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Information  - a fabled history of terrastella

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Played by Offline Marisol [PM] Posts: 4 — Threads: 4
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Did you know there is a cave in Terrastella? It is not where one might think, down in Praistigia Cliffs, yawning out to sea. In fact, the cave is inland and hidden. Time has erased from the earth all who might remember its location. So now it rests, hidden by the growth of time.

It is dry within the cave, which serves to keep its contents safe. At the back, a single, eternal lamp flickers, warding off the darkness and the wet.

The cave has kept her secrets safe for centuries and she will for an eternity more. But, you ask, what are the secrets she hides?

Well, here in the warm dark (that has not seen the light of day in so, so long), are the cave drawings of Terrastella.

There is not one part of this cave uncovered. Ancient art and scripture turn the walls into living, breathing entities. The candlelight flickers across the walls and before your eyes the carvings begin to move, they dance and fight and sing. They are Terrastella’s history brought to life again and what history it is, painted with so many colours – blues and yellows, reds and greens, purples and pinks. They all combine into a rich stone tapestry that gleams and refuses to ever fall still now it has begun to move in the light of your eyes. You wonder if any of the stories it tells are true - stories of gods and monsters, war and love. You do not know, but you think you might like to read anyway.

The candle’s flame dims with a woman’s sigh. She may be young, or she may be as old as the stone you find yourself within, but you turn to where her breath was heard, and there is only empty space and dancing paintings. You are as alone as ever, but the candlelight has dimmed, illuminating a solitary painting of a horse. It is the oldest painting here, with its crude lines and basic, flaking paint. That is because it is the start of Terrastella’s history and it begins with one man.

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Mohegan was a slave. If this was not made clear by the fetters that clinked about his ankles, then it most certainly was by his looks. Mohegan, you see, was a plain looking man. His skin was the dusty red of the earth and he was, in every way, just a horse. That was how all the slaves looked there: simple, unadorned, plain.

It was what made them different and despised.

His captors, those who had bound him in chains, were lavish, mystical creatures. They were half-serpent and half-horse. Mohegan had no name for the terrible creatures those horse-hybrids were crossed with. Scales covered the whole of their bodies and there was not a strand of hair upon them. Their tails were serpentine and sleek. Their feet shaped like claws. The only thing this race shared with Mohegan was their equine shape. In the sun they gleamed like fish and slithered upon their long limbs like lizards. Rows and rows of sharp teeth protruded from their long and powerful jaws. Mohegan’s skin knew their bite, his skin still bore their marks.

In the dirt and dust of their barren land, beneath their unrelenting suns these monsters made him toil. The bite of thin-tailed whips scorched across his back and split open the soft of his skin. The wounds would not heal, for every day they reopened in the dry of this arid land. 

It was one particular night, after the sun had set, that Mohegan first heard his calling. It was a voice, a girl, who called him out of the darkness. That voice as sweet as water upon his parched tongue. It was, a dream surely, for such promises of freedom and paradise did not come to lowly slaves. How many tales had been told of the freeing of those in chains? He could recount so many they would make his throat go hoarse, but oh he was desperate, his body broken and his bones jutting from his thin, thin skin. Mohegan was dying to his servitude, but this voice promised him life and prosperity…

His chains were heavy – how could he flee with them bound about his ankles so? He need not have worried, for the voice vowed to keep its promise and so he waited as she had directed. It was a torturous and cruel wait, but then, one day, his rusted chains broke. Mohegan’s master looked upon the body of his freed slave and laughed. His possession was little more than a bag of bones. So the master cast his slave out into the barren land for only death would welcome him there; a dying slave was not worth keeping.

Mohegan roamed the empty lands with hungry death nipping at his heels. As the sun fell from the sky, before night stole all the heat from the earth, he found his strength in the gloaming. Beneath a purple sky he roamed and roamed and roamed. It was strange he did not starve; he should have, but the whispers of a goddess, Oneida’s paintings say, kept guiding him to food and life.

Many moons had risen and fallen before the whispering woman told Mohegan to stop and make a home. It was in a swamp, in the dark shade of trees under the watchful eyes of birds and insects. There was nothing but him and them.

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Here, in this land of plenty, Mohegan grew lonely. Bird song was not enough to keep him company and stop his ears yearning for real voices. Even the voices of his old captors began to be appealing. Slowly, his loneliness grew into resentment. He scolded the whispers that had brought him here for they had long ago fallen silent. There was no woman that visited him in his dreams now. The freed man began to beg. He grew restless, pacing his simple, earthen body round and round the swamp. He vowed to leave, to go in search of company, even if it lead him back into the fetters that held him once before.

