Living in solitude at the edge of the High Forest, a bandaged elven monk tosses in his sleep.
He stands powerless as the earth tears violently apart, reducing masterworks of architecture to rubble and swallowing thousands of innocents. Watching the spectacle from atop a large rock, carved with an unusual triangular symbol, is a male medusa. His eyes burn with jealous rage and his mouth is twisted in a mocking smirk. The snakes atop his head writhe and hiss euphorically.
Crith Blalath has had this dream before, but never this vivid, or for this long. Despite his monastic discipline, he was unable to wake himself.
Then Crith was suddenly lying on his back at the bottom of a shallow pit with the medusa standing over him. He extended a sympathetic hand to Crith. Crith felt a sudden and overwhelming hatred of those who take their natural beauty for granted, and moreso for those who flaunted it. Rage clouded his vision, of which the medusa stood in the center. A sudden fit of revulsion washed over Crith, and he swatted away the creature’s offered hand. Its snarling combined with the hissing of a dozen snakes followed him into consciousness as he awoke to see the branches stirring in the breeze above him. A breeze that was unusual this time of day, unless there was a storm coming.
Absently, Crith raised a bandaged hand to his scarred face, but was stopped by the mask he wore. It had been a long time – longer by Human standards – but he knew it was time to return to the monastery.
The monastery was crowded, and the calm that usually permeated this place was tinged with anxiety and anticipation – apparently he wasn’t the only one who had been disturbed by ominous dreams and visions. Additionally, two knights had arrived – one gravely injured.
Crith learned that one of the knights was none other than the boy he had once attempted to mentor. Though the discipline of a monastic life did not well suit him, it seemed that Gurdis had found his place with the holy knights of Tyr.
That evening, the monks gathered with their elders. “My brothers,” one elder began, “Sir Casivir has been too gravely injured to continue his quest.” He paused for a quick, silent prayer before continuing. “As friends to his order, and his squire,” the monk bowed slightly toward Gurdis, “we are honor bound to continue his quest. Among a mixed delegation from Mirabar, representatives from the Order of the Gauntlet carried the body of a fallen knight, who was to be interred with honor at Summit Hall near the Sumber Hills.” The monk paused again, this time for emphasis. “They have not arrived, nor have they been heard from or seen for over a month. Sir Casivir was en route to locate the delegation and provide them any assistance they may require.”
Without another word, Crith stepped forward and bowed deeply. Though long ago by human standards, time passed differently for the elves, and his still-strong bond with the man-child Gurdis (as well as another, more mystical force – fate, perhaps) compelled him to accompany Gurdis.
The elders bowed in return. “Brother Quaf. I believe your unique talents will prove invaluable on this quest. Will you join?” An affirming chirp came from the back of the room, and a bird-man in specially tailored robes bounced forward and gave a quick, sharp bow that reminded Crith of a cock pecking in the grass.
“So shall it be.” said the same elder. In unison the elders folded their hands before their faces and bowed. The rest of the monks bowed in kind. “Please gather your supplies and rest the night here. You shall depart with the rising sun on your back.”