Legends of Belariath


In the Shadow of the Ragnorock Mountains

Chapter 1: The Exodus

This is a tale of a Sylvan Elf village populated with adventurous and brave examples of the race and their ability to survive and adapt in a beautiful, bountiful but dangerous environment. It is also a tale of tragedy and unrequited vengeance.

This tale begins at the time of the Exodus. The time when the elven races split with discontent of what they had become and a fomenting racial prejudice to the other elven races. The Exodus was the time of breaking when they went separate ways. The Sylvan Elves were the quiet race of elven and were looking to return to their roots. Becoming closer to the forest that they loved and a community that they could closely share. The leaders of the Sylvan Exodus were a group of women who would not be named, instead embracing the spirit of the Exodus and a return to humble origins, they chose to refer to themselves as speakers.

It was deemed that the population would divide into smaller villages. To cast off the ever growing pull of pride in wealth, possession, and standing that was inherent in the High Elves, and the draw to the arcane and darkness that was becoming the credo of the Dark Elves. Each new village would be lead by a speaker, and so it came to be that a diversity of speakers were chosen to meet a number that would divide the race into communities that could embrace kinship and closeness, where village meetings would allow voice for all and the village could grow strong, united in the common cause.

As is the nature of any sentient creature, those of like mind and spirit tend to be drawn together and such was the case of those that congregated around a speaker whose name was rightfully rumored to be Ariendhal. As a speaker, Ariendhal often spoke with quiet humility backed by a strong will and stout heart. She professed that her path from the Exodus would be one of a journey far, to reach new lands untouched by the taint of the Elven race dissent. Her village would grow in an unknown place and her people must be prepared to face the hardships of the undiscovered country.

As the time of the Exodus approached, the Sylvan elves began to select which speaker they would follow. All were given free choice as the speakers told of their visions of the village they would form. Slowly, but with purpose, the villages came together under the different speakers. Meetings were now held not as an Elven people, but as separate and distinct villages preparing to move off on their own. It was only the speakers that met to represent the Sylvan Elves as a race.

The mood as the time of travel drew closer was a mixture of sadness, trepidation and excitement. The locations of most new villages were known and in truth preparations at the sites were already underway. These villages were of course the primary source of excitement and their peoples were already moving out before the ceremonious date of the true Exodus.

As Ariendhal looked over the list of those that would venture into a new life with her she felt a sense of satisfaction. She had a larger share of rangers than any of the other speakers. And the list was filled with impressive, recognizable names of rangers who had established their reputations. Her fears that she would not attract enough of the other skills needed to establish her village were abated when she saw the spouses of the rangers and the surprising number of craftsmen and farmers that wished to carve out a new fresh path. Her only regret was the very few artists that had joined her. A handful of bards and musicians had joined, and artists, scribes and dancers were fewer. Thankfully, there were also enough adventurous druids with her to more than fill the needs of a foundling village. With a small sigh she resigned herself to the work ahead and finished the preparations to leave this troubled land.

The day of the Exodus had come and all of the Sylvan Elves gathered in a large low grass field south of the sprawling town which all were eager to leave behind. The day was blessed with a bright sun and warm breeze which all took to be a sign that Gaea smiled upon their endeavor.

Set at the far end of the field where it met the surrounding forest, a stage had been raised between two broad oaks. The stage itself a structure of storm felled oak and chestnut that provided an analogy to the new life they were seeking. The speakers stood on the stage, looking out over the crowd while the other elves assembled around flags and banners made to represent their speakers and rally the people of the future villages to a standard before departing to their new homes. The time for people to make their way to their new village flag was slow as goodbyes were said and hugs were exchanged. The chances were high that friends and relatives would never see each other again, even with the longevity of life they were graced with. Finally, with tears shed and best wishes given, the crowd organized and clear groups of widely varying sizes formed.

It had been arranged that each village would collect their belongings outside of the bounds of the field to allow room for all to congregate for the breaking ceremony. The city itself was now fraught with empty cottages, homes and shops as the Sylvan elves moved their belongings out to the gathering. Even though the possessions were away from the people, still one could see the paths some would follow. The heavier garb of those that would seek the northern cold climates contrasted with the lighter garb of those traveling south.

Around the outskirts of the field stood some of those of the other two races, the soon to be called Dark Elves and the haughty race of self proclaimed High Elves. They came to watch for a multitude of reasons. Some from regret for lost friends and a fracturing of a way of life, some simply came out of curiosity and ambivalence, and finally those that came full of racial prejudice and hatred longing only to see the departure of the despised Sylvan Elves. It was for just this group that the speakers had arranged for each village to supply warriors and mages, rangers and druids, to patrol and squelch the outside instigators who would incite violence against their people.

