. Our gates: at the time they consisted of several wooden poles resting precariously on 2 white moi'tra dolmens. Ah, but they were a symbol of resistance, and these shar'diz wished us humiliated in our eyes, the better to work their will upon Trefan Draus.

However Besana merely leaned heavily upon his cane, as though steeling himself against a strong wind, and said nothing.

"What's the matter, old man?" shouted their leader after a pause. He slid a large scimitar from his belt and pointed it at Besana. "Are you deaf as well as stupid? Tell your hetman to let us in! If he be not around, let us in, and we shall greet him upon his return."

"I am the hetman of Trefan Draus," replied Besana at length and feebly, but clearly enough for those inside our town to hear. "Only friends may pass between our gates."

The invaders laughed at Besana's reply. "And so we are," sneered the giant, "your best friends and protectors! We are hungry and want nice things. You will give us all that. What else are friends for?"

Lord Besana shook his head wearily. "Draus is small and our people much fallen from what they were, but we bear the imprimatur still of our forebears. Make an end to this. Kill me or leave at once, for you are upwind of my nostrils."

At that the giant bellowed an oath, and he and his people descended upon Besana like rocs upon a dead child. But as their blades bit into his limbs our Lord cried out and struck at his attackers with his cane; and the fire that came forth from it blinded those who watched from comparative safety for nearly a minute.

When they could see again only charred corpses remained in view...save the Lord Besana, who was in great pain and near death. He spoke with his daughter, Vrisana, and presently left for the Ocean.

Not a week later we received our second visit. This time it was the Lady Vrisana who emerged from the gates-- alone, for she bade us honor the memory of her father in this request of hers. And she bore in her hands a bloodstained linen cloth.

The travelers that approached seemed more peaceable if equally well-armed. There were several S'kra Mur in robes, attended by Human bodyguards. Many horses were with them as well, but these were pack animals laden with supplies.

They approached slowly and with evidence of some suspicion. Have we seen, they wondered, a party of men and women...then they proceeded to describe our attackers.

In reply, Vrisana unrolled the linen cloth. The oversized scimitar of the giant Human clattered to the ground. Several of the S'kra Mur hissed, and our people (armed this time, with harki knives and jranoki) prepared for battle.

But it quickly became apparent that these new, strange visitors were not voicing anger. They were expressing intense pleasure. It seemed that the same party which had attacked us also did much damage to their caravan (for such they were, traders and travelers). Their hetman requested the scimitar, and Vrisana assented. This much pleased them as well, though we had trouble understanding their concept called zha'vazh, blood feud.

Vrisana invited the caravan into Trefan Draus. Over the next week deals were struck from which both parties derived much benefit. Thus first began the traffic and trust between River Elven and S'kra Mur traders that continues to this day.


Chapter Three: War and Trade Come to Our Borders

In such light did matters stand when, during the reign of Lady Raleene, a deputation of travelers appeared before our Council. They were Elven, yet not like our Elven. They were dressed entirely in scarlet and purple, in silks and sable with gold chains of office and power. Though many of us are tall they were taller still.

"We have come," declared their spokesperson, head held high, "to obtain the support of true kindred everywhere in this war between all Elven and the Human vermin that infest the rubbish heaps of this land."

"You are bid welcome," replied the Lady gravely, and she stated her lineage to the seventh degree in formal greeting. Of necessity through tradition the visitors responded in kind-- one can well imagine their frustration. But Raleene was right to stand upon this most ancient of ceremonial greetings, especially with those who claimed race kindred in defense of their cause.

Their leader identified herself as Cheril Laranainen. She spoke for the Lord Keirnion of the Forest Elven, whose daughter Sorril had been raped and spirited away by a Human named Kanton accompanied by a band of cutthroat thugs. "What do you propose to do about it?" asked the Lady.

"We have suffered Humans long enough," Cheril said, her gaze never faltering as it locked upon Raleene's. "They have stripped the beauty from our lands. Now they would take the children from our homes. We want nothing more of them save their lives."

