At first!

Old Greesh was given a tough ball of clay
And he handled it with clumsy hands.
Impatient and smug, he molded a world
And flung many peoples across the lands.

The people divided into fierce clans,
Yet, all worshipped him and there was no strife.
Under his benevolent, distant gaze,
Our world, Werjen, grew vibrant with life.

Twelve lifetimes later, Old Greesh grew bored.
He disappeared and we were soon at war.
The tribes and clans turned against each other.
Werjen was awash in blood and gore.

He sensed the disturbance, from afar
And appeared above, in a crimson blaze.
He made eight gods, and called them his Herders.
Our forebears grew peaceful, under their gaze.

Once more Old Greesh drifted into the sky.
He declared to all, “I am leaving soon.”
And to remind us all of his power,
He created Arrezal, our white moon.

Some of the Herders were altruistic.
They watched their flocks with empathetic eyes.
Among them was our patron, Mighty Hrul,
Lord of Sacrifice, willful and wise.

Mighty Hrul took us to the Lowland Plains.
For twenty lifetimes, our people were free.
He blessed our leaders with abundant strength,
And allowed them to rule us, by decree.

The strongest leader was Eirhul the Bold,
Who whipped our kin into a frenzied throng.
“Hrul is Lord, and we are his Hrullites,”
They chanted solemnly, with the notes held long.

In response to our prayers, Hrul grew spires.
Hundreds sprung up, some huge, others slight.
Shades of green, crystalline, they softly hum
And soak the Lowlands in emerald light.

Without warning, within his grand towers,
Hrul trapped the Hrullites for reasons unknown.
But vicious evils still roamed on the plains
“Let one go free!” we begged, weak and alone.

And just as our Herder has always done,
He answered our prayers. He heard our song.
He let free Othelstott, the Angel of War,
An invincible shepherd to keep the flock strong.

For many lifetimes, we relied on his sword.
He bravely performed many a great feat.
With the Hrullites trapped, Othelstott grew bored,
So he sought more potent foes to defeat.

In his quest for valor, he traveled west,
Into the mountain peaks, into the Veil.
Herder Thractis was there, disguised as a crow,
Perched on a tree branch, above the trail.

“White moon is much closer this far up,”
The crow called down with the shrillest voice.
“Come, be idle on this ledge with me,
Look, you see, it is the moon eye! Rejoice!”

The Hrullite climbed up and sat with the crow.
“You speak,” he said, “Uncommon among birds!”
“Don’t be surprised,” replied the transformed god
“I can take many forms and speak many words.”

“You are far from home,” continued the crow.
“Allow me to whistle a little tune.”
“Get it over with, then,” Othelstott said,
“I must leave to patrol the Lowlands soon.”

The Hrullite was lulled into a deep sleep.
He awoke to a voice, strong and sublime,
“Just as you guarded the plains for Hrul,
”You will roam the peaks for me, for all time.“

The white moon flickered in the charcoal sky.
As fast as that flicker, a soul was sold.
Hrul sensed his loss and was filled with rage,
As Othelstott was caught in Thractis’ hold.

After centuries passed, Hrul’s hate waned.
He needed guidance, inspired and divine.
He would wait for the words of Eidelis.
His Herder sister would give him a sign.

Soon thereafter, a shell fell from the sky
With a tightly rolled scroll, stuffed inside.
It cracked open when it hit the ground.
As he read, Hrul’s voice was heard far and wide.

“Greetings to you, from Herder Eidelis,
The first made by Old Greesh, gifted with sight.
I sense your wills will soon be tested.
Close the shell. Shut your eyes very tight.”

Mighty Hrul did as his sister proclaimed,
Placing the halves together again.
A crystal clear voice emerged from inside
And carried forth, “It is time to begin.”

“The arrow shot, into the sky
Turned to many.
Spread far and wide,
Hope for any.

Every time
The path will wind.
Stars and futures,
The night has arrived.

A still birth black
Will writhe alive
Revenge for Hrul!
Hoor, hoor, hoori!

His spirit asunder,
Death underneath,
Seeds dispersed,
The plains will thrive.“

A short pause disturbed the mortals’ wonder.
Wind blew, rain came, then a clap of thunder!

“Solace is sought
After three times,
A true wind blows,
Religion grows.”

Gently, the Herder’s voice diminished.
Her message was lost, buried in the words.
Hrul pondered for decades before he spoke,
“I must add a hero to my herds.”

He passed to our flock a gift of great worth.
Dafferjan, a being blessed by two gods,
At first he looked dead, a black still birth,
But he took his first breath, against all odds.

The young one was brought to the oldest spire.
It was grey, with ridges like vertebrae.
The Hrullite, Eirhul, was confined inside.
A joyful tear welled up in one eye.

Eirhul the Bold chanted into the ground.
“Mighty Hrul,” he called, “Here is what you made.
It is clear that this child was made to hunt,
To destroy our foe, the Hrullite who strayed.”

Momentarily, the spires glowed bright,
Pulsing with light, magnificent streaks.
Self-awareness filled the infant’s eyes.
His gaze leveled, color filled his cheeks.

From midnight black, his skin turned pale white,
Exposing a raised web of green veins.
His enchanted blood infused him with strength,
But also caused crippling aches and pains.

He grew ever stronger, raised by our clan.
Dafferjan’s purpose was always quite clear.
Othelstott’s death was his glorious dream.
He mastered his mind, he contained his fear.

Roaming the streets of Spireguard, our home,
Protecting the flock with both spear and spell,
Singing the lonesomeness of a man alone,
Othelstott had fled, but the Gift kept us well.

A half lifetime passed. The time had arrived.
Eirhul the Bold bestowed on him a spear.
“Out west,” he said, “Is where you must travel.
Victory or defeat, the end draws near.”