That night the voice visited him in his dreams. Some say it told him not to go, it warned him of the dangers. But he did not listen. That next morning he set out from the swamp, out into the bright, golden light. At dusk, his favourite hour, a storm rolled in. Beneath its might, Mohegan journeyed to the cliffs, fighting the wind, fighting the rain. There he met the sea that roared its fury at the cliffside. Waves clawed at jagged rock and the rain turned the rocks as slick as ice. The freedman saw the boat he had journeyed here upon, it danced in the waves like a leaf tossed by the wind. It beckoned him down the cliffside and his loneliness hurried his steps.

It is believed the goddess’ dream-warning rang in his ears when his foot slipped, when the sea rose up to claim him and pull him with wet fingers from the safety of the cliff. Down into the swirling maelstrom he fell as water tumbled him over, over, over.

Mohegan was drowning as twilight’s final minute passed and the seas began to calm. A regretful tide pushed his limp body up the beach and rolled away with lamenting whispers. 

Mohegan had not been the only lonely one, for a goddess was lonely too. That is why, they say, she had chosen him to live with her in the lands she secluded herself too. But now her companion was dying, now she was to be alone again… 

From the sand upon which he lay, a body began to form. It was small and slight, covered in seaweed and shells. With each passing moment the sand shifted and molded and changed. A girl formed, as plain as the dying boy, but in her eyes was sunfire, in her breast was magic to heal. With whispering chants, with Vespera’s magic and her own strange blood, she brought Mohegan back from death’s dark clutches.

They say the presence of the sand-girl was enough to ease Mohegan’s loneliness and so she was allowed to live on; made of earth and sand and healing magic. Centuries passed again and the population of this new land began to flourish by the deeds of a goddess and her followers. The kindness of a goddess to save their founding father was remembered and they worshipped her with abounding love and adoration. They healed with blood and bones as the sand-girl once had. The Ilati they began to call themselves, which means ‘goddess’, as they painted their skin in a thousand colours like the ripples of Vespera’s sea, the dapples of her sunlight and the bruising of her twilight land.

They believed their goddess’ magic still flowed through their veins and it was not until later that any would come to question this fact.

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Mohegan died a comfortable death at a most reasonable age. The sand-girl, however, lived on and on and on. A century and half passed before someone found her standing upon the beach watching the sun go down. She was so far from their home in the dank warmth of the swamp and only terrible things happened upon the beach. As the sun began to set, her skin started to fall away. She was born from sand and to sand she would return. That is what she had told them all, over and over and over. Yet none had wanted to believe her. They all feared this day.

The sand welcomed her back, the salty sea rushing up to reclaim her body. She fell away, crumbling like stone beneath a millennia of erosion.  She fell apart until only her bones remained and, even they, began to turn to sand. A crowd grew to watch the passing of Vespera’s gift; terror was in their hearts, for what did this mean of Vespera? Was she displeased with them?

Those bones began to turn brittle and only a child was brave enough to approach the disappearing creature. She was a girl as black as night, and she crept closer to where the sea began to wash over the pile of bones. So many had already gone, but there were some that remained. They were small and not yet turned to sand. Swiftly the little girl plucked one up, sand falling away as the bone became firm in her grasp. In wonder she grabbed another and another, each one she lifted returned to bone as she held it.

A thousand eyes watched as the child returned with the few remaining trinkets of the sand-girl. She clutched the bones close to her breast and they warmed her blood – the sand-girl’s blood. For that is what ran in all their veins, was it not?. They were protected and they had been given the right to keep the sand-girl’s power by keeping her bones; the Ilati were sure of this now. 

The child’s name was Nahane and she cried when an adult took the bones from her grasp. She cried until a storm rolled in that night and she did not sleep, not even a moment. In the morning they found the adult who took the bones for safekeeping. He had turned himself over to the sea and drowned. His body was washed up upon the beach, the bones lying in a necklace about his throat. Carefully they removed the bones from his neck and let fire turn his body into ash.

That night, another wore the necklace of bones. He was an elder of the Ilati. He deserved the honour. But Nahane still did not sleep. They say she cried tears of sand and spoke in words none had ever heard. They said she had gone mad.

As the sun rose the following morning, the Ilati found the elder drowned within the swamp, the necklace of bones floating on the surface of the stagnant pool. They learned their lesson that day and did not put the bones upon another being. 