"I know that is not kindness on your part, for most Humans we have encountered value their lives above all else," Raleene said. "Assuming the truth of what you say regarding this Kanton, why should the River Elven care?"

"Are you not elves?" Cheril said. "Where is your pride? Are we not older than these Humans? Yet we see them growing daily in power and substance. They and the Dwarves take places of leadership that are ours by right of primogenitur and wisdom among the races."

"If we are so wise we would not seek to enforce laws meant for Elvenkind alone upon other races," Raleene said. "Or do you have evidence that these selfsame laws are meant for all mortals?"

"So you will play at choplogic rather than help us?" countered Cheril, then, angrily: "I wonder why they said this was a place where the M'Diari dwell. Will you at least not stand against us?"

Raleene frowned. "You seek to impress us with images of material wealth. You ask us to slay not merely one person but an entire race, when all are children of the Ocean. Then you peer about for M'Diari and insult us. Do not look in a mirror, Counselor Laranainen. You will not find M'Diari there. Whatever your complaint at these Humans, every moment that you stay in our Council Chamber increases the resemblance between you and them."

Raleene frowned and would no doubt have continued at length in a similar vein to that which I have transcribed, but the Elven ambassadors perhaps sensed this, and chose instead to leave. We never heard from any of them again, and word of the war that followed made its way slowly to Trefan Draus long after the matter had been resolved (as we later discovered) in a miraculous fashion.

Some have alleged since that the River Elven were involved in it, and I have heard at least 1 song which lists several dead heroes as being among those who came from Trefan Draus; but as these same heroes are not listed among the inhabitants of Draus from its first years forward we doubt the accuracy of such remarks.

This is not to say that heroes who appeared like River Elven were hallucinations of combatants during the Elven-Human War. But they most certainly were not River Elven, nor of Trefan Draus. And in any case during the latter period of that conflict our gates were closed once more to the rest of the world, for a lingering sickness (like its earlier cousin, not as bad, yet still the bane of our lives until recently) smote the Salt Clan with substantial force. Raleene used this pretext to decree the first Shuttering-In, sealing our borders to all traffic.

It was maintained for 22 years. For after disease had done what it could to destroy our contacts with the world at large, Raleene took its place. She insisted that the River Elven were self- sufficient and needed no one, and debated incessantly with the Council the basis of her authority, the significance of trade, and even in one memorable session whether a world outside of the River Elven truly existed.

(As a side matter, it should be noted the Council records of that period show the Lady Raleene was never one to give up an argument nor lose it, such was the strength of her reasoning and powers of recall; though seldom have so many hollow victories been won that would have resulted better for poorer sense and greater grace.)

It was only upon Lady Raleene's death and the investiture of her son, Lord Olande, that this enforced isolation ended. As his first act in office Olande caused the Stel of the Revarisen buried before our gates to be dug up, and smote it with his Staff of Office. It broke into many shards that were scattered in the Namafal. And the caravans which had continued passing us by in the distance all that time, their shadows at sun's set not even reaching our borders, returned as though nothing of consequence had happened-- which, aside from massive death in battle and an empire's birth, was indeed the case.

Yet when they returned, it was with an enhanced need for goods and a greater appreciation of those produced by the River Elven. Some might think this was because of the fickleness of taste, and surely we have observed this phenomenon since that time. In our case, however, it was probably more a matter of the lack of productive adult population left to other races, coupled with the knowledge that we had taken no side nor part in these mass slayings, that increased our renown.

Such at least were the speculations of our first Sa'in Talithel, Master of Markets, whose name was Talithel Coru. For it was no longer possible to have Clan members producing goods and sealing contracts individually in mutual advantage. Talithel's task (no easy one) was to forecast the lesser and greater needs of various trading groups, coordinate our efforts to meet these, and secure whatever goods were deemed necessary by the Council in return.