Standing on the stage, Ariendhal scanned the field to locate her flag, which had been designed by her new village and clearly showed the mindset of the rangers and the heartiness of them all. Finally, to the far right, her eyes came to rest on a group smaller than all others standing proudly under a simple flag. The flag depicted an elder tree, the tree around which the village would be formed. Over the elder tree was a silver sword crossed by a silver arrow, all on a background of sky blue on the upper half, and grass green on the lower half. A smile of pride crossed her face as the heavy weight of great responsibility settled over her. Not only must she provide leadership to her village, but she must lead them to a new home in the unexplored territories, for that was the promise she held out to them.

Tearing her eyes from her own standard, she looked out over the rest of the villages. Her eyes immediately drawn to the large village she knew to be over 5000 strong. This village was to be the safest, locating itself not many days walk from where they were. The other villages numbered an average of 2000 souls. Each village flew a flag that brought a hint of the village character, but the true measure was found in the people themselves. She almost chuckled as a village that must surely comprise a large contingent of artists captured her attention. The garish garb of the artists and bards stood out clearly. Others stood out for their lack of color and humble stances. She knew that each village had the necessary skills to make a good start, and none had been forced to join any village, but still there were collections of kindred spirits, as evidenced by her own village, which stood out for its overabundance of stealthy attire and quiet confidence.

As the assembly settled into order around their flags, a speaker broke from the group and moved toward the center of the stage, stepping gracefully forward to the edge and standing there quietly. Like a wave emanating for the stage, a hush fell over the masses and all attention turned to await the words of this speaker.

“My fellow Sylvans, my kindred, my brothers and sisters. Today we mark the day of a new beginning, a new start that is in truth a start of the old, for this day we embark on a journey to reclaim our past.” She appeared to be soft spoken on the stage but through the efforts of the mages and the spells they cast, she was heard by one and all without the need to shout. Sweeping her arm behind her in a gesture to encompass all the other speakers on stage, she continued, “I have been chosen to speak to you not because I am above the others, nor even first among equals. I have been chosen solely for clarity of voice, to best convey the words of all speakers who are peers, none higher than the other. I say this to you because it helps us all to remember why we are here. We are a proud race, a strong race, but we are also a humble race. We need not brag or posture, seek battle or power to elevate our standing or perceived standing in others eyes. We are not vain. We are a quiet race, confident in whom we are, courageous and steadfast. We are the Sylvan Elves.” To this point, the assembly had been still, listening to her every word until the last, when she was forced to pause as the pride in their race carried through them and a cheer broke out. Men, women and children had all understood her message.

Using a downward motion of her hands, she signaled the crowd to quiet. As the din subsided a smile grew on her face, “I did say a humble race, remember” which drew much needed laughter from the anxious crowd. They were all tense with the uncertainty of the unknown and this gifted orator knew that and addressed it in her calm, light manner. Those that knew her before she was called to be a speaker recognized her as Cylindaria, a renowned Master bard and singer. She would lead the village that had caught the eye of Ariendhal earlier with the large portion of artists.

“We set out today on the first steps to return to our souls, our core being,” she continued, “we are a forest race, embracing a love of the land, the life of the trees and yearning to protect those of the wood that would fall to predators. We are nurturers and guardians of the forest and until today, we had lost our way. We have found it now and that is the cause of this auspicious occasion. We speakers call upon all bards and scribes to remember this day and mark it well, for it is the rebirth of us all.” Again she paused to let the words rest upon their eyes and be remembered.

After a moment, she began to speak again, “There is not much more to say, for this moment has been months in the making and the day is yet young. All wish to return to their belongings and be underway while the light of the sun still shines upon us. Therefore, the last thing for you to know is that each speaker carries with them a tome. This tome has been written for this moment and is the combined essence of who we are.” There was a hushed silence among the people as all speakers stepped to the edge of the stage and held up the thick book that Cylindaria had just told them of. She held up her own tome as she continued, “Each tome is identical, and each tome will be copied by each village as they travel to their new home to insure that a copy will always exist should tragedy befall the first. Know you that these tomes have a name. They are called “The Book of Sylvan” and are the foundation for each village to grow from so that we not lose any of our heritage. They contain our common beliefs, our rituals, our history and our credo. We speakers aim to gather together once a year to bring the voice of our villages together and carry back the voices of the other villages to share amongst our own.”

She stood silent as all of the speakers lowered their copies of the book before continuing, “Now let us have a moment of silence to pray to our Gods for their blessing and watchful eye over us.”

After a moment where all that could be heard was a soft murmur carried by the breeze, she raised her head and joined hands with the other speakers who bowed to the assembly with tears of mixed emotions in their eyes. Softly came a whisper, floating across to them all by virtue of the mage spells, as Cylindaria spoke her last words to them, “we go now, and may the Gods bless us all.”

Each village closed in upon itself slightly as all prepared to leave the ceremony field and begin the Exodus. The sun had risen through half the morning hour and with the closing of the ceremony, all were committed and ready to begin. All that remained was for the speakers to descend from the stage and join their charges, for it had been agreed that the way to begin the journey was with the first step toward the goal. That first step was off of the field and was to be taken by the speaker of each village with the rest of the village following.

