Camp Nacil had been formed on a plateau a day's ride from the sea. Past the southern reaches of the desert the weather became harsh, cold winds constantly blowing north surprised unaware travelers. The Orna were nomads, traveling the southern reaches of the world. This was one of the few permanent settlements, built by the Durma clan. It was distant from the human lands, no army had marched through the desert to reach this home. It was upheld for times of need. The houses, if one could call them such, were large domes of sticks surrounded by frozen clay. A great stone wall arced around the camp, sheltering the inhabitants from the winds. The northern side was left open, the Durma could see travelers several leagues away if they were in large numbers. Several days ago Fa'lir would have done anything to escape the heat of the desert, yet now a respite from the wind and cold seemed a welcome event. He traveled alone, as was the custom of a Walker. Two small swords rested on his hip, and sharp black blades protruded from the sides of his leather gauntlets. He carried a large bow strapped across his back in the Orna fashion, even if it would be small by their standards. A quiver of long bone crafted arrows was strapped to his right thigh, the fletchings tickling his fingertips as he walked. He gathered his green cloak around his arms and checked that his face was wrapped against the freezing wind and continued walking the winding path that would take him to the top of the plateau and to the mouth of the village. As he neared the top he could see the inhabitants. The hunters had recently returned, Fa'lir watched as they started cutting apart a large creature. They broke off the antlers and handed it to one of their children, who chased around the others, while they screamed in mock terror. Fa'lir laughed as he watched the children running through the camp, oblivious to the troubles of the world. For the Orna childhood was a time of joy. They were taught how to hunt, how to track a beast through the tundra or desert, how to set a trap for raiding armies, how to speak to travelers and merchants, and much more, but nothing was required of them until their had seen twelve years. More then once Fa'lir had seen a child playing innocently with his friends one span, while the next he was joining a hunting party and keeping himself away from the children. Lín Deni, as his people would call her, turned and saw Fa'lir at the edge of the camp. She ran at him. She wore a short green cloak wrapped around her shoulder, and woven gauntlets around her wrists, two small bone knives jangling out of the sides. She wrapped her arms around his chest and gave him an enthusiastic hug. “Fa! Your back!” “What have we here? A beautiful woman pretending to be my Lin Deni?” She gave him a bright smile, Fa'lir felt a twinge of guilt. He had forgotten what she had asked him the last time he left. The innocent desire of a child, but an unsettling one. She would be considered an adult in three short years. The other children noticed them on the edge of camp and started to charge. He separated from Deni and reached into his pocket. He pulled out a small bag as they came yelling his name. Several of their parents looked over and smiled at the scene. “ Be gentle with the Elf!” He heard a mother warn. He chuckled, they had grown quickly. The Orna dwarfed humans in height, but rivaled the Elves in grace. They grew into their size twice as quick as
the humans, barely a fraction of the time that it took the elves. They were ever slender and fair skinned, a pale blue, or the rare green. He had spent three centuries with their people but he was always surprised at how quickly they changed. “The Kamalian Bakeries send their regards, in the form of honey balls.” he gave the bag to one of the children who ran off, ”you better share” he called after the running figure while the other children took off in pursuit. Fa'lir chuckled and walked into the camp. Several of the inhabitants gave him smiles and nods. He had known many of their grandfathers, he was a usual sight among the Durma, wherever their travels took them from season to season. Very few seemed displeased to see him, but they were present. Fa'lir made a mental note to ask the Clan leader Viri. He heard Viri before he saw him, a deep laughter that was joined by other smaller voices. Fa'lir pulled the wrapping from his face and allowed his cloak to hang freely. Covering one's face during a conversation with an Orna was considered an insult. While children never noticed, he didn't care to risk insulting one of the elders. He turned a corner and found himself looking at the largest dome in the camp. Several men were gathered in front of it, warming themselves by the fire. Fa'lir recognized most of them as the Clan Leader's advisers. These were surrounded by the same children that had greeted him at the edge of camp. Viri himself was kneeling on the ground talking to his daughter. He glanced up as he heard Fa'lir approaching. “Deni here just told us she chose her mate.” he said in a deep voice. “Is that right? Which of these scoundrels has won her heart?” Fa'lir returned with a smile. Viri stood and gave the elf a hug with one arm, towering head and shoulders over him. “Never thought I would have an Elf for a son, but it is a strange world.” Both of them laughed, Deni looked up at them angrily. Viri release Fa'lir “I told her you are a lousy hunter, and far too ugly, but she won't hear any of it.” a grin cracking his weathered