Still the little girl did not sleep but she did begin to go mad in earnest. She wore a mask of bone upon her face and braided feathers in her hair. Nahane cried tears of sand every night and spoke unintelligible words with a strange tongue.

One day they found her in a cave. This was no normal cave, set inland, so far from the shore as it was. In its darkness she drew stories with the blood of the birds and mammals she had killed. Their bones were arranged in beautiful patterns about her feet. Months went by and, they say, no one saw the child sleep a second. They swear they did not even see her blink. Eventually none would meet her eyes for they had turned chasm black, haloed by a bright, white light. Nahane had eyes of gloaming light and they were terrifying.

One day, a thief came to steal the bone necklace. He had aspirations and dreams to fill; only the sand-girl’s bones would grant them all, he knew. So, keenly, he plucked them from their resting place. Barely an hour later, he too was drowning in the swamp. Only he lucky. The thiref was just out of death’s reach when they found him. Nahane stood upon the bank, white paint upon her skin and haunting sounds upon her tongue, as she watched his listless body. Turning from him, the ebony child waded into the stagnant waters to meet the necklace that drifted keenly towards her. About her thin neck she draped the bones and asked her brethren, gently, to remove the drowning thief from his watery grave.

In shock and fear they did as the child asked.But it was too late, the thief had stopped breathing, his lungs too full of dirty water. Nahane sang, she danced, she hissed, she broke a bird’s neck and made him drink its blood and then, only then, did the thief begin to stir and live.

This time, none dared to take the bones from Nahane. 

The Ilati called her the Witch Doctor for no one should have been able to save the thief and wear the bones of the sand girl. But the child did, and they did not drive her into a watery grave.

The Ilati lived on. With the Witch Doctor in their midst and Vespera’s power believed to be flowing through her veins, they grew to be a tribe of powerful, formidable healers. Nahane’s influence, her madness, crept through the tribe. In fear and wonder, worship and adoration, they all began to paint their skin like her. They wore bones of animals and birds, they danced at dusk and sacrificed to their saving, powerful goddess. They learned from the Witch Doctor; She taught them how to speak in foreign tongues and the arts of healing spells and rituals. They knew the vegetation of their home - what plants could save, what plants could kill. They studied them all and healed and killed with them all too. 

Untouched, protected within their home in the swamp, the Ilati shamans lived on. That is, until the Westerners came. Had Mohegan been alive, he would have known them for what they were: hybrids. But he was not and his descendants were not so worldly wise….

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Castor had always been a terribly adventurous boy so it came as no surprise to anyone when he arrived at the palace one day in order to appeal for leave from the Star Queen. He had great plans that involved a good deal of exploring. Maybe, if he was lucky, he might even conquer a land and bring back enough riches to keep him in good favour with the queen and ensure his family remained well within the luxury they were used to. However, that was going to require an army, and really, Castor was in frightfully short supply of that.

His queen, in all her silver glory - her diamonds that blinded - surveyed him in silence for an uncomfortably long time. Her answer, when it eventually came, was quite unsurprisingly: No. She went on to ask the young, aspiring boy exactly how he thought it would be a wise move for her to release part of her army so that they might go sweeping off with Castor into the great unknown and dalliance with the chance that they might never return..

Yet, Castor was never one to be beaten whilst he was down, and so ably did he begin to pester. It was what little brothers did to their older sisters, was it not? It made no difference that, in this particular instance, his sister happened to be the Star Queen herself.

It turns out, however, that persistence (and gentle sibling blackmail) pays off and Castor was granted an army. An army of prisoners, low lifes and drunks. It seemed his sister really was not keen to part with her army... Yet, this motley crew were able bodied (most of them) and he would take his chance.

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The crossing of the seas was an interesting affair. Few of his ‘army’ had ever sailed before, and so, educating them on how to sail, was a frightening task. Alcohol was consumed in plentiful amounts and the soundtrack of the sea was regularly accompanied by the sounds of fights breaking out and drunken cheers. Not quite the military crossing Castor had in mind.

It was, therefore, nothing shy of a miracle when they made landfall upon the mouth of a craggy beach with tall imposing cliffs for lips. Sea birds flew out to survey the new arrivals, and the grasses atop the cliffs swayed peacefully. There was not a person in sight.

Castor was a little disappointed. A part of him (the part that had survived the many fights aboard the ship on the crossing) had rather felt he was a seasoned warrior now and ready for a fierce battle with the locals. Alas, there was to be none of that.

