As Divara realizes that by no means Laertes is going to help her, she emits a terrible war cry that petrifies most of the bystanders and throws both of her silver sickles to the heart of the Elf.
Krell jumps steadily to Hyda’s body and starts to lick her bleeding wounds: his minor healing powers are enough to stabilize the harmed girl.
even if bleeding is not moved by the Barbarian Growl. First he casts his evil eye on her and then calls upon the darkest powers of elven witchcraft. As Divara tries to charge him she is esnared by black thorns that grow and bind her in what seems a living altar of plants.
Laertes orders sharply to Etna “Finish her”.
When the young Half Orc approaches the amazing orc warrior and watches into her deep sapphire eyes she can only whisper “how could you that to your daughter” and when she stabs the heart of Divara she thinks back to her mother, what she did to her, selling her to the demon market and the Queens’ dark designs and so she pushes the blade through the drangonskin coat, through the orc breasts, deep, violent, merciless to the mother’s heart. The blood of Divara covers Etna completely.
And then it is the turn of the Old Winter Archdruid.
Gently Laertes calls again the ancestral powers over death and life. In a shape of a bird death passes through the Archdruid. His Dragon mask falls on the earth, rolling just to Laertes’s feet and as soon as his crippled body touches the ground a soft coat of moss and light green sprouts covers him.
Krell whispers to the trembling Hyda “look, your mother is dead, your father is dead, you are not a child anymore” and the young girl faints away.
Laertes takes the Dragon Mask and reclaims its powers. When he exits the dome he is ready to meet the scared, scattered people of the Underworld as their new Archdruid.
The other druids approach him slowly, with mistrust. The commoners are simply too scared and confused (and probably still under the influence of Divara’s warcry) to understand what is going on.
Not everybody is ready to accept the new ARchdruid and arguments and complaints start everywhere. Some of the druids are angry, some sad. Only one of them, Deucalion, wearing the Mask of the Fox welcome Laertes as the harbinger of Springtime.
Krell gives Hyda to the cares of Pasha and begins to nurture his own plan. The new Archdruid who has being tainted by so many deaths must be redeemed with the power of life and love. For sure Mersia, the Purring Lady, can help.
Also Laertes understands how fragile is his own new ruleship. He speaks to the people and gives them 2 choices: accept him as new ruler and follow him in the war against the enemies of the Forest and of the Old ways or leave as free men for good.
And to show his own right to rule them he calls Etna (who is tremendously shocked), spills her blood on the earth and performs the Ritual of Thorns.
The fiery blood of the Orc nurtures the old anger of the trees. Their roots suck from the girl the atavic rage of her kine. What should stay fixed, now moves.
First an Earthquake, then the Growing. The roots are crawling like thousands of snakes under the dirt, and then up to the verdant sky of the city which shakes like an awakening animal.
And the dome of the ARchdruid itself awakes… those ancient dragon’s bones are slowly covered by tendrils, and ivy and thorns and leaves which are filling the holes, the gaps, building a new structure of wood where flesh were supposed to be.
Majestic, breath taking a Green Dragon of Ivory and Plants spreads her mossy wings over the new Archdruid and starts to fly, destroying everything as she searches for the sunlight.
People run screaming in panic.
Laertes calls them next to him.
Krell who is performing Mersia’s Ritual urges Pasha to keep the children safe and to run to the new Archdruid
Etna stays close to the Elf as all the old city crumbles killing everyone around: anytime a living beings dies, then blood sucking thorns sprout from the roots and from the branches, with no respect for the biological species, or the botanical structure. Such is the power of the Ritual of Thorns: ancient rage turns the Forest into a gigantic non-sentient murder.
Laertes casts a spell of defense and with the help of the mask he is evntually able to protect the people around him
As the dragon reaches the root-sky and destroys it, everything collapses down.
the Sun finally enters the underground.
And a soft rain of snowflakes shining like prisms or crystal cherry blossom gently falls down.
The people who sorround the Archdruid cannot believe their own eyes as they see real light for the first time in their life. The blue of the winter sky.The fresh touch of a breeze.
Slowly the earth under them moves, and they ascend on the top of a magic hill covered with snowy flowers.
In the meanwhile Krell realizes that his prayers have been heard: Mersia was eager to be freed and so She takes the body of Hyda as Avatar. To complete the Ritual they embrace themselves savagely and make love. And as Hyda loses her virginity becoming the new incarnation of the goddess Krell changes his shape into a feral half-lynx man. A big tree sprouts from the Earth taking the boy and the Goddess up to sky.
In this way Etna find them, disbelieving her own eyes. She cannot recognize neither her shy friend Hyda, nor Krell. “What have you done to her, what have you done…” Hyda licks the sweat from the skin and jumps away laughing with wild joy and Krell tries to reach Laertes on the top of the new hill
The new Archdruid manages to contact the Dragon. Selara is her name. An old, undead dragon, buried by the elves in their own city, now brought back to life by the Ritual of Thorns. Ready to punish the Enemy of Kelbhorill.
With her wood and bones talon Selara takes Laertes and then Etna and Krell up to the sky.
They flies over the forest who is moving like a killing machine. They experience the many way Plants with sharpened thorns can kill a man. Can destroy a camp. Or a fortress. But already from the far east a black cloud of smoke rises.
And in the meanwhile both the Undead Dragon and the Elf changes. As the Elf touches the Dragon new scaly skin appears. And Laertes himself doesn’t look anymore as the reptilian skinny wretched creature he used to be: in the wind his hair flows clean and red, and his eyes are shining like flaming emeralds as leaves and flowers crown him, growing around the dragon mask
Selara hunts for the enemies of the forest. Reaches their camp, kills them all.
To utter disgust of the trio they realize soon that knights and clerics and dwarven mercenaries have been changed by the demon Raphiel into Undead, filled with black, flesh devouring flies.
But there is no sign of him
Laertes tries to make a link with Karkaroff and feels him, some miles west. Raphiel is fleeing taking with him his only chance to bargain for its life. the crow.
When they reach him and his minion they see how they stop and start to cry desperately. Such is the sight of a flying Dragon.
Raphiel – in the shape of a bald Inquisitor – menaces to kill Karkaroff.
But Etna does what he never expected: she is no more the poor orcish slut who takes delight in magical colored lights. She phases herself and Karkaroff away with her dimensional door.
Laertes dismiss the Dragon, he wants to face the demon one by one.
But (the master rolls a natural 20…Raphiel gets the first action and – as he is not stupid – teleport himself away) ….leaving 3 lesser demons to kill his enemy.
The battle proofs to be intense and dangerous untill Etna comes back with the crow and casts her new spell: mold the stone. Eventually she burns the demons with some fireballs.
And this is the way the poor Karkaroff (deprived of one eye, one wing and one talon) goes back to the embrace of his soul mate, the new Archdruid of Kelbhorill, Laertes.
The History is not recording all the insults the crow said to him an his friends because they were so slow to save him…but of course what can a bird expect from creatures that need magic to fly… a bird can do that easily like shit….bipedal terrestrian…you cannot trust them…never…