"The Council of Arcana was doomed to failure. It imploded under its own impotence and infighting leaving a strange mixture of evil and hope in its wake. The Council was gone but its legacy continued and its legend grew each time one of the ancient talismans of power re-surfaced in the lands."
extract from 'The Chaos Codex'
Ryrf stood and watched as Chrys was stolen from his care. He watched as the gap widened until she was no more than a faint smudge of colour against the dark background. He was frozen by the magnitude of his own failing.
A muttered and petulant "Good riddance!" brought him to his senses. He swung around in anger, finding an outlet for the emotions hat were tearing him apart. "You fool, Miles," he hissed, "She can do things for Yang'Grir that not even the Guardian could manage. She can call down devastation in the blood plains using a magic that is outside the known laws." His voice dropped a little in awe as he said softly "And she talks to the Silver Lady. I saw them one night, sitting and talking together under the light of the full moons."
The little man shook his head in confusion and asked "Why is that so amazing? You also see the Silver Lady?" Then almost as an after thought he muttered, "and don't call me Miles."
At any other time, Ryrf would have been amused that the stubborn contrariness of the little gnome had surfaced. This tribe of gnomes had lost more than their homeland in the old race wars. They had lost their libraries, their history and their genealogical records. As little more than children, they had escaped Megren's pens and through their own ingenuity had survived in this remote corner. Without their history, a Council decision had been made that all would use a short form name, rather than the complex lineage names that few of the children had known and none could prove.
Ryrf had no idea whether Miles assertions as to his real name were true or not, but its use in the formal correct gnomish manner which recited all of Miles' known and famous ancestors by name rank and significant deeds, would have lengthened any conversation by several hours. Ryrf therefore preferred to follow the Council edict.
The name battle remained an old tradition between these two friends.
Ryrf replied softly "I can only see the Lady when I'm transformed, Miles, and only then because we of Wolf Clan are ruled by the silver light of the moons. Chrys didn't even know who the Lady was, yet could talk to her." As he spoke, his form began to waver slightly. The tiredness, that sapped his concentration, suddenly felt bone deep. Only his iron will had allowed him to hold this form as Chrys' protector for such an extended period of time. Even as Miles watched, the metamorphosis occurred and although Ryrf would always be of Wolf Clan, he was no longer Wolf. Ryrf collapsed on the floor of the cave as the exhaustion won.
Ryrf's collapse caused a little cloud of red dust to rise into the air. Seeing his friend fall, Miles sent more flurries of dust into the air, as he scurried over to the prone body. "You're a fool Grir'Ryrf," he admonished and then concern made his voice break slightly as he asked "How many days was it this time?"
Miles had once queried how it was that Ryrf could return to his human form and be fully dressed. Ryrf had laughed and tried to explain how the transformation was effected. Unlike the old legends of werewolves it was not a physical change. Ryrf described it as a choice. As each member of the wolf clan reached a sufficient level of awareness, they searched the silver plains for their spirit wolf. Not all found their soul mate. Those that did, however, became as one, and could choose which form to take in each plane of existence. The spirit wolf when it walked the physical world was a power and freedom that was intoxicating and seductive, but the price was paid by the physical body. Deprived of sustenance in the spirit plane, the body slowly wasted. Miles had wondered at the time, what would happen if the body form died in the spirit plane, but Ryrf had brushed aside the question without answering it.
Miles realised just how close he'd come to finding the answer to that question. Ryrf, the wolf, had been a magnificent glowing creature with a gleaming healthy white coat. Ryrf, the man, was an emaciated gaunt shadow. Ryrf lay amidst the red dust of the cavern floor, his breathing shallow and uneven. His skin had an unhealthy greyness that contrasted sharply with the shock of wild black hair that framed his face. He was usually clean shaven, but now a ragged beard masked much of his face. His clothes hung loose on his frame and the mighty two-handed crystal sword strapped to his back, seemed more like a cross he bore, than a weapon of destruction. It was hard to imagine him having the strength to draw the sword from its scabbard, let alone wield it.