In a bedraggled line the aspiring Prince and his crew ascended the cliff face. Reaching the top, all that met them was miles of grass. In the distance, far, far away, trees swayed in the winds. Content with his newly discovered land, Castor set his crew to assembling their tents.

Many months had passed before someone returned reporting that there were natives on the land. They told of trees in a swamp that bore carvings and paintings. Inspired and thrilled by such news, a party, with Castor at its head, set off for the swamp. Their messenger was indeed right, for he took them to the trees that bore the carvings. They were terrible pictures, pictures of bleeding animals and horses with masks upon their faces.

As he stepped away from the painted bark, Castor’s gaze caught the glimmer of a set of eyes deep, deep in the forest. A group set about splashing, crashing and slashing through the swamp to where the eyes had been. But there was no sign of anyone, or any thing; the eyes and their owner were gone.

Time went on and many eyes were seen within Tinea Swamp as Castor came to call it. Though he felt the name was ill-chosen because, by now, they all believed it haunted. Despite eyes appearing everywhere within the swamp, never had his people managed to find anyone to whom those eyes belonged.

Slowly, as they years trickled by and the population of Castor’s founding group began to bloom (he sent for willing citizens from the City of Stars - those keen to begin a new life) people began to see glimpses of these ghosts. It transpired that they were not ghosts at all, they were worse. They were odd horses with skulls upon their faces and feathers in their hair. They wore the skins of the animals they had killed and were painted in blood and chalk and ink. Yet, whenever they saw one of Castor’s group, they fled into nothingness.

Eventually the Star Prince found love and settled down with his lover and their son. He commanded a lavish castle be built to honour them, one close enough to see the cliffs and the sea upon which they came. Soon Castor was crowned King of Terrastella and he was proud to have a son, Linus, to succeed him. The King allowed his progeny free rein to explore the kingdom, but he told the boy strictly not to enter the swamp; he did not trust the strange horses that supposedly lived there.

However, Linus was, regrettably, his father’s son and he was not to be so easily controlled. So it was a pitifully short time before the young prince was excitedly exploring the swamp. There he met a girl, a quiet thing with a dark black mane and bright blue eyes. She was a strange creature, he thought, for she wore feathers and bones in her hair and painted her face in bright colours. His friend, Linus thought, looked nothing like anyone he knew. Though his father and his compatriots rarely looked the same, their skin bore a myriad of colours. There were those of the sky, the sun, the moon and the stars. Their bodies rippled with brilliant colours and many resembled hybrids - of animals, birds and mythical creatures. But this girl was, well, plain. Except for her painted face and her bones, so many bones. She told him she would be the next Witch Doctor, that the bones called to her. Linus didn’t laugh, he thought he believed her.

Often the young Prince ventured to the swamp to meet with his strange friend. They explored everything and she showed him how to carve a message into bark, then how to paint on it. She showed him a cave with paintings made in blood and ink. He drew his own; it was the story of his father’s arrival. Then together they drew her people in the swamp. She told him of a goddess, Vespera, how she was descended from her. Linus didn’t believe her. She was too plain for that. She had a plain name too: Dyani. She said it meant deer, he believed her of that, with her wide doe eyes and her fawn coloured skin.

Over and over they met in the swamp that came to be their playground. Yet, one day, close to dusk, when Linus should be turning for home, Dyani dared him to jump a particularly large pool of swamp water. This challenge was nothing new and Linus had never failed one before, so why would he now? He liked to show her all the ways he was bold, brave and athletic. So this fateful day, without a second thought, he jumped. For all his bravery, the foolish boy had never learned to swim and his jump had been poorly judged. The waters beckoned him down. In Linus plunged. It was a relief the waters were shallow but the mud bed was thick. It pulled as his feet dragging him down, down, down like hands determined to keep him under. The water was shallow, but not shallow enough for a boy floundering in mud.

He gasped and choked watching as Dyani ran away. She ran like a deer, nimble and fast. Feathers fell in her wake as she fled from the drowning boy. It was a long time, Linus felt, that he was struggling in the cold water alone. His lungs began to burn so he gasped for air but only swallowed murky water and mud. The prince coughed and gasped, desperate for air but inhaling only more mud and stagnant water. He was growing tired and his lungs were burning more fiercely than ever. Linus choked and slowed and felt the cold needles of unconsciousness creeping in. As his eyes began to close, figures appeared between the trees. Oh so many skeletons here to take him to the grave, he thought, but at their fore were a pair of doe eyes, Dyani.