Thus, the Humans and S'kra Mur desired River Elven jranoki-- our deep-draw bows with carved and lacquered shell designs-- but as the size of Salt Clan increased, so the number of available bows for export declined. Fortunately the Dwarven traders we dealt with could deliver many cords of oak which we could turn into jranoki, and sell to the Humans and S'kra Mur. The Dwarven in turn covet our necklaces made of semi-precious stones or colorful salt clusters, and as the latter can be produced with relative ease we have the means to pay our wood suppliers.

Many necessities were developed by us for our own use which, because of Trefan Draus' geographical isolation, appeared exotic to other races. Perhaps, too, they appreciated the painstaking attention to quality that always been the hallmark of River Elven craftsmanship. Whatever the cause, merchants have always been interested in the goods of commonplace Clan life, though the prices of these fluctuated according to the moment. Thus bartani scales, which furnish the distinctive tiled roofs of our houses, were perfected into a kind of shield: lightweight and extremely hard, though admittedly very brittle.

Admittedly our harki knives, though long and useful for skinning, make poor weapons in hand-to-hand combat. This is because they were developed for quick maneuvering against large, clawed prey. Emphasis on maneuverability also explains our lack of heavy armor and helms of any sort. We prefer to hide and evade the larger, more quarrelsome beasts that roam the lands between Clethian Tiera and Clethian Foril.

But there is more to life in our world than killing other sentient beings, fortunately. The Elvenkindred are renowned for their love and understanding of music. The salaka carapace forms a wonderful, resonant case for our 6- and 12-stringed val'ani. Brightly painted casan drums and fainali, the flutes of courtship, are also popular. (Few, though, comprehend the tuning of a fainal, and therein lies the effect.)

Our salaka saws are also extremely durable and sharp. From years of shaping stone our tools have acquired a precision and strength which is the envy of clans everywhere; and even the Dwarven have admitted this.

Mas'en beads and light linen fabrics comprise our clothing and these are for sale as well, though we wear and sell only colors appropriate to the festivals of the calendar. I have mentioned our gem necklaces, but not our salt sculptures created from living crystal. These range in size from a palmsbreadth to the dimensions of a hut. The fluid that encourages growth is carefully monitored, resaturated and repositioned, and each sculpture takes shape very gradually over many months.

Salt, of course, forms the basic export for the Salt Clan. We sell vast quantities of it to all merchants, and though the price is low there is a constant market that never fluctuates for this commodity. The Dwarven have also offered to set up joint mining ventures on the slopes of Clethian Foril, but this we have refused. Foril especially (but Tiera, too) is the guardian of the Namafal, the neighboring forest and all that dwell within them, including the River Elven. To barter access would be to lose all future chance of ever slipping beneath the Ocean's waves once more.


Chapter Four: Trefan Draus Today

In time, runs the old Elven saying, a drop of water becomes a lake, and a wall becomes a friendship or a citadel. All things shift in the universe of time. So it has been with Trefan Draus. As the wealth of trade came to us, so it began to reform our Clan. The town gate is now a real gate, built of tightly mortared stone, with arrow loops in a second story parapet, and guards who civilly greet arrivals any hour of day or night. Kaf'te, curing rafts, once slung under the intemperate sun, have moved indoors to a large guild facility. Temporary housing quarters for traders have been replaced by tall, permanent structures where all guests are registered and lodged for free.

The small marketplace on Namafal's eastern bank has been superseded by two buildings, much further west and away from the gates: an elaborate Mercantile Exchange for all manner of goods, and a squat Financial Exchange where loans, deposits and guarantees may be transacted. The S'kra Mur and Halfling traders are particularly pleased with this, though Dwarven and Human visitors often prefer the old way of transacting their business at Bluestone Tavern.

Even the building materials have altered as Trefan Draus grew. Wooden beams became popular, allowing larger structures. Bartani, bred in small lakes on varying diets to produce differently colored scales, give today's rooftops a curiously multi-hued effect. The presence of Dwarvenkind in this area mean a source for metal, and several small, gleaming examples of fine iron and bronze work dot our town's landscape-- such as the filigree edging around the inner and outer walls of our City Council chambers.

