(As retold by Alentarin Dremi)
This story was told to me by an old druid I met, once, while traveling through the Endrel Marsh. The marsh, as you may know is inhospitable and putrid, swampy waters rise up sometimes to waist level, on a human such as myself. I do not care to comment on any of the shorter races who attempt to traverse the unforgiving landscape. I was miserably lost in the intricate patterns of traversable path when the murky water cleared; a forest rose above the marsh, tiny yet beautiful in its purity. In center of the grove sat a man, animals wandering the small clearing seemingly unalarmed at my presence. I sat down with the man, shared his fire, shared his food, and told him some stories in return, as is my trade. But it was after my tales of adventure and heroism, of dragons and angels, of the deepest of evils, that the finest tale of the night was told. I will attempt to recount here what he told me.
In times long forgotten, there was no Endrel Marsh, there was no Old Forest, there was only the Forest Endrel. Man had not settled the area yet, the nation of Sartii was in its founding days, no western road broke through the purity of the forest. In those days the entire forest was considered the Elven city of Endrel, the Elves spread themselves from the borders of the tundra to the north all the way south to the mountains, east to the Liltan River all the way west to the fledgling city of Sartarus. Those were the days of my youth, don’t look so surprised my young friend, I revere the tenets of nature, and I cannot leave until my job here is done. What is my job you ask? Well if you let me tell my story perhaps you will find out.
Those were the days of my youth. The Elves took me in let me live their life of the forest, at one with Endrel itself. We would sing to the trees, enacting ancient magics that allowed them to grow tall and free. The forest was bright then, it had a feel to it, you could walk around and feel the peace of the wood. But such a thing of pure beauty cannot last forever, as the taint of evil draws out heroes of the land, so too does the sweetest honey attract the flies. It was inevitable that a creature of foul nature would feel the call to make the peaceful forest its home.
What we were unable to guess was how deep the beast would be able to root itself before its foulness began to invade the land. It started out as a decrease in the chatter of the woods, while at first unnoticeable, eventually the silence pervades the once serene landscape. Then the trees in the forest began to lose their luster; it was as if they had been shackled, no longer free.
The Elves took notice to the changes and called a meeting of their highest elders, of their most powerful magic users. The conclave gathered to perform an ancient ritual, one to allow them to speak with the spirit of their forest. The ritual lasted for days upon days, a whole week they spent in their secluded garden, until finally Mythdraladan, king of the Elves of Endrel emerged, pale faced and clearly shaken.
“Gather an army unto me!” he proclaimed, “A foul denizen has infested our home and will pervert the forest to his will if we do not defend it. Gather, warriors, for on the morrow we go to war.”
True to his word, Mythdraladan led the Army of Endrel to meet the sun. Thousands upon thousands met his call to war. Their armor glistened like the ocean under the rising sun; the forest shook under the weight of their step; the air bristled with the electricity of the anger of the Elves. I was unable to glean any information from any who had been in attendance at the ritual, nothing more than the fact that something had pervaded their forest; I imagine that they themselves did not even know what it was. Whatever the case, we marched that day, to the center of the forest, and found a temple erected, a temple to something or someone named Abrax Philotoxis.
As we stared in disbelief that something like this could have formed without our notice, the doors creaked open and a fog began to pour out. Following the fog came the tell tale shuffling of undead feet. Elven archers rained volley after volley down upon the rotting soldiers; though the arrows struck, they seemed to have little effect in halting the advance, and within moments, shining sword hit rotting flesh and diseased fingers found their way through chain linked armor. Powerful spells called light from the heavens, though the trees weaved a barrier shielding the creatures from the sun’s harmful rays.
Hour upon hour passed with the elves hacking away at the never-ending stream of rotting flesh, but eventually the numbers took their toll. The elven numbers dwindled, and King Mythdraladan was forced to make a decision, to stay and face a possibly unending force, or to withdraw and protect the forest from the defensive. “Elven Warriors of Endrel, fall back!” he called, but the shaking ground and shattering temple assured that his cries were lost in the din.
The ground shook, and the temple exploded, raining stone down upon friend and foe alike. And from the wreckage a scaly green claw emerged. A gust of wind knocked down any still standing within the vicinity of the temple as the wyrm emerged; hovering in the air above what had been the foreign building pervading the land.
