Beastmen Prelude Part II
A great council had convened at a glade near the Queen’s court. Representatives were present from all kindreds, but their role here was to listen, not to advise. Shocking reports had been delivered to the Oak of Ages and Kings Glade. Seated in a circle around a large rock slab which served as a table were a few dozen wood elves of different ranks and importance. Of note were the old warrior Sceolan and the waywatcher of legendary repute, Scarloc. Although outside, the trees formed a tight-knit canopy and wall around the glade, thus ensuring that what was said inside would not reach the wrong ears. Dozens of quiet conversations were being carried out about the ill tidings and what they meant for Athel Loren. It was Scarloc with his keen eyes who noticed Ariel and Orion already seated at the table, apparently they slipped in unnoticed and quietly sat waiting for the right moment to begin.
“Greetings Queen Ariel and King Orion!” Scarloc said loudly, standing up quickly. Others followed suit to show their respect.
“Sit friends, we have much to say in little time,” Ariel replied. As the heads of the kindreds sat, the eternal guards left the ‘hall’ and took their posts outside the entrances to the glade. Two young elves entered with a large bark parchment reaching several arms wide and its length almost two times its width. This was a sight many were accustomed to for it was a tapestry of Athel Loren that hung in the Oak of Ages, but rarely was it taken down for such a meeting. A newer parchment was unrolled above it, stretching from Parravon to the Sea of Claws. It became apparent that this council was to be a War Council. After the attendants left Ariel continued,
“My friends dark times are ahead of us. As some of you have heard there have been rumors that our sister community in Laurelorn Forest has been beset upon by a vast herd of beastmen. The struggle being waged there is fraught with bloodshed and brings great sorrow in my heart. Instead of telling you what little I know of that conflict, I turn to Scarloc to fill us in with that information.”
The waywatcher stood and bowed with hand on heart, “My Queen, and my friends, as many of you know my waywatcher network spans much of the Old World. It was a few months back when ill news began to spill from the Drakwald. A violent storm drew the attention of one of my scouts, following it to its source he came upon a large warherd encampment that we were already aware of. It never posed a threat to us so we paid little heed to it. However, what my scout saw and reported back to me quickly raised panic among my men. In the heart of this vile den of corruption he espied a figure who could be no other than Cyanathair…” The council gave out a gasp and whispers begin to circle the table. Orion called for order and asked Scarloc to continue. “Given our history with the creature it leaves little doubt in my mind that his intention is to strike at Athel Loren with great haste. Already scouts from the forests around the Old World are reporting back to me by the day that vast beastmen herds are mobilizing in surprising efficiency. Cyanathair has no doubt issued his call to war and the beasts of Chaos march against us. Our immediate concerns were two-fold: first, how did Cyanathair come to return to this world; secondly, what is his course and how can we prepare for it. As for the first question, when the host of Drakwald set out my scouts searched the camp and found a drained corpse of a sorcerer – so it would appear that Malekith had a hand in this plot. As for the second question, the main body of the Drakwald warherd with Cyanathair marches due west towards the Wasteland, a smaller faction marched into Laurelorn Forest to begin the bloody campaign. Other warherds from around the Old World seem to be marching in the direction of Athel Loren, generally avoiding conflicts with well-equipped human and dwarf hosts. More or less that is the extent of my knowledge.” The waywatcher bowed once more and resumed his seat.
The council was eerily quiet as the thoughts sunk in. An elder elf from a mage kindred spoke up breaking the silence, “Is it not true that our Queen brought this blight upon us by sending a company of waywatchers to Kislev?”
Angered, Orion lashed out in defense of his Queen, “This will not be a game of pointing fingers at who is responsible for what!”
Ariel put her hand on his arm to quiet him, “We have plenty of enemies outside of Athel Loren that we do not need to turn on each other. Yes Illuriar it is true, I did send a company of waywatchers to harass the war efforts of Tchar’zanek. Whether or not their success sparked the return of Cyanathair I do not know. Given the presence of a dark elf in the Drakwald one can assume as much. Irregardless what I did played no role in accelerating this fate. I have had dark visions of the future and this storm was bound to reach our home whether we willed it or not. What is at stake now is how we preserve this,” Ariel waved her hand over the map of Athel Loren.