The Ilanti knew what it took to save a victim of the swamp. As they pried the boy from the mud, that sought to make his eternal bed, the Witch Doctor moved forwards. About her neck a set of bones jangled sweetly. She remembered the tales of the others who wore her necklace and drowned. Through the eyes of her skull mask, she watched the young boy. He was one of them. His golden skin and crimson hair was unlike anything her tribe had known. He bore wings like wildfire and she wondered if he could set the swamp ablaze with just one spark.

She called for blood and it came, freshly poured. She called for a rabbit and that too came, lying lifeless before her. She called to the earth as their tribe began to chant. That is how King Castor found them, stood about his drowned son with their fearsome eyes and their masks of bone. They made a terrifying spectacle of haunting chants and savage dance. Fury limned his bones and the king staggered forward. A loosed blade flew from a too-keen warrior to land in the breast of an Ilati shaman. They fell, instantly dead, blood seeping into the ground. Chants turned to cries as the Ilati fled. A girl, small as a fawn, cried out above the din, ‘Stop!

She ripped her bone mask from her face and the Witch Doctor turned to her with a monstrous gaze, agape and horror-filled. That was no word they had ever spoken - it was not an Ilati word. But Dyani had learned her friend’s language as he had learned hers. Haltingly, her tongue cumbersome as it negotiated the unfamiliar words, Dyani explained to the king how the Ilati only sought to heal the fallen prince. She told him of how Linus had been drowning and now dying.

In the pause from the chaos, with Witch Doctor continued her care and Linus breathed a gurgling breath. Warily, mistrust glimmering in his azure eyes, Castor watched as the Witch Doctor nursed his son.

In the days to follow, the king realised how close his son had come to death - how, truly, the boy should have been dead. But under the care of the shamans, somehow, he was not. 
In a fateful moment, Castor called for the capture of the one who healed his son, the woman with a great stag’s skull and antlers. Scant hours later the Witch Doctor was dragged, struggling into the throne room. The Ilati had no means of protection as they had never needed to defend themselves, only keep one another free of sickness and injury.

The Ilati woman was thrown to the floor, one great antler hitting the stone with a resounding crack. From his throne the King regarded her. Fascination had his gaze drinking in the black of her skin, the click of the bones hanging about her throat, the animal skins draped about her slim torso. Strange is what she was.

Castor commanded that the Witch Doctor heal a soldier, one who was dying of a wound they could not heal. Only then would he grant her life - for he still did not trust the testament of the doe-eyed child. Soldiers marched the Witch Doctor to the soldier and in silence she surveyed his mortal wounds. It was days before he moved from death’s door and more, by Vespera’s grace, that he was able to walk. The king’s healers watched the strange girl work with fear and hatred in their eyes, but everyone the king makes her heal - even those near death - returned to them and lived.

The king’s fascination turned to adoration and the Witch Doctor was soon allowed home no more. Castor told tales of his healer and citizens flocked from the corners of his kingdom, and beyond, to cast an eye upon his strange healer and the magic she must surely possess. Castor, in his fascination, in his growing greed, kept the Ilati shaman prisoner. Soon his subjects began to ask what they might do to acquire their own healer and that was how the first Ilati were hunted. 

Their customs, the strange ways of this tribal community had become a fascination to the Dusk Court and its civilians. Ilati children were plucked from their mothers, men and woman were killed for their bones: Good luck charms they said, it keeps you from death. Castor and his court adopted the techniques of the Witch Doctor, they learned of her goddess and claimed her for their own. 

Oh what a blessing and curse that was! To love Vespera was to love the goddess who ruled the land they lived in, but to worship her was to see the demise of her chosen people. The Black Market became full of Ilati bones and living slaves. Their numbers were decimated and even Castor was not sure exactly when the Witch Doctor became the only living member of her tribe. It was, maybe, around the time Linus demanded to know where the girl, Dyani, was. Castor had no answer, this inadvertent massacre was not what he wanted or planned. Yet still, he had not done much to stop its progression…

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Time passed and King Castor died, his son rising up to take his place. Linus’ reign was short, but peaceful, except upon the week of his death… 

It happened during an expedition to explore their neighbouring lands. They had found a distant kingdom, Delumine. An exchange between their sovereigns should have been simple, but a young soldier, inexperienced and not ready for meetings with strangers and the tensions that could arise, let loose a single arrow. For all his inexperience, the boy was a good shot. The arrow found its resting place in the heart of a Delumine soldier and the moment of high tension was over. Chaos ensued and the boy soldier was killed in the fray. As he lay bleeding, his death creeping slowly upon him, he saw the blade of a Delumine knight sink deep into his King’s abdomen. Linus fell, wounded, but blessedly alive. 

