3.9 Dread

Location: Arbola Forest
Timeline: Sixth Age, 45th year, Summer to Autumn

On the final day of summer, Nathily found her grandfather sitting under one of the smaller shade trees in Center Vale – the elfess knew he was taking a break from the Council meeting. “Nonni mine, I know Rian and the others have been delaying my training, but can you—“

“It’s not the Council,” interrupted Dallegheri, “trying to stop your destiny. For if Alyssa decrees—“

“No, no,” Nathily cut in, “I’m not asking you about Council business. I want to know more about the Azoras and how they came to be.”

A pained expression came over Dallegheri’s visage. “Would that we could all just avoid that which we did not appreciate. Ah, that is not the way of the world. The bloody Middle Ages forced us to realize that part-time warrior are not sufficient to ward off full-time threats. Such was the decision of The League of Arbols?”

“I’ve heard Rian mention them a couple times, but who are they?”

“The League  is our people’s name for the triumvirate of leaders who preside over the ruling councils of our Three Forests. Two of the leaders are the Regents of Arbola and Regalis — thus your father Rian, and also Aslan — and the third is Engelos, the High King himself, the Regent of Meridia. Together they form the League of Arbols, and they meet once every decade on the first day of spring.”

“But what has this to do with the Azora’s?”

“Patience, amora-mine. You know your nonni likes his raccontos right? Let us harken back to The War of The Ghast – for that is when the Amorosi nation found itself embroiled in war like never before — with tens of thousands of our warriors engaging in daily conflict. By the time dread Mezentius brought an end to the war by murdering Hacktor Derkillez and stealing the Ghast for himself, the Amorosi had lost over 20,000 people – fully two tenths of our entire population on Terra at that time!

“Oh, my,” Nathily gasped, reaching over to grip her grandfather’s hand, sharing the heavy burden with him.

Dallegheri labored, desperate to move on from the memory. “It was then that The League of Arbols decided to create the Azoras – a protection force who would be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice – to give up their centuries of life pursuing a harmony with Nature so that they might instead devote their time to training in the ways of battle. For, to be successful, these brave souls would have to willingly trade in their potter’s wheel and lyre, in exchange for the sword and dagger, and thus ever work towards perfecting the (tragic) art of war.“

“But, nonni, why did The League come to this drastic decision? What reasons could be so bleak as to force us to change our very way of life?”

With dread in his voice, Dallegheri gave in to the inevitable, “Just one reason, dear: THE MYZ!”

Afraid at the mention of these killing machines the elfess asked cautiously, “But, nonni, I know the Myz must be dreadful warriors, yet surely they alone could not have forced us to this decision?”

All eleven centuries of his life seemed to weigh on Dallegheri as he contemplated his answer. He licked his lips, scratched his fingers, and blinked repeatedly – all his innocent ticks of age coming to light. “The coming of the Myz during the War of the Ghast marked the turning point in that bloody conflict. Up to that time the Pietromi were handling the war clans comprised largely of the Derkka overseeing the armies Boogiti men, the Pyrhalli, and even the occasional Ogre or two. In addition, the sad sight of a walking-wraith was also not uncommon during this time.”

“You mean…?”

“Yes, dear, the Morati.” Said Dallegheri in a hushed voice. And a shiver ran up each of their spines as the mention of those unfortunate, fallen elves.

Quickly then, the elder continued, “But within just three years after the creation of the first Myz warrior, that race of evil knights had turned the tide on the stone men – as evidenced by the total destruction of the Pietromi stronghold at Oz! And it was the coming of the Myz that ultimately sucked our Amorosi fighters into the war, as the Pietromi finally realized they needed some aid against this new menace. At first news from the various Amorosi scouts that returned to us seemed largely unbelievable = a new race of giant warriors who were nigh unkillable! Furthermore, it seemed that the Myz did not engage in warfare only because their gods had forced them to, but instead, the Myz actively sought out combat because they enjoyed it! Worst of all, when the war ended, our spies reported that the Myz migrated to the rocky island of Kagor, where they were allegedly training to perfect the art of killing while awaiting the next war on Terra!”

The elfess was too frightened to even speak.

Hating himself for doing so, but realizing that Nathily needed this knowledge in order to begin our journey as an Azora, Dallegheri pulled out a map from his satchel. “This is Kagor.” He pointed to the large land mass off the west coast of Gor. “Dark, stormy, barren Kagor, until the coming of the Myz, largely uninhabited.”