face. Deni narrowed her eyes at her father. “Now child,” he patted her head “Me and your betrothed” he said with mock sincerity “have serious matters to discuss. Go along and play.” The other children took off at his command, she backed away and continued to glare at him before taking off after her playmates. Viri gestured to his house and Fa'lir followed after him, carefully removing his boots before entering. From the inside the hut looked more comfortable than any lord's bedchamber. The Orna only take what they can easily carry with them. For this reason their homes are always sparse, built for comfort and little else. The insides of the walls were coated with extra blankets, some woven from thick grasses, some made of cotton and wool. The floors were completely covered with several layers of furs that made the feet sink several inches. Large torches were secured around the room, standing several feet from the floor. Most of these were smoldering, casting a deep red light throughout the room. “What news from Kamalia?” Viri asked. “Don't be expecting help from that end. Emperor Pera fears that Amara is preparing for war. There has been too much movement along the border.” “Elemira take them all! The only time Dradu isn't preparing for war is when he is fighting one..” “Kamalia and Amara have been at peace for over fifty years.” “But the tyrants of Amara still send troops through the gap to kill and enslave our people! We haven't seen peace in a thousand years!” “Perhaps if the request came from a larger clan he would consider it. As it is he waved me off within a minuet. You need one of the eight I am afraid.” “The eight won't listen. All of them refuse to go to humans for aid. They hide in the western desert and spout hate for humans, while the smaller clans are the one's fighting them! Then we start disappearing one by one throughout the desert and they refuse to help!” “You know my council old friend. Together the small clans would be a force any army would fear.” “But we would be immobile. We couldn't gather enough food to keep everyone fed, and you have seen how we work together.” A wicked grin crossed half of his face “Muru still holds a grudge. And the scar.”
“I'm sure there i-” “That way is even more hopeless then asking Kamalia.” “Perhaps. But it is worth the effort. I have taken the liberty of asking my people for assistance on your behalf.” “And?” Viri inquired with a turn of his head. “I am still waiting for their response. But don't trust them to honor old treaties. Only watchers have left the forest for a thousand of our lifetimes, excluding the war of tears.” Fa'lir looked at the fur covered floor. “They don't care about the outside world anymore, as long as it keeps moving. I have tried. But I doubt it will be of any help.” The Clan Leader placed his hand on the Elf's shoulder. “Thank you all the same. If they deny you I would like to ask them for a different boon.” Viri sat on the ground and gestured for Fa'lir to join him. “Shortly after we got to Camp Nacil Clan Mataru came through my camp from their southern routes. They were afraid. Dulak told me that he was planning to travel through Amara, cut through the plains and find their way to your forests.” “I have told you time and again,” Fa'lir said while shaking his head There is nothing but wasteland to the north. Beyond the forests of Eithari the land turns to hills of ice and snow. The only creature that can truly live in the north are the dragons.” “Legends say that my people came from the Mountains of Almurak. The dragons were our allies. We could make a life there, far away from war.” “Even if you could, you would have to travel through Amara, and the...So that is the boon you would ask for? They will not guide you through the forest.” “I'm not asking to be guided. Simply for them to allow passage if we choose to abandon the south. “It is a dangerous road old friend.” “I know,” Viri fingered an amulet he wore around his neck. “But what would you risk?” Fa'lir sat near the fire listening to the elders sharing stories, an old book laying on his lap. He allowed his mind to wander, he had heard all of them before, and been witness to more than one simple act that had become legend a hundred years later. The mothers carried their sleeping young into their waiting beds, others laid on the soft ground whispering into lovers ears. Fa'lir looked to the stars. When he had first left the forest they had been so alien to him. Everything had been different. The tree's too small, empty fields stretched into the horizon. But he had accepted all of it. He told himself that fate could not be changed. Until his first night in the deserts of Kamalia. He remembered looking at the sky and feeling lost. Everything in different places. New stars in the sky shined brightly, while old friends were hidden from sight. He remembered crying then. In the desert with no one to hear he wept until the first fingers of light stretched over the sky. He had seen three hundred and twenty four years since that day. He knew every star in the sky, every tale that they carried and which ones to follow. But on nights like this he recalled a different sky. He pushed the memories away and opened the woven ivy cover of his travel book. The pages inside were blank. He sighed and pulled a black quill from the bindings. He felt a dull hum vibrate through his hand. He closed his eyes and tried to change his mind to Lithari, the elven tongue. As the years passed it was becoming harder to remember.
