Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Legends of Voraniss: Riel the Ram

by Renee "Mouse" Booke

The lands of Voraniss weren’t always filled with werewolves and giant men. There was a time, long ago, when the Elves flocked to her forests to enjoy a deep and profound connection to the natural world. This place has always been a haven to those with respect for the wild places, and so it was only right that the Elven people should also make a home here in the shadows of the ancient oak trees.

The locals believe that the Elves treated these lands not as a place to settle or conquer, but as a spiritual retreat more than anything else. Some people even believe that it was the Elves that built some of the oldest shrines you can find here still. There is one thing that is consistent in their stories and memories, however, and that is the legend of Riel’iefyr; fondly known as Riel the Ram.

While they may disagree on the term: Wizard, Sorcerer, or Druid, everyone agrees that Riel’iefyr was a master of fire. He was a paragon of his art, truly a prodigy of evocation and flame. It was he that tended to the many torches and bonfires of the shrines and always made sure that the spirits had a guiding light with which to find their way home. More than that, it was he who always made sure that the Elves and peaceful folk of those early times never went without warmth during the long winters.

Riel’iefyr went about his work without complaint and even seemed to enjoy using his gift for the benefit of the people around him. He did what he could to make their lives bearable, and in turn they would offer him food, drink, or shelter for a night here and there. His work allowed him to travel much of the forest that otherwise went undisturbed which allowed him an up close and personal view of many of the different creatures and animals that made their home in the undisturbed wilderness. Life probably would have gone on much the same for Riel, but as is its nature…change was destined to come.

Nobody really saw the Darkness coming. If they had, surely they would have taken preventative measures to limit its influence. There were hints of its malice in the beginning, but only vague oddities that could be chalked up to unseasonable coolness and early sunsets. It wasn’t anything they hadn’t seen before, and so all of the warnings went unheeded until the Darkness could no longer be ignored. Those that were there finally knew there was a problem when one summer day the sun just didn’t rise, at least that’s the story that has been passed down through their families.

Problems only escalated from there. Without the sun everything became dark and cold. Even bonfires were refusing to light. It was as if there was a heavy blanket cast down over the land that smothered any hope of radiance. Nobody could see their way through the forest without light, and many Elves became stranded despite their innate visual prowess. There was something unnatural about this Darkness, and it sucked up more than just light and warmth. Hope became a rare commodity, for how can one fight what they cannot see?

Riel’iefyr took this assault on the light very hard. To him it was a personal attack, or some kind of insult to his honor. Was he not a bringer of fire and heat? Living in a world where he was not allowed to use his gifts did not interest him, and so he stubbornly set out to find the source of the misfortune that had befallen the people and land he loved. He struggled to find his way, but his feet remembered what his eyes could not find in the endless haze of darkness. Step by step he wandered deeper into the forest, afraid of what he would find.

When the Darkness overwhelmed him, Riel’iefyr knew he was close. The shadows were so heavy that they reminded him of the space between the stars in the heavens, the endless void of emptiness that existed only to make the illustrious brilliance of the cosmos appear all the more radiant. He had read about things like this before; spirits of darkness that fed off of the light and life force of entire peoples. They were so terrible and feared that they had never been given a proper name, but they were supposed to be myths! It couldn’t possibly be what they were dealing with now…could it? The Elf shuddered at the possibility and wrapped his arms around himself to shield his body from the cold.

“You do not belong here,” a deep voice whispered.

Riel’iefyr jumped, his skin crawling with discomfort. He couldn’t be sure, but it had felt like the voice was speaking directly into his mind. There was understanding without sound, and certainty that the message had been specifically intended for him. “Who goes there?” he cried back. “Show yourself!”

“I am all around you,” said the voice, “I am Darkness. I am Despair.”

“Leave this place!” Riel’iefyr shouted again. He waved his arms through the air in an attempt to dissipate the concentrated blackness. “You are not wanted!”

The sound of laughter echoed everywhere, mocking the Elf’s demands. “I will consume this place.”