That was how Terrastella lost its first and only battle. King Linus called his men to retreat and in disarray they set off for home carrying their wounded. The remaining soldiers were days away from the borders of Terrastella when their king’s wound became infected. In a wise move Linus had brought along the Witch Doctor to heal the wounded but not even she could save him and he succumbed to his wound less than a day from home.

His soldiers were furious, their wrath directed upon the Ilati witch. They accused the healer of not wanting to save him. They whipped her until her flesh sloughed from her back and they cast her out onto the streets. Only Castor and his son had ever sought to keep the Witch Doctor and when, so far as Terrastella’s people cared, she did not return the favour for their kindness, they began to doubt her power. On the streets she became a pauper, starving and frail, for none would feed the woman who let their king die. Near death, last Ilati returned to her swamp, to carve the stories of her people into the trees and they walked around her like ghosts.

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Centuries passed and royal families rose, grappled with each other, and fell. It was the year 470 when Terrastella’s first queen, Enesta, decided to summon the Witch Doctor from her swamp. In truth, she had not thought to find the Ilati shaman alive, she had merely sent a search party to the swamp to investigate the rumoured sightings. So, the young queen was quite astounded when she came face to face with the Ilati healer and, not only that, found her still exactly as all the ancient texts described her to be: Raven black skin, not coloured with age, eyes of the sun trapped by a twilight sky of stars, and a bone mask covering her face. The protected books in which her tales were written were far more worn that the Witch Doctor herself. 

“The bones are waiting for my successor” was all the Witch Doctor said when asked how she was still alive. Her answer was confirmation alone that no other Ilati lived. There was nobody left who could rise to take the burden of the bones from this woman and let her succumb to old age.

Enesta was a good queen, she established peace in a court that had succumbed to power grabbing and manipulation. There were those who sought power and would stop at nothing to acquire it. They appealed themselves to the powerful and sang sweet songs in their ears to win favour. It had caused many reigns to end in violence and death. But Enesta was wise, the knowing gleam in her silver eyes a testament to that. She fought like a boy, defended her country like a warrior and carried herself in a manner that befit a king more than a queen. She was not delicate nor soft. She fought with voracity and was the cause of much of the parent’s strife when, as a child, she would return to the palace, covered in mud having bested many of the young apprentices in the soldier’s barracks. 

It was Enesta’s kindness, however, that had her caring for the Witch Doctor. She appointed the woman her own physician and over time their relationship grew to something akin to respect, even friendship.

The queen was no fool to think the power hungry were not within her court, those who would eye a single queen as a means of progression and ultimate power by becoming her consort. But what she did not forsee were the eyes that watched from the head of a leading political family. Even when the queen showed no inclination to find herself a consort, men yearned to step into such a role. One such man was young Chaska. Only rumour told of how the Witch Doctor came to bear a child. They say Chaska’s jealousy, when his advances were ignored by the queen, ascended to such a level that he sought to degrade the Witch Doctor - the woman who seemed to hold the queen’s interest like nobody else ever could.

The moment the Ilati shaman bore her child she began to age again. The child’s name was Chenoa, which means dove, and like a dove she was always searching for new land. She learned her mother’s gift for healing with a speed and dexterity that was beyond the capabilities of the court physicians and soon she found herself venturing from the borders of Terrastella to find new herbs and flowers.

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Queen Enesta had come to love Chenoa like her own, so strong was her bond with the child’s mother. Some say she loved the Witch Doctor too, in ways that were then not befitting for a queen. Ultimately, Cheska’s act of revenge had instead served to grant the Dusk Court with its greatest gift. The realisation of this began one day as Chenoa merrily negotiated the descent of Verenor’s northern mountain pass. The princess (appointed by love, not blood) was already 7 days into her journey. She had no destination in mind, rather this was an exercise in gathering new herbs and leaves. Since her bags were generously filled with supplies from Queen Enesta’s kitchen, the girl planned to journey to the furthest she could. It was this determination that had her straying into Delumine. If Chenoa knew of the discord between Dusk and Dawn, it did not give her pause. 

Since the death of King Linus and the short but fierce battle, tensions had escalated between the courts. Anger festered like Linus’ wound once had and the courts descended into a fierce enmity.. No Terrastellan was ever welcome back into Delumine’s borders and an identical decree had been issued by the Terrastellans. These “minor”details did not matter to Dusk’s princess. She knew she could be quick, she knew she could go undetected. What Chenoa did not expect, however, was a boy to fall in love with a girl with feathers in her hair and bones jangling about her limbs. 