Esteemed Council of the first circle, The disappearances within the Orna continues. It appears that whatever is responsible is targeting only the smaller clans. These events have caused many of the clans to seek out their more permanent settlements.
I am concerned however that the disappearances have not stopped, but have actually accelerated since these movements. This knowledge does not seem to sway the decisions of the clans. I believe that the culprit(s) is operating from the southern islands. Further investigation is not possible at this time. Clan Leader Viri has expressed a possibility that Clan Mataru will reach the borders of Eithari in hopes of being given safe passage. Clan Durma may also ask for passage before the year ends. My contact in Sumbai informed me that the Council of Magi has acknowledged the situation in the South but will not send aid or investigate further. The Orna have few left to turn to, for this reason I ask, once again, for aid on the behalf of the Orna clans, calling on the Treaty of Hallow fields signed after the Ancients war in year 4383, by Orna counting, year 1A in the Elven system. My regards, Sen Fa'lir Lisarel
Fa'lir watched as the words he wrote sunk into the page and faded away. In his mind he pictured the words taking form again in it's sister book a thousand miles away. He could see the council reading his entry, trying to decide how best to deny him. He eyed the fire and considered casting the book to the flames. It would be easy he told himself. The council would assume that another had attempted to open the book. Unless he wandered near Eithari they would also assume that he had died. The flames danced playfully against the knotted logs from which they fed. He felt himself place the book into a pouch in his vest. The last piece of his heritage aside from blades he knew he would never part with it. The sound of a horn pulled Fa'lir from his sleep. The sound echoed around the village for a brief moment followed by a thick silence. He rolled from his bed of hides and grabbed his weapons before running out of the small hut. The fires had died down to a soft shimmer, lighting only themselves. A sliver of moon accompanied the dim starlight, enough for the Orna to navigate their village quickly. Fa'lir strapped his blades to himself while he ran to the mouth of the cliff trail, the only point that any sizable force could attack from. He moved swiftly through the shadows of the huts, passing Orna warriors trying to shake the sleep from their eyes. They didn't expect to be attacked. Not here, their safe haven. No army has attempted to take Nacil before. A tremendous bellow cut through the village followed by a sharp scream that was quickly interrupted by silence. Fa'lir pulled a handful of arrows from the quiver still in his hand then slung it across his back where it sat uncomfortably. He pulled his bow and held it in his hand, nearing the trail. Turning a corner Fa'lir saw from the corner of his eyes a score of Orna in a circle, as if protecting something valuable. Probably a body Fa'lir thought. His feet stopped moving when he saw the eyes. Six ashen orbs peering out of three vast shadows, looking into the circle, a dozen feet above their heads. One of the shadows moved closer with the sound of a gentle wind over grass. Warriors, taking in the scene with little more than a sharp breath of surprise, overtook Fa'lir and put themselves
between the shadows and their brethren, staring curiously between the two. They raised their spears and held themselves. The closest shadow turned it's head slowly sideways, a soft ripple of sound creeping from the colossal chest. Fa'lir wondered if it was laughing. “By Dealum what is that?” Asked a harsh voice, daring to whisper. Fa'lir slightly turned his head to see Viri looking at him questioningly. “I am not certain.” he responded in a whisper. “It is hard to say without light. Have some of your men light torches. Probably best to keep everyone quiet otherwise.” Viri nodded uncomfortably and moved over to the circle of Orna. Fa'lir felt a wave of guilt overtake him. There are two things that any Orna dislikes in a fight. Unnecessary noise, and fire. But having lived dangerous lives for generations beyond count, they were prepared to do whatever needed to be done. This is when they need me. He thought while studying the shadows, which in turn watched the Orna. Fa'lir didn't need light to know he had never seen the shadows before, but the Orna trusted him to know what to do in strange situations. A small sphere of light raised from the darkness in the circle. Screams of terror, followed by a thunderous explosion of rage.