The city of Solace lay in the hills,
Rabid, fiend-filled, about to collapse,
Taken over by Othelstott’s minions,
Every crevice filled with wicked traps.

Not far from Spireguard, he reached a clearing
And craned with emotion from side to side.
Back east he caught glimpse of the tallest spires.
He turned to the west and shuddered in stride.

“Cursed Solace,” he muttered aloud,
“Dirty streets, beggars, just a seedy crowd,
With their crumbling towers of rotten wood,
Surrounded by fields that never get plowed.”

He mouthed a chant with a gravelly voice,
Weaving the words in an ancient tongue.
A nostalgic cloud blanketed his mind,
Wisps of Hrullite tones from when he was young.

The lyrics described a mighty creature,
A lion that appeared every Fall.
Dafferjan’s birth came during this season,
Thus his noble name, meaning “lion’s claw”.

In the Lana Woods, leaves crunched underfoot.
Among the sturdy trunks, they were windswept.
Symbols were drawn on bark with black soot.
The red willow trees were clearly well kept.

A large red willow lay up ahead
With a symbol carved on it. Runic art.
He lowered his gaze and approached with care,
Moving reverently, hands over heart.

As he came up close, the rune disappeared.
A voice rang from the tree, softly it said,
“The Herder Eidelis is watching you
She foresees danger on the path you tread.

Be wary the ravine, around the bend.
The path leads there, and you must go through.
At its lowest depth, moonsoakers lurk.
Sent by Othelstott, they will ambush you.“

The voice carried off with a whipping gust.
Dafferjan asked Hrul to bless his spear.
He prayed with fervor as his footsteps fell
And made the ravine as day’s end drew near.

“Guard me Lord Hrul,” he said through clenched teeth.
“I will need your help to handle these foes.”
His weapon flickered with newfound strength.
Tentacles of stench invaded his nose.

He glimpsed a soaker bathing in shadow
And destroyed it with a holy spell.
But two more fiends attacked him at once,
Pinning him down as he stumbled and fell.

Dafferjan would have died in that ditch.
The soakers had mauled both legs and one arm.
But Hrul intervened on his behalf
And crushed the fiends to prevent further harm.

His wounds healed fast, as they had always done.
As he continued west, four suns turned red.
A group of huts loomed lonely ahead
With people locked inside, consumed by dread.

The men and women were fleeing the dark.
He had seen this shameful sight before.
Frowning inwardly, he could smell their fear
As they shut each window, cellar, and door.

From inside a dwelling, an old hag yelled,
“When the dark is full, even the noble fall.
The Veil Mountains loom just to the west.
Here, Mighty Hrul never heeds our call!”

Dafferjan hurried along, unperturbed,
Contemplating his possible fates.
He’d passed the last spire and left the tall grass.
Not far ahead loomed Solace’s old gates.

Narrow streets made of weeds and stones
Framed a once-proud city in disrepair.
Wild animals infested shops and homes,
Unleashing a foul stench into the air.

This first night he would assess the city
And flush out Othelstott’s minions within,
Isolating and destroying each one.
A long ruined arena reeked of sin.

With the softest steps, he boldly entered.
The air was thin and the shadows black.
Shards of white moonlight bent at odd angles.
He sensed the demon but could not turn back.

Within an instant, he readied his spear.
With the blessing of Hrul, the blade grew cold.
Only now could it wound a demon.
He remained bold as his training took hold.

With frenzied power the darkness took shape,
Pulsating, consuming the white moon rays.
Dafferjan was caught in the demon’s grasp.
Its poison tipped teeth set his scalp ablaze.

Fighting down panic, he gripped his spear
And thrust it into the morphing fiend’s nape.
Its viselike maw loosened just enough
For the Lion’s Claw to make his escape.

Blood poured out, yet the demon pressed forward.
Its wounds had rendered it mortally slow.
Dafferjan deftly dodged to one side,
Then skewered its chest with a mighty blow!

Othelstott, Old Stray, the Hrullite that fell,
Felt Dafferjan’s presence as the demon died.
Each warrior sensed that their battle drew near
And that one would fall on the mountainside.

The next day the townsfolk prayed together.
They sang Hrul’s chants, but with the words all wrong.
Dafferjan corrected them where he could,
And rejoiced with them, but not for long.

Ribbons trailed from the girls’ maroon sleeves
As they cut the air with flourishing hands.
Chimes and drums timed smiles and stomps,
Renewing hope in the borderlands.

They knew that Dafferjan was like the rain.
Having cleansed Solace, he would slide away.
Yet, this time, they noticed he had changed.
He eyes were sunken, his hair had gone grey.

His nemesis’ stronghold must be destroyed.
The next morning he left, with ill intent.
For his betrayal, Othelstott would die.
When he reached the Veil, his muscles were spent.

The Hrullite Eirhul had taught him a poem.
The Lion’s Claw spoke it as fate drew near.
On the same mountain that Othelstott turned
Words bounced off rock, though no one could hear.

“Should effort fall short,
And earth in from all sides,
Burying you there,
Reply with time.

Be smothered, be still,
But determined to rise,
A buried seed,
Rising in time.“

Without warning, the ledge above him fell!
He warded the rocks, but it drained his will.
Othelstott appeared, his face disfigured,
His powerful presence, intent to kill.

Hurling a force no mortal could withstand,
Othelstott pinned Dafferjan to the wall.
Our warrior struggled, but death was assured.
From a nearby tree, he heard a crow’s call.

A mystic wind swept up the mountainside,
Capturing his soul, keeping it alive.
Herder Eidelis pushed it east, to Hrul.
En route she split it into twenty five.

In Spireguard, Hrul merged the souls with mortals
And formed a clergy of women and men.
The divine Oracles of Mighty Hrul!
Dafferjan will forever live within!