The Boundless Empire

Frosted lovers' kiss

The elfic songs are notoriously obscure and twisted, each elfic word could be used for at least 3 different meanings, and most of them are lost even for elves…. as the words long forgotten resound in the valley the trio tries do find a solution to their enigma: are pine trees simply trees? and who are the lovers the song is about?
After roaming for a while looking for pine trees in the huge forest, they notice the cliff of a mountain which is exactly shaped like pines. And Laertes suddenly remembers that Elves used to watch the sunset on that snowy peaks and used to say “look how the cheeks of the Earth get rosy as the Sun kisses them goodbye”. The long shadow of the mountain leads them on a white plateau of snow. The song speaks about birches then, but it is clear that no birch can survive such a cold climate. Etna suggests that maybe they should look for something white that could be mistaken for birches and Krell remembers a place where tall white stones emerge from the Earth. Excited Laertes runs fast, and so the wild boy. The Elf is light footed and the wild boy agile. Only Etna finds totally exhausting running in the snow. Cold, so cold and so dark the forest all around. Her friends are so far away and she really feels the urge to rest. Rest a bit.
Something glittering catches her attention. Sparkles of blue and silver in the pitch black among the trees. And a voice, familiar even if not clear, calls her. “Mother? Are you my mother, I am so tired and cold, I want to rest”. the voice is affirmative. and a shape vaguely appears in the thin air. Frosty flakes fly around catching the moon light. They reverberate in the darkness and design a form. A welcoming mother. Who lulls Etna away from her path.
No one of her friends notice that.
Etna follows her mother in the forest. She is not sure about what she is seeing. How can possibly her mother being there? and what if it was Marconius, the pious holy Marconius? The hands of her mother seems suddenly thinner, older, and her voice get older…But what if it was instead Pythar? the voice becomes suddenly coarse and harsh and the shape becomes tiny and bulky. It is not her warm tender mother, neither the holy Marconius but the half dwarf who has been taking care of her since she was nine, raping her almost every night and taking her to work to the Brothel. and once again the obscene touch of the dwarf is betweeen her legs and she can smell the racind foul mouth of her pimp. Taking her down, into the cold cold snow.
It is only then that Krell realizes that Etna is not there anymore. He calls for her with no answer. Laertes seems too excited to step back, so the wild boy run faster looking for Etna’s tracks. And when finally he finds her, she is covered by a thick lay of ice. Shivering, murmuring. “Pythar”.
When Krell touches her the reaction of the girl is scary: she starts to burn.
And her eyes open up. Red like embers.
the snow melts away
Krell calls her name
But when she speaks she seems lost in a very distant dream. Or nightmare.
Krell feels that there is something lurking around an calls the protection of his goddess.
Laertes appears in the clearing and feels something magickal as well
But it is too late: trying to stop her raper Etna erupts in pure destructive magic.
And her fireball almost kills her friends.
With his magic Laertes eventually reaches her mind and take her back to reality.
Krell is in a corner licking his bruises. The snow is gone. And so the dangerous glittering spirit that lurks in it.
Krell seems to know it very well and urges his friends to go away asap.
They run to the white standing stone and Laertes realizes that they are elven made: not stones, but remnanst of a beautiful palace sunken in the earth.
They eventually find the entrance and discover a burial room inside. Apparently the elfic road finishes there, under the grave.
A gallery opens inside. Made of tiny shiny crystals. Laertes conjures a firebird to enlight the road, and Etna follows his example producing soft colored balls of light. They dance around, playing with the prisms. Krell head is dizzy
But it is not the right time to be confused because the road is now filled with traps.
This is the time when you miss a rogue in your party (says a voice in the elf’s head).
Triggering the trap cause the corridor on their back to collapse. So they can just go further, But when they reach the opening at the end of the crystal road there is no welcome commitee but a druidess wearing a wooden mask of a fox attacking them with poisonous darts.
“we are friends, we come in peace”
Apparently she believes them.
They enter a geode: a gigantic room filled with purple crystal of amethyst. The woman (Nesta) asks them to wait there: No visitor was expected, especially from the back door. The archdruid has been hiding himself under the forest to escape his many enemies and he has taken his loyal followers with him. Nesta says that maybe in some months he will have time to receive them, now they just need to rest and eat.
But when she comes back she is not alone.
Fourtenn men in armor enter the geode, led by a dominating creature: tall, with exquisite feline features, chiseled into ebony dark skin. A Orc lady. With eyes like sapphire and a dragon scale vest. “My name’s Divara” she says “And I am chef of security here. This road used to be closed to keep our enemies outside, but now you opened it, and what a surprise you came in with an ancient one, the archdruic want s to see you. NOW”.
Her voice doesn’t admit reply or denial.
Etna and Krell are taken into the hospital
Laertes is escorted to the Archdruid throne.
They all realize that they are walking under the roots of Kelbhorill. Above them a living sky of wiry snake-like roots and all around ruins of a beautiful, ancient city. A city that no human made. But elves.
In the purple light of magical flames they see women and men working around. Farming mushrooms, reparing collapsed buildings, praying. Some of them wear the mask of an animal. Made of wood, in a very primitive style.

Lertes is taken inside what he thinks to be an ivory dome. But then he understands it is just the carcass of a dead dragon. Sitting on his bone throne, cloaked in old saffron vests, his face covered with a dragon mask… the archdruid is waiting for him.

And what he is telling him it’s breath taking. He took his people down in the earth, like seeds waiting for springtime. He has no will to fight back his enemies, but he realizes that as they are looking for him they will spread only violence, despair and death. The tortures of Karkaroff are just a part of them. So he offers himself. “CUt my head, and take it your enemies Ancient ONe. You will have something to bargain for your black friend. and they will stop to hunt for my people. They will believe to have won and they will let everybody in peace. Cut my head. You came here for this purpose. I feel it. at dawn. The sickle will be ready. at dawn”

Laertes goes back to the infirmary to inform his fellows of this unexpected dialogue: they are all amazed, but even more when Divara comes out form the shadows. She is really angry.
“You are not going to kill him. There is another way. Fighting back. We must stop hiding under the roots, We must call the power of the forest. It can defend itself. When you came in I thought it was a miracle: you are an elf, and she is an orc witch. You know the forgotten words, she has the burning blood in her veins: together you can perform the Ritual of Thorns and free us from our enemies”

I give you time untill dawn to decide what to do….

Krell murmurs “poor Etna it will cost for sure your life”



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