“We have defeated Cyanathair thrice now, I believe we can do it once more, my Queen,” Scarloc proudly stated – proudly because one of those victories was at his hand.
“Yes, but winter approaches…” Orion added gloomily. “Fate has chosen a dark time for the defense of Athel Loren. I will no longer be with you, and the tree-folk will be at rest.”
“This is true, in the winter we are most vulnerable, yet we are the stewards of Athel Loren. It is our duty to ensure that spring will come again!” Sceolan added.
“You cannot hope to hold off the hoard that marches on Athel Loren in the middle of winter. It is already late Autumn, we have but a few months when Orion and the treekin will be with us. Even at a hasty march, the beastmen herds will not reach Athel Loren until the onset of winter – even this would be preferable as perhaps we would still have the strength of the forest with us yet. Given the pace they have thus far set we can expect to see them in the dead of winter,” Scarloc stated.
The council grew quiet, seeking inspiration from their Queen, but she too sat in silence with eyes closed. She then nodded and opened her eyes.
“You must seek aid from the kingdoms of men,” a loud voice filled with age boomed through the glade. The council was startled by the unexpected voice and slowly one of the trees lining the ‘wall’ of the chamber moved, portions of bark opening to reveal a face.
“My lord Adanhu, your presence was not made known to us,” Sceolan remarked, still surprised by both his presence and the nature of his advice.
“Your Queen and I have kept private council long enough. We have agreed the necessary course to take. You must seek aid from the kingdoms of men,” Adanhu repeated slowly.
“You ask us to turn to the humans for aid?! When have they ever helped us? Not only that but an alliance with the Empire would mean an alliance with the dwaves and High Elves. Would you have us fight by our foes and bend our knees to Finubar?” an elder kinsmen interjected.
“We must bury the bloodied sword with the dwarves and seek common ground with Finubar. I do not suspect that he seeks to regain lost loyalties, his concerns are with Ulthuan and not with the broken alliance with the Asrai,” Ariel responded.
“Winter is coming, the treekin cannot help you in winter. The survival of Athel Loren depends on your ability to stall the beastmen until Spring. You must seek aid from the kingdoms of men,” Adanhu repeated for the third time.
Murmurs filled the chamber. The tree had spoken his mind and resumed his stoic nature. “Adanhu speaks wisely my friends, there is no choice but to seek aid from the humans. Our utmost concern is Athel Loren, we cannot put our disagreements with the dwarves and High Elves before this,” Ariel stated. Murmurs filled the chamber again – disagreement was in the air and she felt it. “My friends, I know this decision does not sit well with you, but a dark storm is about to swallow up the world we know. Karl Franz and his alliance have held the forces of Chaos off for a long time. The Empire is weakened by the decades of struggle. If the Empire falls then there will be nothing to stop the forces of Chaos from turning west on Athel Loren. If such an alliance does not work out then perhaps Bretonnia will be agreeable.” Quietly she added to herself, “though Isha knows the struggle they face shall be no lighter than our own…”
Scarloc seated close to the Queen with his keen ears heard this. He pounded his fist on the rock slab and rose, “Queen Ariel speaks with reason and for Athel Loren my friends! There is no room for disunity here.” He rose and walked over to the newer parchment of the lands surrounding the Grey Mountains. “I suggest we begin a war of attrition here,” he drew his dagger and stabbed it through the parchment and into the stone underneath into the Wastelands, “here,” stabbing another into the Grey Mountains south of Marienburg, “and here,” stabbing another into Parravon.
Ariel stood, and using magic brought light to certain locations on the map of Athel Loren, “Scarloc will take his waywatchers and begin his war where he has stated. Sceolan already has his Eternal Guard monitoring the Northern Sentinels. The eastern Kindreds will have to keep their eyes on the Pine Crags and Vaults of Winter. The western Kindreds will see to the Western Sentinels and approaches from Bretonnia. I shall send one of my handmaidens to Altdorf, and though I know your longing to be in this struggle Scarloc, I need you to ride to Quenelles. If the humans do not aid us in stalling the beastmen herds then we shall see a grim Spring indeed….”