Nathily finally found her voice again,, “But, nonni, I don’t understand. How did these myz come to our world?”

“That is perhaps the most terrifying story of all!” Here the Lore Master pulled out a scroll that concerned The League of Arbols and read, “’The evil enchantress Sindra, had, at the urging of Nektar, ahem…seduced… an unwary Amorosi, and later an unfortunate Pietromi, and while still holding their, ah… seed inside her, she then…ahem… coupled with Mezentius, to spawn a new creature. The evil genomist Azazel then used his diabolical black arts to clone their offspring – thus was born the world’s newest menace: the Myz!”

Nathily was white as a ghost but Dallegheri failed to notice her fear as his head was buried in the scroll while he tried to be as detached as possible reading this vile story. “’And with the triple combination of the genetics of an Amorosi, a Pietromi, and dread Myzentius, the result of this new race of warriors was that they were agile, athletic, and powerful beyond compare. In addition, the Myz were all but unkillable – the only known ways to destroy them were discovered to be decapitation, crushing, or dismemberment. Thus, wherever the Myz began to appear, death and destruction occurred!’”

“But this is terrible. Evil though he is, how could Azazel even conceive of such a ghastly creature!” (1)

“Our legends say that the Myz were created to help Myzentius. Recall that   Myzentius was created by Baal-Zebub to help the Dark Lord regain his sought after dominance over Terra and hopeful release from the prison world of Illusia. Yet the God of War did not have the power of creation in his arsenal – he needed Azazel for that.”

“But how do we know all this?” asked Nathily.

“Our goddess told us so.” Dallegheri explained. “Shortly after Zebub released Myzentius into Terra, The History reads that Alyssa went to the Amorosi of Meridia to advise them of this new threat.  ‘Dread Myzentius,’ Alyssa named him. ‘He will be known as the God of Hate and of War. Fear him, my people, for he fears nothing. Pray that you never have to behold him as I have. So not be allured by his beauty for he will seduce you to your doom! He has lusted for me from the first moment he espied me — for he wants to possess me, and keep my pleasures all to himself. I, Alyssa, the Goddess of Love, but no love will I ever have for him!’”

At that, Dallegheri had to pause, for the heart-pounding excitement of this horrible discussion was becoming too much for him.

“Nonni, it’s ok,” Nathily soothed him, standing up to walk over to his chair and give him a hug. “We don’t need to talk about these tales any more today.” In truth, the elfess was glad to rid herself of the subject.

Dallegheri wheezed and coughed, his brittle body shaking with the effort. Getting his spirit back, he kissed Nathily’s hands, then sat up taller. “Please, dear, let me finish. You must hear the rest of the answer to your question.” And, flipping forward in the scroll he read. “’As the League of Arbols met during that fateful time in Regalis, the Regents were forced to accept a sacrifice from the entire community. After the War of the Ghast, with the Myz preparing for the next war, and with Myzentius in possession of the Ghast, a full-scale assault upon the kingdoms of the East was inevitable. The Azora warriors were the League’s necessary and only answer to the Myz.’ Oh, no more. No more.”

Dallegheri closed the scroll – the dreaded lesson now finished.

Terrified at what awaited her, Nathily hugged her grandfather tighter than ever – happy that The Council had delayed her entry to become an Azora and now hoping that these stalling tactics would continue forever!

A few days later the rains washed out any hopes for Nathily of visiting with her forest friends and when Dallegheri returned to his cottage for lunch he found his granddaughter waiting for him inside.

“After our last talk, I didn’t think you’d be interested in talking to me anymore, dear,” the old one said to her, only half-jokingly.

“Nonsense, Nonni. Tell me a story – anything to take my mind off these rainy days.”

Dallegheri pulled out a chair from his desk. After thinking for a moment, he offered up, “Ah, how about we return to our history lesson.” But seeing the fear well up inside Nathily at the potential thought of the Myz, he quickly added, “No, dear, don’t worry, we won’t talk about That. Instead, let us talk about Mankind again. Although they can be a disappointing subject, at least they are our friends – for the most part.” 

And so, Nathily listened to her grandfather as he read again from one of the many volumes of The History of the Ages. “’The Middle Ages were marked by the rapid population growth of the race of men upon the world. With their life spans averaging 50 seasons or less, the Pecora lived and died in but the blink of an eye, yet still their peoples grew and grew, until they eventually outnumbered even all other races combined.’”