The stage emptied and Ariendhal weaved through the other villages to join her own. As she arrived, she quickly saw that the new village councilors had everyone ready to move upon her arrival. They were on the outskirts of the field and their possessions were a distance away so she quickly greeted them and turned on her heel, taking the first step toward the new village, wherever that might be. Their wish was to be five leagues from here by days end, so there was no time to dally. She also knew that action was the best defense against sadness and fear.

As they moved through some of the larger villages possessions, they could not fail to note the abundance of trinkets and frivolities, items that their own village had agreed to shed for the journey ahead. Large ornate furniture, wardrobes full of impractical clothing, and chests full of vanities were but a few examples of the items that were amassed in large four wheeled wagons needing teams of horses to pull. These villages would surely travel over well used roads in their passage to their new homes. The way forward for them would be safe and the course well known.

By contrast, the collection of goods that they soon approached and recognized as theirs was sparse and pragmatic. Practical was the word best used to describe their trappings as they looked upon it. The wagons were two wheeled carts made for mobility and were capable of being off loaded and lifted over obstacles. Each cart needed but one horse to pull it and with the large robust solid wood wheels, they could take the abuse of the unknown, less traveled paths and were a solid shield for the children to crawl behind should there be any trouble.

Loaded into the carts were only what was considered necessary to the journey and the beginning of a village. Sealed pots with various seeds, tools for the crafts, food and spices, and personal trappings of the families were all there. Each family had one wagon for themselves. Other wagons transported the village supplies and were driven by the people who were not bonded or warriors and rangers not on patrol. A few wagons were left almost empty, stocked only with shafts and fletching to make arrows, stones for sharpening, needles and waxed twine for leather repair, and woodcraft tools. It was in these wagons that repairs would be made and needed items built while they traveled. It also introduced what would be a new way of life for this group of elves, the children would be engaged and taught at an early age the different crafts and roles of the people of the village.

All of the people moved with a purpose as they came to the belongings of the village and spread out along the length of it, checking each rope, wheel and pack one last time for there would be no going back once they began on their way. The horses were hitched to the wagons and the first to take their seats were the families, the children nestled in their places, a parent taking up the stirrups and the other usually walking beside. The pace of the caravan would be slow but steady, with caution and safety being paramount and hopefully practiced long before needed. The unattached went to their places, the craftsmen, farmers, and artisans taking up the stirrups of the wagons assigned to their care. Those remaining with an assigned wagon or load were the warriors and rangers. These were the ones that would provide the scouts and caravan protection as the village moved into unknown territory. Some would be riding their own horses or riding in wagons to rest when they came in from a patrol.

In this area of embarkation, their only need for concern would be the odd thief or band of malcontents set on taking advantage of stray groups. These would be quickly dispatched by the village protectors and would only find their endeavors fruitful with the arrogant loners setting out on their own or the mishaps of the inept that are lead astray. As they moved further and further from what had been civilization, the bands of brigands and unknown marauders would become larger and more organized. For this a plan had been formed that would be implemented as soon as they cleared the local regions. Ariendhal moved toward the front of the caravan with a vanguard of rangers. The other rangers and the warriors dispersed among the wagons.

Ariendhal mounted her horse, a small spirited appaloosa, and brought it the head of the caravan. Moving quickly, a group of warriors took their place at the head of the column and also as a rear guard. Rangers that would make up the forward scouts and rear watch also joined them, not needing to provide forewarning of danger in this area. They were diligent in their tasks and watchful of the convoy to prevent themselves from becoming complacent when the dangers would escalate as they drew closer and closer to the unknown territories.

With a wave of her arm forward, Ariendhal motioned the caravan forward. As each horse strained a moment to begin the movement of each wagon, Ariendhal moved forward. The time had come, all preparations done, all the anxiety of the journey that was before then was now a reality as they moved the first few feet into the unknown.

Ariendhal rode forward slowly for 300 feet or so and turned off the trail, moving her horse to turn and watch as the vanguard passed her as planned, continuing the pace she had set. As she looked back, she saw the caravan of her village beginning to stretch out as the progress of getting underway rippled down the line of her vision and the wagons spaced themselves for the journey. She sat there astride her horse, smiling and greeting each as they passed, letting herself be seen by all as a sign of reassurance and strength.

As the last wagon passed she nudged her horse to move out onto the road. Taking a deep breath to regain her strength, she brought the horse to a trot and moved back up the to the front, careful to not show the exhaustion and weight that she felt rested on her shoulders. As she rode forward, the greetings and hopes passed to her by the others eventually broke through to her and she began to feel the conviction, energy and expectation that had carried her to this point. By the time she reached the lead once again, she was buoyed with confidence and elation for the new start that would be theirs.