Miles grabbed his canteen from his pack and knelt beside the frail form. He gently raised Ryrf's head and put the canteen to his lips. At first, he simply allowed the fresh clean water to moisten the parched lips, then one mouthful at a time, he allowed Ryrf to slowly drink. Once the water had partially restored his energy, Ryrf opened his eyes and the transformation was complete. The enigmatic Ryrf now surveyed the world from his human form.
Miles smiled a little smugly at the success of the water and again reached into his pack. This time it took some rummaging before he was able to locate the objects of his search. Ryrf watched him with some amusement, thinking that if the gnome delved any deeper into the pack, he'd fall in. Miles drew out some thin grey strips of meat that looked like they'd seen better days. "Giant Rock Lizard" was all Miles said as he handed the strips of meat to Ryrf.
While Ryrf chewed reluctantly on the tough strips of meat, Miles collected some sticks from the pile that had caused all the problems in the first place. Miles then began fussing around the walls at the rear of the cave. Ryrf didn't yet have the energy to expend on idle curiosity, so he waited patiently.
Miles turned and gestured impatiently for Ryrf to follow. The steam in the rear of the cavern cleared as Ryrf gingerly stretched and hobbled to the rear of the cave. He could see that the sticks now partially protruded from vent holes in the cavern wall. A deep rumbling could be heard from below and before he had time to query Miles, the rumbling grew louder and he realised that this was the gnome elevator that Miles had tried and failed to explain to him. Supposedly, it was powered by the mountain itself, and controlled by a complicated system of venting chutes that trapped or released the steam to raise or lower this giant rock floor to the appropriate level. Ryrf didn't think now was the time to ask what happened if the mountain went quiet while they were using the shaft.
Miles hopped happily onto the rock platform and seemed not to notice that it teetered and rocked slightly and even dropped in height a little as his weight changed the balancing equation. Miles grabbed some sticks from the platform and tossed them back into the cavern and the platform rose back to the level of the cavern floor. Miles grinned, his pleasure in this toy obvious, then said "Really we should weigh you, but we'll guess for now. Jump on! If the little lady is so valuable, we better go and rescue her."
Ryrf nodded and almost closed his eyes as he stepped onto the platform. The sudden drop of the platform left a sinking feeling in his already empty and fragile stomach. Miles simply threw another bundle of sticks off the platform then removed one of the sticks from the wall. The floor again sank, but this time it kept going, in a slow controlled fall down the shaft.
Wolf Clan were creatures of the night, empowered by the silver light of the moons. Ryrf hated the claustrophobic feeling of being indoors, let alone the knowledge that he was now going deep into the very bowels of the mountain. He stood and gazed up the shaft, watching the first blinking stars of the night recede into the distance until he could no longer tell where the shaft ended and the black night sky began. He sent up a silent prayer to the Silver Lady to see him safely returned to her domain. A shiver ran down his spine as he realised that until he returned to the surface he was locked into this human body. Without the light of the moons, the path to the silver plains was closed to him and transformation was impossible.
A small voice finally broke the silence and it took a moment for Ryrf to realise that it was Miles speaking. Gone was the bouncing confidence and deliberate rudeness and in its place was an almost palpable fear. Perhaps it was the darkness that stripped all pretence between them. Miles was saying quietly "No-one goes to the castle Ryrf, because no-one has ever returned from there. If we take it to the Council, they will debate it for days, trying to reach a decision. We are not cowards, Ryrf, but..", and Ryrf could almost see the resigned shrug that filled the pause before Miles continued, "I think we will waste too much time if we try and convince the Council to aid us."
Ryrf didn't take his gaze away from where the heavens had been. He knew that as soon as he acknowledged to himself that the link was broken, the cravings within him would start to build. He heard Miles' words and he heard the fear. His answer when it finally came was short. "Then we won't ask them, Miles."
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