Dwarven engineers have also assisted Draus artisans in the design and implementation of some of our most impressive and beautiful architecture, like the 4 Delicate Walkways that span and wind across the Namafal in leisurely, sinuous grace. Fragile, would you think? -They can support as many people as wish to travel across them at once. Did I mention their form, like so many delicately molded white waves sparkling with a confided hint of other colors? Or that they impede not the light upon the Namafal itself, and allow one to gaze down into its clear, cold depths without obstruction?

Yet if the River Elven have prospered and wisely renewed and bedecked Trefan Draus with many fine things, other changes have wrought controversy. For instance our earlier, squarecut buildings of shellbrick have given way to fanciful spiral homes emulating the shape of the conch. This much is a matter for admiration when executed with taste-- but what of those few inhabitants, grown wealthy from trade, who have paid the Dwarven to find abandoned, giant conchshells elsewhere in the land, and bring them to Trefan Draus as homes? It is an enormous expense with no return for the community, and the result breaks the visual line of pattern and thought that has marked our Clan since the dawn of its history.

Or what of our citizens who have purchased fine suede garments and furs from the S'kra Mur? There is the question of creatures surely destroyed for their skins; was the impact upon the land measured before the taking of these inhabitants? This is to be doubted. Then there is the clothing itself, plainly at odds with our stifling heat, and those Elven who are regarded as laughing stocks while they sweat their portly progress from building to building. Amusing, certainly. But what does it do to the regard for our traditions if government officials make fools of themselves and seem all but oblivious to the result?

As Malkiene wisely said so long ago, the more forceful the action taken, the more unexpected and forceful the consequences. Within the last 400 years some River Elven have reacted against what they've seen as the decreasing meralion of Trefan Draus. They dedicate themselves to an abstemious code of ethics that appears at times harsh and extreme. They give away everything, and live on the barest of fish diets. They sleep in the open. They use only Elven words, and stare rudely at visitors of non-Elven extraction.

Such actions may damage the cause they seek to energize, attracting ridicule rather than emulation; but when emulation strikes, it sometimes takes on a still more distorted form. For there are among us River Elven who, observing the efforts of these N'ai, are spurred to greater folly. They give public sacred oath to return to our holiest mother, the Ocean. These are the N'ai Jrana, those who desire in a single act to show their devotion to the elden cause.

When this oath is taken Trefan Draus mourns, for we know that those who have vowed in this fashion are violating one of the most ancient of our codes, and shall not return in living form. Such for example was the fate that befell Auriele Tielian in my own time-- as beautiful yet as supple and strong as the willow soul she was named for. Auriele swore a somber oath upon the second night of her ceremony of womanhood to seek the face of that which had taken her father's life. Nithanel Tielian had gone to the Ocean as a N'ai Jrana after his wife's death and had never been seen again, thus it was foregone what his daughter's fate would be as well.

She struck a bargain with S'kra Mur traders who regularly return to buy and sell among us, and who frequent the trails that lead by that shore but not, of course, upon it. She would go with them, and leave their company at the point closest to the Ocean. They would return two weeks later with supplies enroute for Trefan Draus and seek her out, living or dead, provided they needed go no closer to the place of peril.

Then all happened as was foretold, save in one circumstance. For when the S'kra Mur returned more than a month later it was to say that Auriele's body had awaited them on that same trail near the Ocean, dead yet somehow fresh and warm as though her spirit had slipped away minutes ago.

They preserved her form in cold shekra. (This had not been part of the bargain she had struck, but the S'kra Mur have known us a long time and honor our honor.) Within the fluid so like the Namafal she lay much as she had been in life. Save that she was now among the dead.

