Fools Made Kings
DECEASED... Druid of Hanspur, The Reclaimer of Isenmoor
Dairven surveyed the destruction all around him. His home, the only home he had ever known, was gone. It had come as quickly and suddenly as a thief in the night. The normally gentle banks of the Sellen River crested while the citizens of Isenmoor slept. It happened so fast most barely had time to scramble out of their homes to safety as the water swallowed their livelihood. The sounds of weeping could be heard all about as people took stock of the destruction.
The strong, proud people of Isenmoor were broken. He could see it in their eyes. His friends and neighbors wandered aimlessly through the town. They wept in the places their homes once stood. They wept at the drowned, bloated corpses of their livestock. And in some cases, they wept over the bodies of friends and loved ones.
They looked to him with questioning eyes. They didn’t speak. They didn’t have to.
Why had this happened? Had they not obeyed Hanspur’s rituals? Had they not continued to revere the old ways? Had they not been careful to respect the river region as he commanded? Had they not upheld “The Ritual” year after year in his honor?
He spoke. “People of Isenmoor! Hear my words! As I look around at the misfortune that has befallen us I grieve with you. For years I have been your faithful steward and emissary to the surrounding wilderness. I too have fed these lands with blood, sweat, and tears and my heart weighs heavy at our loss.”
“But good people, this was always the way it was to end. We knew this. We grew up hearing the stories of our elders about how we are guests in this land. This was not our home, it never was. It was merely a stepping stone in our journey. No, our true home was taken from us. Our true home was stolen from us by the bandits and barbarians that now inhabit it.”
“The prophecy of the cleansing foretold that one day Hanspur would take from us this borrowed river bank and so he has. Year after year we have staved off this inevitable cataclysm by currying favor with the old ways. Every fall, during the last harvest, we perform the ritual as Hanspur demands.”
The druid stopped speaking and lowered his eyes. The ritual. For how many years had he been custodian of this sacred right? For how many years has it been his duty to protect this now broken homestead? He stroked his beard as his mind wandered back beyond an ocean of time.
It was early morning, just before sunrise. There was a knocking at the door of his childhood home. He heard his mother answer. With a somber face she led Edwin to his room.
“Hello Dairven” said the soft spoken Druid.
“Father Edwin?” said the boy, somewhat shaken. He already knew why the Druid was here. “Have I… Have I been chosen?”
“Yes Dairven, you have.” The druid sat on the bed next to the boy. “Hanspur visited me in my dreams last night and whispered your name. He has chosen you as the next candidate. Do you know what this means Dairven?”
“As much as anyone else does I guess. We are to travel along the shores of the Sellen River to Driftwood Temple. We are to enter the temple and give a prayer of thanks to Hanspur after which we are to wade into the river and I am to look upon the full moon.”
“Yes, very good Dairven. Please continue.”
“I shall say another prayer, the Prayer of the River. If Hanspur appears before me as I pray, I will be the Chosen One and you will be the Redeemer. If not, I am to be the Redeemer and you will remain the Chosen One.”
He looked at Edwin. Edwin nodded for him to go on.
“The Chosen One will return to town the next day as Druid of Isenmoor. The Redemer will be banished to the Stolen Lands until he either dies or can return having reclaimed our home.”
“Yes, Dairven. You know the old ways well. No doubt that is why Hanspur has chosen you. We will go now, leave everything behind. The forest and the river will provide.”
The man and the boy left Isenmoor as the ritual demanded. They travelled along the banks of the river and talked. Dairven always liked Edwin and enjoyed his stories and teachings of the old ways.
As it grew dark, Edwin muttered some strange incantations and his quarterstaff began to grow brilliantly, lighting their path. It was midnight before they reached Driftwood Temple, a chaotic shamble of stone and wood that leaned near the bank of the river.
The man and boy entered the temple, kneeled before the alter and prayed. After a few moments, Edwin looked at the boy.
“Are you ready Dairven?”
“I am Father.”
The two exited the temple and waded to the middle of the river. The boy once again knelt and looked upon the full moon with reverence. He began to recant the Prayer of the River. He searched the darkness for his god.
He felt one of the Druids hands on his shoulder and another on his head. It was comforting, like the reassuring embrace of a grandfather he had never known. The boy continued to pray, his eyes darting left and right for any sign of Hanspur.
Suddenly he found himself beneath water, the full weight of the Druid upon him. He could not move and began frantically kicking and flapping his arms. He was terrified. His lungs were burning. He desperately struggled against the Druid. Edwin was strong and had a commanding grip on Dairven’s hair and shoulder, forcing him deeper into the cold, unforgiving water.
Dairven managed to get his hand behind Edwin’s neck and calling upon a strength he had never before known, flipped the Druid into the water before him. He broke the surface of the water and gasped for air.
Screaming and crying he lunged for Edwin who looked at him with bewilderment. He was consumed with fear and betrayal, yelling curses and obscenities at Edwin. He grappled with Edwin and forced him underwater. The Druid struggled but Dairven held steadfast. After a minute or so, Edwin’s efforts subsided. Edwin offered a final few spasms before he went limp.
Dairven released him. The Redeemer floated into the cold, darkness of the night and Hanspur was satiated for another year. The Druid of Isenmoor returned home the next day.
The Druid looked up.
“The cleansing is behind us. We will mourn those Hanspur has taken from us. But do not abandon hope dear friends. This is a sign that we are to once again return to our ancestral lands and claim what was taken from us. It is a sign that I am to conduct the final ritual.”
There was no more crying. There was no talking. Even the forest itself seemed to go quiet.
“Isenmoor is no more. She no longer requires a Druid to watch over her. I am to be the Final Redeemer. There is nothing left for us here. Take what you can carry and follow me. I will guide you to Silverhall. I will see you to safety there and then I will take leave of you. I will travel to the Stolen Lands and I will restore our rightful home.
He raised his spear and muttered a few incantations. It glowed brilliantly, a shining beacon of hope in a ruined world.
“When I am done, I will return for you. I will light the way home.”
The Druid turned and walked west upon the Sellen River. The people of Isenmoor followed.