Time seemed to freeze as the creature reared back its head; I knew what was to come, and may The Shalm have mercy on those who did not even have a chance to realize what was to come as corrosive gas spewed forth from his gaping maw, settling down as a low fog covering the ground and those dying upon it. Only those of us who had cast spells of elemental protection were spared his acidic wrath.
The fog lingered on the ground, a green cloud shielding the ground from view. Only the gasps of the dying broke the silence as the remainder of the Elven army reformed ranks around their king. “Be gone my lord,” I whispered unto him, “take your retreat while you sill live and leave the beast to me.”
Taking a place in front of the dragon, I attempted to draw his attention away from the fleeing army. “See, I have sent them away for they are no longer needed. Now that I see what it is that taints the land, I am sure that it will be nothing that I cannot handle on my own.”
“This is where I get angry and ignore the fleeing army, yessss? To a lessssser wyrm, perhaps, but I am Abrax Philotoxis, and I am not so eassssily fooled. But do not fear, mortal, your death will come ssssoon enough, yesssss.” The ancient green raised himself up on his haunches, readying another devastating breath attack.
“We will see about that.” I called, calling upon the greatest powers nature had given me, the suns rays focused into one massive beam, descending from the heavens, striking the creature across its chest, boring a hole deep into its now smoldering flesh. With a snarl the dragon turned his back upon the army, releasing the cloud upon me. I held my breath, but I could still feel the heavy cloud burning away at my more mundane clothing, my lungs on fire in need of air. My protection was wearing thin, but I knew exactly what to expect, so I called for complete protection from acid, and then the battle truly began. We fought for what seemed like time unending, tooth and claw, spells and counterspells. I used my druidic abilities to take the form of a dragon for a time, where we fought on an even scale, but that soon wore out. His claws raked deeply, as my spells exploded around him, opening wound after wound.
Time found the two of us matched dead even, neither gaining an upper hand, neither willing to admit defeat. A wing struck my body sending me flying to my back as I called a storm of fire vengeance to rain upon him, using up my second to last offensive spell. I arose, slowly, my wounds showing me more than a little worse for wear; I would be dead if the spell was not enough to destroy him. The dragon arose equally weary; his once fine emerald scales burnt and crumbling under nature’s wrath. While he once looked down upon me with malice and hatred, his eyes were beginning to glaze over, exhaustion and battle wounds getting the best of him.
“Hold, druid.” His voice was no longer strong or determined; it had a hiss of boiling water behind it that had not been there at the onslaught. “You cannot stand another blow, but I know that I can stand another of yours. How many spells do you have left? Enough to finish me? Can you be sure?” He rose up to his full height, towering high above my miniscule form. “You have provided me with the greatest challenge I have ever encountered, even from those of my own kind. I do not wish to kill such a powerful creature; surely whatever god has his hand upon your shoulder would look disfavorably upon me for it. Though, I will do what I have to. I give you this option, leave, and never come back here, and you shall leave with your life this day.”
“And leave you to taint this beautiful forest?” I demanded.
“You would not save this forest by dieing this day.”
I was determined to fight this dragon until my body had no breath to give, but I heard a voice in my head, “You will live to bring his death someday, such are the plans I have for you my child. Go, wait in your forest, someday one will come who will defeat this foul beast, and you shall be my hand upon the forest, protecting it from his evil taint.” Without a word I left that day, taking up camp in a stretch of forest where you have found me today. Abrax’s foulness has created the marsh that now surrounds his lair, yet it is my magic that keeps it from taking up more of my lovely forest.
That is how the Endrel Marsh came to be, and also how the Forest Endrel was split into what are now known as the Endrel and Old Forests. And what of the Elves you ask? Those caught on this side solidified their home as the city Endrel while those on the other were left in a forest so foreign from their beloved Endrel. They have formed a city of their own now, Tal’Endrel, or The Broken Endrel in the Elven tongue. They could have come home to Endrel years ago, but I imagine they are as loathe to leave their current homes as the Endrel were so many years ago.
And so I wait here, awaiting the day when a hero will present themselves, and rid the world of the presence that has corrupted a forest so pure. Are you that hero? I guess not, but perhaps you are the one who will bring that hero to me…perhaps.