“But, Nonni,” interrupted Nathily. “If the Pecs are so short-lived, how could their numbers grow so fast? That makes no sense. And how do they feed everyone? Aren’t they afraid they might damage the very world of which they are a part?”

“Amora, you know not how true your words are,” the elder agreed, feeling weary about that what was supposed to be a carefree discussion had turned into another disappointing story about the outside world. Nonetheless, he ventured on, “Let’s see now, where was I? Ah yes, …”In time, Man occupied not just TerrVerde, but also many of the other continents. For, you see, the Pecora are always on the move, always looking for more to consume. They over fish the waters, the overgraze their oxen, they outstrip the forests. Why – we do not know. Perhaps, it’s because, with such short lives, they are never able to learn to see the big picture. For they think only of the here and now.  The Pecora fail to recognize the impact of their current actions are to the planet’s future. This may be because each individual passes away before the consequences of their choices come to fruition. Or, it could be that if they do think about these things, mayhap they simply choose not to care.’”

“I may be young and naïve, but I must needs believe that at least a handful of the Pecs care about the beauty of this world.”

Dallegheri smiled at the elfess’s desire to look for the good in all things. Yet, then he went on ominously, “That is true, my dear, yet, for those few who do speak up, there are too many others who turn a deaf ear to them. Or, worse yet, the wicked ones resort to methods most vile to silence any ‘stray minds’ who might have made a difference.”

“That’s horrible! How could mankind harm their own people?” Nathily covered her face in shock.

“It’s a sad state of affairs. Not only do the Pecora harm themselves, but they also harm the good earth. Listen to this passage, ‘Like locusts then, the population of man ever spreads.’” Moving further down the page, he read, “…’By the end of the Fourth Age, the Pecora had covered almost the whole of Terra.’”

“Wait, Nonni, I’ve read a little The History too.” Cut in Nathily. “I recall that our records say that the Third and Fourth ages spanned less than a thousand years combined – how then, could the Pecs have accomplished all this growth in such a short time?”

“That I cannot answer for you, most wise Amora. Yet, consider this, if the Pecora continue to ‘consume’ at this frightening rate, what will be the further consequences for the Amorosi? For Terra?”

Realizing he might have raised a question a bit too terrifying for his granddaughter to ponder, Dallegheri quickly changed the subject, “Think not about that too much, my dear, instead ponder this. There were other events which were marked in the Fourth Age. For Amorosi historians also chronicled—“

Just then, the elder elf stopped — he removed his reading lenses his and bowed his head in weary anguish. For too late did he realize that what he was about to speak on would be perhaps just as horrifying to the Amora as the Pecora Expansion.

“Nonni, what is it? Are you all right? Do I need to get Fara?”

Wiping his brow, Dallegheri raised his head and looked long at Nathily, grey eyes peering out from under his bushy brows, the wrinkles of ages carved into his forehead. With a muted sigh he brushed the air away, “Alas, my dear, it is nought but a spell. I’m fine.” 

There followed a long pause.

At first, the elder patted Nathily on the head and smiled. But then he leaned back against his seat back and for a moment allowed himself to relax in the comfort of the pazziera cushion while he closed his eyes. With the rains still commanding everything outside, the candles inside did little to brighten the mood.

“Nonni, are you sure you’re OK? Do you perhaps need something to drink?”

Snapping back to the moment, Dallegheri gave in to destiny, “I suppose you might as well know everything. Yet, I caution you, the end of the Fourth Age was most dire.”

Nathily was relieved. “You are just worried about your racconto? Why, Nonni, I was concerned you in health!”

“Nathily, one can be ill in more than just one’s body.” Cautioned Dallegheri, “For, as I consider your destiny to be an Azora, those perils do bring me pains in my heart and mind.”

“Oh, I’ll be fine.” Said an unconvincing elfess — still haunted by the story of the myz.

“Then let me continue my tale.” Placing his spectacles back on and flipping through the scroll, the Lore Master spoke further. “’The Fourth Age of Terra. Near the beginning of the period, Azazel was able to cross a human with a snake in order to spawn a race of evil serpent shape shifters called the ‘Serpii.’ That evil god also used the Pecora to create the Vizigobs as well during this time period. Even Zebub was able to utilize the race of men to his advantage, for the Lord of the Underworld created an entire race of evil daemons, whose main mission was to prey upon the weaknesses of mankind’s spirit in order to tempt them to the dark side. Zebub named these evil sprites ‘baals’ (false gods), for he rejoiced in the ironic farce of getting men to worship lesser deities of all persuasions, thus forsaking El-Aba. It was Zebub’s creation of the baals, which led the Amorosi to rename the Evil One as ‘Baal-Zebub,’ The Lord of the Flies!” (2)

“Ooh, but that’s ghastly indeed. Yet, Nonni, that’s hardly any more terrifying than what I already know. Come now, I’m not a child.”

