28 October 2007

The Prize of Alfarran

Apologies for being behind in the prose! Your humble scribe was a little preoccupied last night, what with carving pumpkins in preparation for the Festival of Cats a few days from now.

Just because I was elbows-deep in gourd guts, though, it doesn't mean that the bards were idle. Sian Barraj is not a night to be trifled with, and songs are sung even if nobody is madly scribbling them down. Last night's song was a tale of yet another hero - well, in this case, heroine - of the ancient Elven realms, Alfarran of Eldendale.

Other than her iconic actions following the last battle in the War of the Worldqueen, not a lot is known about Alfarran. The line of Eldendale was a cadet branch of the Third House, which means that she would have been kin to Tior Magnus - possibly a grand-niece, or some sort of distant cousin. She was only a young maiden, but old enough to work, when she was kidnapped and enslaved by Maerglyn, the half-fiend daughter of Biardath. This probably occurred about the time that Maerglyn broke openly with her father (in the year 702 of the Age of Wisdom), and began building an army in the Deepdark with the assistance of her mother, the demonic sorceress Shannyra.

This suggests that Alfarran was probably born around the year 650 or so, or roughly the same age as Maerglyn herself, making them both about 60 years old when Maerglyn abandoned Harad for the underworld. She does not seem to have been involved when Maerglyn challenged and overthrew Biardath, took his wand, and used it to cast him beyond the Void, forever lost to the Universe (see Rune VIII of the Book of Tales, Evincum Rex Veneficus). This suggests that she remained below the surface when Maerglyn and Shannyra, after defeating Biardath, were overthrown by the Anari, led by Braea herself, and forced to retreat forever into the Deepdark.

More than 500 years pass before we hear of Alfarran again. After the Age of Wisdom came the Age of Battles, when the Kindred were hard-pressed by the newly-unleashed armies of Bardan, composed largely of the Speaking Monsters (the goblins, orcs, Uruks and ogres created from the bodies of the Kindred). As all know, the Elves won a brief respite from attack, at the cost of two of their finest warriors, Fineleor Orkarel and Anja Antaissen, but were eventually defeated in the year 1244 (year numbering carried on from the Age of Wisdom into the Age of Battles, because the latter was so brief). The final defeat of the Elves occurred at the Field of Oldarran, in the disastrous battle known as "The Gloaming of the Wyrms", where the High King, Yarchian Renovator, was slain, and the Alurenqua (the hereditary sword of the Elven Kings, forged by Tior himself) was lost.

The catastrophic damage caused by the wars was so great that Braea and Bardan agreed to forge the Dome of the Firmament to prevent the Powers from ever again nterfering directly in the affairs of Anuru. Because Tian, the Anari of Justice, had been pinioned to a mountaintop by her own sword since the dawn of time, one of the Uruqua had to be tasked to remain within the Dome, and Ekhalra the Witherer was given the task. She took the title of Queen of the World, and after the Dome was closed, she used the power and armies given her by her fellow Uruqua to crush all resistance to her profane rule.

One of those who resisted was Maerglyn, who had spent the centuries since her exile building an enormous kingdom beneath the surface of the earth, which she called the Fourth House of Harad - the Shadelven. Her demonic heritage combined with more than five hundred years in the darkness had driven her quite made, and she led her people against Ekhalra's armies, forgetting that the Worldqueen was one of the Powers of Dark. Ekhalra's forces crushed the Shadelven, and she slew Maerglyn personally, trampling her body into the earth. In the battle, the source of Maerglyn's virtually limitless arcane might - the Wand that she had reft from her father Biardath - was shattered, and its terrible power broken. Ekhalra is rumored to have kept one of the shards of the wand as a memento of the battle, but it is not known what happened to the others.

Except for one.

* * * * *

Palkinto Alfarranta
“The Prize of Alfarran”
(from the Tarusta Lehtori Kultainen)

Alfarran of Eldendale
was born to noble stead;
A scion of a mighty house,
of Hara’s lineage bred.
That storied line she honoured,
and vowed to serve it well,
Through ages when all Harad wept,
Her vow she honoured and she kept;
and keeping it, she fell.

Alfarran of Eldendale
was yet of tender years
When Mærglyn, Bîardath’s daughter,
drowned the Elven realms in tears
The tears fell all unnumberèd
o’er all that once-fair land;
And as Harad became a hell,
Alfarran, child of fortune, fell
a slave to Mærglyn’s hand.

Alfarran of Eldendale
toiled in the sunless dark,
Reft of her silken dresses,
and bearing her mistress’ mark.
For long and long she laboured
beneath that sunless sky;
Fettered and flogged, and starved for breath,
She longed for escape, and she prayed for death,
but was ne’er vouchsafed to die.

Alfarran of Eldendale
walked with the mighty flood
When dark-crazed Mærglyn forsook the deeps,
baying for Elven blood.
Forth to the realm of Yarchian,
renewer of Elven pride;
Mærglyn marshaled her minions fell,
Warded by armour and clever spell,
and the Elf-hosts fled, or died.

Alfarran of Eldendale
stood in her mistress’ train,
As Mærglyn strove with the Worldqueen,
and the realm was rent in twain.
Ekhalra laughed as the dark elves fled
from the darkness that she had spawned;
And she trampled her enemy’s lifeless shell,
And fed on her flesh and her bones as well,
and she shattered Mærglyn’s wand.

Alfarran of Eldendale
crawled from the wrack and ruin,
And hastened to Mærglyn’s fallen form,
limned by the Mother Moon.
She spat in mistress’ lifeless eye,
but her own were dry of tears
As she stooped to the sward and she took in hand
The heel of Mærglyn’s shattered wand
as a fee for her captive years.

Alfarran of Eldendale
fled from that field of woe;
But nowhere in Harad was free of death,
for everywhere trod the foe.
At length she came to the mountains,
fleeing the blood-washed plain;
And, vanishing into a narrow pass,
She fell in a swoon on the clean, green grass,
and surrendered to grief and pain.

Alfarran of Eldendale
slept still like a child fair
When Hjalmar, Priest of the General, spied
her sun-bright, moon-gilt hair.
Approaching, he woke her gently,
and was lost in her emerald eyes
Then was stunned as she placed in his trembling hand
The heel of Mærglyn’s shattered Wand;
her blood-bought prisoner’s prize.

Alfarran of Eldendale
died in his arms that night;
And Hjalmar interred her there in state,
‘neath Lodan’s absolving light.
He left no sigil nor marker stone;
no cairn o’er-watching stands;
But the Elven folk still recall her tale,
And rejoice that Alfarran of Eldendale
is at rest in her kinfolk’s lands.

* * * * *