Sarad really was not sure what it was about this girl that made him follow her, but he did. He watched everything about her, from the way she moved like a doe, to the way her fire-red skin glowed like embers in the sun. The feathers in her hair entranced him, the bones jangling their song from her torso thrilled him. He followed her curiously for never had there been a girl like her in Delumine. 

Chenoa enchanted this boy like none ever had and many, many had tried. He made himself known to her with a whistle that sounded like the cry of a starling. The girl looked up from where she was freeing a flower from the ground and turned, with wild hair, to survey the boy before her.

Their greetings were easy, for whilst borders remained hostile, they were not hostile to language. Words swept from one corner of Novus to the next uniting the whole of Novus under one tongue. It was the work of Tempus, one might whisper. 

Sarad had never thought to consider whether this strange girl might be from Terrastella for even Terrastellan soldiers were too fearful to step foot in Delumine after their king was slain! His belief that a girl certainly would not dare was, clearly, so terribly flawed.

Chenoa too never thought to tell Sarad just who she was. Such details did not matter to her, so long as she was able to gather her plants. How wrong she was - how wrong they both were! Soon the girl spent more time with the boy than she did gathering her flowers. Soon, she was learning from him what flowers she had gathered. At dusk he helped her assemble her shelter and each night begged her to come back with him for a night inside. Each day she refused. The Dusk princess was too content to sleep under a roof of leaves as her Ilati brethren once had.

One day, as Chenoa and Sarad lay in a thicket considering the dawn, Chenoa told him she must return home. Only then did Sarad think to ask her where home was. Only then did his smile fall for the first time in months when she told him. He stood up on shaky limbs and told her like any good Delumine man would to, get out. He had been played, had he not? What new trickery was this from Terrastella? Was it their plan to mock the Delumine Prince by making him love an enemy girl?

No matter her insistences to the contrary, Sarad banned Chenoa. The girl returned, shedding her tears atop Verenor and aching for her broken heart. He had been just a boy to her - he never told her he was a Prince! Chenoa began to fear the war that might reach Terrastella’s door because of her stupidity. 

But war never came. 

Weeks and months passed and the Ilati girl roamed the halls like a wildcat kept within a cage. She could not bring herself to go gathering flowers or herbs, she could not bring herself to practice the art of healing - not even to tend her own heart.

Queen Enesta and the Witch Doctor wondered what sadness it was that had brought Chenoa home so lovesick. They were even more confused when one day her tears turned to secret smiles and a her steps became light and joyful once more. Their answer was in the shadow of a messenger bird, flying back into the mountains. No good came from the North, Enesta knew. She arranged for a soldier to follow Chenoa and he reported back when one night the girl slipped from her room and out into the silvery moonlight. She made for the mountain pass and it was in the hallowed halls of the Venernor’s temple that she was reunited with her lover.

Where Sarad had fallen in love with a girl of plain, earthen Ilati skin, so Chenoa had fallen in love with a boy so beautifully celestial. His mane was a silver stolen from moonlight, his skin dappled like moonshadow. His looks sealed their fate and Enesta knew the Delumine prince when she saw him. From the darkness around them, Terrastellan soldiers stepped forward drawing sword and spear at the Delumine Prince. Queen Enesta and the Witch Doctor stood behind their ranks.The song of drawn Terrastellan weapons was evenly matched, however, when up the narrow mountain track came the Delumine king with his own guard of readied warriors - Enesta and the Witch Doctor were not the only ones to notice a change in their child and the signs of a planned elopement.

What followed was blood and metal. The temple resounded with the clash of steel and the stone floor became slick as bodies lay like scattered sacrifices to the gods. It seemed nothing would stop the shared slaughter until Chenoa fell, blood oozing from a wound to her abdomen. A stray arrow had claimed her, and as she lay dying, Sarad bent over her, his silver skin adorned in her blood. He held a blade to the victorious Delumine soldier, fury seething in his veins. The Prince stayed the man with a look, with a threat hissed through bloodied teeth. 

The Witch Doctor bent over her daughter as all battle stopped, silence descending but for the groans of the injured and dying. Chenoa was silent, seeing her death upon the horizon; the wound was not too deep, but the poison upon it was a bitter taste in the air. There was no cure, the Witch Doctor knew, for a poison such as this. This was the poison with which Delumine had managed to keep their Terrastellan enemies at bay in war. Not even Delumine knew of a cure for their poison. None could help except Sarad, who spied a lone Terrastellan soldier with wings. He commanded the soldier to fly as fast as he could back to Delumine. Once there he was to look in a solitary thicket within Viride Forest for a rare herb. Chenoa’s time in Delumine had not been wholly spent giving her heart to a boy, for she had found the only herb (a small, innocuous looking thing) that would negate the effects of this poison.