Dallegheri did not smile; instead he raised a cautioning finger he admonished, “Sit down, Amora. For that is not the worst of this lesson.”Turning back to his scroll, the Lore Master read the following, “’But then came the tragic event that triggered the passing of the Fourth Age. The Island of Altaziz, that most noble home of the College of Lumenarcs, was destroyed! And great Mindos, the Illyrian God of Wisdom, died the first of his many deaths!’”

“But, how could Mindos let that happen? Why didn’t he do anything to stop this? Isn’t Mindos is a divine being? How then could he die? I find myself most confused by your words, Nonni.”

“Shhhh, shhhh. Listen further, my dear.” Soothed Dallegheri.“’Regrettably, this was accomplished mainly with the aid of the treachery of mankind, as incited by Zebub’s baals. A treachery that Mindos himself knew would occur.’ Yet why wise Mindos did nothing to stop these disastrous event, or how he was able to come back from the dead, of these facts, alas, I do not know.”

Seeing the growing fear in Nathily, Dallegheri, heart pounding and with beads of sweat tracing the grooves of his sagging skin, pressed on, eager to be done with this tale. “My Amora, these are dire deeds, I know. Yet, bear witness – for that is not the worst of it. While Mindos has been able to rise again, the noble spirits he created to help him do not share that ability and the saddest of all facts that concerns the destruction of Altaziz Isle is just this: when the cataclysm swallowed this ill-fated land, that treacherous catastrophe also accounted for the unfortunate death of untold lumenarcs, including, I’m afraid to say, seven of the ten Illuminati!” (3)

“But, wait,” interrupted Nathily. “I always thought there were only THREE Illuminati?”

Grimacing in pain at the thought, Dallegheri replied, “There are now.”

And that marked the end of Nathily’s lesson on this day. 

The storms grew more powerful still, and Nathily was forced to stay overnight at Dallegheri’s one-room cottage.  While the old elf might have been used to having so many tomes as part of his abode, now that Nathily knew some of the terrors they held in their parchments, she was far from comforted by their presence – while the thunder rolled outside, the young elfess wondered how she would make it through the night with her sanity intact. 

Nonetheless, later that same night, even as Dallegheri snored close by, Nathily found herself inexorably drawn to his scrolls. As the hours passed, a courageous Nathily again read her History, although now alone, by candlelight, in the quiet hours of the night. She learned that with the short lives of men soon accounting for more of the world-shaping events of time, quickly enough did the Fifth Age come and go – lasting half a milennia and ending with the so-called Last Great War

“War,” Nathily whispered to herself, as if trying the word on for size. “Me, Nathily, an Amora, I am to become an Azora and fight in battles too?”

“Eh, what?” Dallegheri, stirred.

“No, nonni, go back to sleep. Rest.”

But, then, as she peered into a looking glass on Dallegheri’s desk, by the candlelight she caught her reflection. Smiling to herself, the elfess remembered the words of her grandfather when he quoted the famous adventurer Sanexpury, One sees clearly only with the heart, she said to herself, Anything essential is invisible to the eyes. Pondering further, Perhaps there is something inside me. Perhaps I should stop worrying and trust in my goddess. For, if Alyssa desires it so, then it is for me to do.

At last, Nathily felt a little better about things. Closing her History of the Ages, she blew out the candle, and got ready for bed herself. By now, the stormy weather had stopped; once more, it was a quiet, peaceful night in Arbola Forest. And, despite the uncertainty of her future, tonight at least, Nathily was feeling quite safe and secure. After all, Dallegheri was a great teacher and she had learned her history well. For now, that was all that was important.

For many days going forward, Nathily chose to let events go where they may, letting her fate be decided by The Council, while she herself rediscovered what it was like to live in Harmony with Nature.

Nektar’s Notes

  1. Why is the sky blue? Don’t hate me because I’m good at what I do.
  2. This story is fraught with lies and fails to give me the credit I am due. Zebub didn’t create the Baals, I did. And I was the one who came up with the Baal-Zebub moniker for Lucifer! Read the true story here.
  3. Remind me to tell you about Altaziz sometime – it’s a fascinating tale.
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