We broke the barrier and did with Auriele's remains as she had requested, and all who attended shed signs of the Ocean upon the earth that bore what had once been hers. I was foremost among these, for upon the third night of the ceremony of her womanhood Auriele and I had betrothed one another before the gods and the Salt Clan.


Chapter Five: A Personal Note

That was more than 14 decades ago. At the time I was overcome with grief. Then it was that my mother's sister Nythraen Kokkonen reminded me of my promise made a decade before to take my apprentice with her. For Nythraen Kokkonen was then the Senti Moraudru, the Seer of Trefan Draus, and I her nearest living relation. As with the rulership, so with all official positions in our Clan: they pass from generation to generation, from kin to kin.

I had promised upon attaining my 18th year, but resisted since. I had the will to see, but the eyes of my soul remained blind. All around me it seemed were other Elvenkind with greater signs of inner awareness. I was an effective guard and a good hunter, especially gifted in remaining still for long periods of time, alert but silent. None could spot me in such a condition-- save one; and her doing so was the occasion of my meeting with Auriele Tielian.

Upon her death and following the words of Senti Moraudru Nythraen I recalled my oath. Later that day, still mourning, I moved my jranoki and batina from the Hunters' dwelling, and entered the quarters of the Seeress. My apprenticeship had begun.

The Senti Moraudru taught me many things. She spoke of the cycles of plants, minerals and animals, and the herbal lore that goes beyond healing. She read much from the fai'ren, passages that were never been spoken aloud outside the Council save to other members; and she caused me to commit to memory long chapters of legend. She even required me to recite boring budgets of annual trade goods for the last 50 years...a year after I had first studied them.

Some of what Nythraen taught would have even helped back in the days when I hunted narabeasts and salaka. I had been silent and nearly invisible; she showed me how to absorb sounds and light. -But I could still do none of it. I understood her spoken words, I strove to grasp her inner meaning, but the eyes of my soul would not open to the power she worked with. This was the second great grief of my life, for Nythraen would not permit me to leave her service. She said I was to follow her on this path. Her offer and my promise had bound us both.

So it went for the next 15 years, until one day Nythraen refused to rise from her batina. She looked at me with surprise when I entered her sleeping chambers where the Merals Moraudru stood with his apprentice. "I had not realized this was the time, until now," was all she would say. Then she closed her eyes, and spoke no more. Within hours she left for the Ocean. Her remains were laid to rest in the southern communal mound.

For 7 days I mourned her passing; and then on the 7th night I saw her, the Senti Moraudru, while asleep. She smiled at me in a way that had always made me feel a child caught in some prank, even though I had done nothing; a knowing smile, yet forgiving at the same time.

I called out to her, Nythraen, but no words issued from my lips. She merely smiled, and shook her head. Senti Moraudru Nythraen, I tried to scream, but only the wind and the distant lapping of waves could be heard. She shook her head more forcefully, and took my hand. I pulled away, I cried in frustration...but though my tears were seen, my sobs existed only in my mind.

I attempted to leave the hut, but could not. Finally after what seemed several hours, I could stand it no longer. I gathered all the anger and hatred that had existed for years deep inside me, concentrated it into a burning white center, and projected it straight at Nythraen Kokkonen.

Her mouth opened wide as it hit, and there was an explosion. I was knocked backwards, and my dream blackened. When I fully awoke it was dawn, and a hundred voices of things living, dead and unborn filled my mind.

One voice was notably absent from among the others. The Ocean's Call. What form this Call shall take I do not know. But come it shall to the River Elven, and I shall recognize it when the Call arrives, or pass that recognition on to my successor.

(Note: Parilien Or-Nythraen Rautavala died a handscount of days after I transcribed the words he had spoken above. The night after his spirit departed for the Ocean I heard the voices, and became his successor and 23rd Senti Moraudru of the Salt Clan. We laid his body as he had requested, next to the black earth in a shaded bower deep within the forest. Upon that spot, too, were Auriele Tielian's remains left to enrich the soil more than 100 years ago. -Eldred Or-Parilien Deleau)