The soldier flew, faster than any might have run. It was due to him and him alone that the herb was brought before Chenoa died. It was under the instruction of a Delumine Prince that a Terrastellan princess could be saved.

The winged-soldier’s name was Halcyon and he died that day upon Veneror’s peak, as his exhausted heart could not bring itself to beat any more.

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So much changed after that fateful day atop Verenor’s Peak. Chenoa and Saran abandoned both their courts to start a new life together away from Novus and its history of bloodshed. 

In Terrastella, a statue was erected of Halcyon. It is of him midflight, the Vitalis herb (as it came to be known) in his mouth. His wings are outstretched, his limbs coiled with muscles rippling. His eyes are eternal determination and it sings through every part of his gilded skin. Beneath the sun, in the courtyard of the Halcyons, his statue gleams bright, bright, bright to this day. He is a beacon of gold fire ascending upon wings to the sky above.

The death of the soldier and his ability to save a dying Terrastellan girl impacted the Dusk Court. Young pegasi, boys and girls alike, aspired to honour his memory. Hundreds came forward to enlist and they named themselves the Halcyons. They became a subsect of the army itself but their skills were specific and refined. 

There were pegasi who joined for war. They became an air battalion to launch attacks from the sky. There were those, smaller, nimbler and more speedy who joined to send messages at speed between courts. They were rumoured to be so fast not even an loosed arrow could catch a feather of their wings. Lastly there were the healers. These pegasi were charged with inter and intra-court assistance. They flew in to offer aid, providing it at the front lines in times of was and crisis. 

During service, and like the ground warriors, all Halcyons have emblems of a dying sun emblazoned upon their chests. Upon their wings they have stripes and the number of stripes correspond to their rank whilst the colour signifies their group within the Halcyons. The Messengers are blue, Warriors red and Healers green. Some of the Halcyon Messengers choose to wear goggles and a flying scarf to accompany the emblem of a dying sun emblazoned upon their chest.  Pegasi warriors carry their spears and arrows upon their back (the warriors are made for aerial assault and so prefer projectile weapons). Some of the darker and more fierce of these warriors, copy the army and paint their faces and their torsos with paint too. Some healers carry a satchel for their potions and others wrap a bandage about their limbs to act as a ready tourniquet for those in need.
 
(For more information and more detailed lore on the Halcyon Air Unit, click here.)

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It was spring in the year 501 when a girl born of snow and ice ascended the Dusk throne. Much had happened before she ascended. The Witch Doctor had passed on, leaving her bone necklace hanging upon a branch in the swamp where it hung for hundreds of years, until it didn’t. No one knows when it disappeared from its resting place but it did not take long before stories of the Ilati shamans became mere myth. Beyond carvings in the trees of the swamp there is no evidence the Ilati ever existed. Most believe that even the carvings were just made by those inspired by the tale of the Ilati. Rumour had it that books once existed depicting this fabled tribe of shamans, but where are those works now? The Dusk librarians have always been meticulous with their books, none have ever been thrown out. So, really, the Ilati were the stuff of stories and that alone. They were tales to tell restless children who would not sleep, to warn the naughty ones that their bones might be sought like Dyani’s were. 

This has been the case for many years, so long in fact that stories of the Ilati became jumbled - is the story you were just told true or a mere myth? Only Oneida Cave knows for sure, but has anyone ever seen it? There is no sign of a cave now - surely it is all mere fables!

However, soon after the Wolf Queen resigned, placing her crown upon the head of a most unprepared Emissary, Terrastellans began to notice strange things... Feathers were found in the swamp. The paintings upon trees, once faded and cracked, are now bright and brilliant again. Some whisper of eyes in the darkness of Tinea, whilst others claim they have heard chants and the clack of bones. Skulls, they say, have walked like ghosts in Tinea.

Are the Ilati returning? Some are retelling their stories, searching for the ones that might be true, others still write them off as myths. But there are those, strange folk, like the Poison Master, who claim to be something different. He claims to be half Ilati but… surely he jests for there have been no signs of them - not until now…

In the depths of Tinea Swamp a Witch Doctor is rising with the bone necklace about their throat. Terrastella and its flower-queen are soon to find out which fables are true and which are not.

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