The shadows began to shift and change, rushing past Riel’iefyr in a tangible whoosh. He squinted his eyes to make sense of the movement and a horrible ethereal face flashed before his eyes. This continued for what felt like an eternity as the Darkness danced before him. One moment the face was there, and then it was gone. The creature was everywhere, and the poor Elf couldn’t be sure that it hadn’t devoured him already. He felt weak and lost, like all his efforts had been in vain. What could he possibly do as he stared down the face of an ancient spirit? It was so mighty and he was so, so small.

Riel’iefyr clenched his hands into tight fists and dug his fingernails into the palm of his hand. He was so frightened that he didn’t realize how powerful his grip was, and the warmth of his own blood startled him back to reality. He couldn’t let himself be lost to this creature. His people were counting on him. This forest was counting on him. The Elf defiantly raised his eyes to match the gaze of the haunting face of Darkness. “I will not let you expand your grasp on this world any further.”
“Pathetic mortal. What hope do you have in the face of my power? I have taken all the light from this place. You have nothing that can stop me.” The great being retorted. It seemed amused by the futile act of defiance.

It may have been true that all the light was gone. It may have even been true that on his own Riel’iefyr had nothing he knew of that could have stopped the malevolent spirit, but that wasn’t going to stop him from trying. The Elf grit his teeth and concentrated on the warmth of the blood that had awakened him from his lament. There was some heat that still lived, some fires that never went out. So long as his heart continued to beat, he would carry his own flame.

Energy began to gather about him. Other spirits who were drawn to his determination began to pull away at the Darkness with curious fingers. His stalwart resistance began as a single spark within the space they created for him, and the stubborn Elf poured all of his courage and will towards stoking that ember. The cold was starting to fade from his body now, and he could see his fingers start to glow with golden light.

“Your efforts are meaningless,” the spirit barked again. “I will put out your light forever.” The Darkness converged all around him and attempted to grab him. It would have succeeded too if the goodly Spirits of the forest, which Riel’iefyr had long tended to, hadn’t placed themselves in its path.
Riel’iefyr cried out louder, and the light on his fingers and hands began to spread rapidly over his body. Soon he was fully encompassed in the golden glow, and the Darkness was forced to retreat back a little ways. “I’d like to see you try!”

Furious, the Darkness drew in its breath and began to suck the other spirits out of the air. If they were going to protect the pesky Elf, then they would die with him.

A bone cutting chill erupted throughout the area, and Riel’iefyr could feel icicles growing upon the ends of his ears. This light was only enough to keep the creature at bay, not enough to slay him. He needed more power. More light. In that moment, he knew he needed to push himself beyond his limits if he was to have any chance of taking this thing down.

Placing his palms together, Riel’iefyr formed a circle with his arms and closed his eyes as he tried to concentrate. He listened to the beating of his heart, to the blood rushing through his veins. He could feel the warmth from the golden light that had surrounded him and continued to push what energy he had left into amplifying it. He wasn’t sure how long he could keep the magic stable, but he was also too stubborn to give up. The golden glow turned red, shifting through a spectrum of fiery colors before it finally turned white and solidified around his body like a tangible shield.

The Darkness shrieked and lunged forward, lashing out at what he most feared. Riel’iefyr was ready for him this time, and he released the tenuous grasp he had upon his explosive magic.

Silence. Nothing but silence at first. Gradually a dull roaring sound filled the air, and then finally, an explosion of light and flames. Riel’iefyr’s body was torn apart by his own magic, but the furious light could not be held back now that its handler had released the reins. The brilliant white light lit the area and the Spirit of Darkness shrank into nothingness beneath its blinding rage. It was done.

They say the land experienced immediate relief after that explosion. The fires they had been trying so desperately to light flickered into existence all at once. The sun came back, and the cold was snuffed out by a warm wind that gushed forth out of the area following the blast.

The Elves and other locals were so grateful to Riel’iefyr for his aid that they implored the spirits to reward him for his deeds, a request which they were only happy to oblige. His heroic spirit was given new form beyond death, one that honored the nature of his life. Riel’iefyr became Riel the Ram: representative of Fire and Light in the spirit realm; known for strength, stubbornness, and sacrifice. To this day they say you can find him wandering the forests and mountains of Voraniss; leading lost adventures to safer places and lighting any unattended shrine fires and torches with a touch of his horn.

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