The battle had raged for many days, and the fight had been hard but at the end of the day, the warriors of the Geven tribe stood proudly as their new chief Shandra Connaught viewed them.
Shandra surveyed the men who stood before her with pride, "Warriors of the Geven, today we struck a blow for freedom. No longer will be the victims of the Ghoron. Last night, we stood firm and showed them we wouldn't wait to be attacked again. They felt our wrath; our anger is anger to avenge the brothers and sister who fell in the many battles, over the years, it is a rage filled with the desire to bathe in the blood of defeated."
The Geven and Ghoron tribes remained enemies for so long, nobody knew or cared what started the feuds. The lands of the Kaladrian Forest have been fought over for centuries. There are tales of men who can blend into the trees and remain unseen for months, but few believe such stories.
Holding the sword of Altanus high, she called out, "We, who are here, salute you. Altanus, Lord of the unknown and bringer of peace!"
The warriors roared in reply, "Shandra, Shandra, Shandra," and the woods rang to the noise of joyous celebrations all night. There was much drinking, singing, and telling stories, but Shandra knew this was only the beginning of the war. She left the fires of her people, and walked slowly to her tent, Shandra enjoyed the thrill of the battle as much as any warrior and enjoyed celebrating even more, but on this night, she had something more to think about - the future of her people.
A war that was destined to change Kaladria, for she had seen the future on a vision quest. Shandra had no doubt the tribe would be victorious, what she doubted was the cost; would the loss of lives be worth the victory? This war needed to be fought on many levels while the Geven were more than a match in the woods, could their forces overcome a fortress? Shandra was worried, as her men and women cheered this victory she couldn't help consider the future of her tribe, Let them have their moment, she thought, we might not see many such times in the future.
The men drank of the Mead as the women of the Geven danced around the fires.
The stars lit the sky with everlasting beauty, and peace reigned in the forest - at least for now - despite the victory the guards remained vigilant. Life on the run enforced the Geven folk to be ever vigilant, even in times of joy their weapons were close at hand.
Her tent stood on the top of the rise overlooking the plain of Cardocan, below her lay the vast barren lands populated by mystical beasts and their Lord Flamendor, the great dragon.
Flamendor was once the greatest of all the firebrands, but now his realm had passed to the lesser beings. The brave dragon had grown old beyond his years, and was unable to fight by the side of his friends, but his spirit dwelled in their souls, and this made the warriors as fearsome as ever.
Two things were certain to the warrior queen; the first is that to cross the plain, she needed the trust of Flamendor, and the second was to attack the fortress at Elfenmere, she would need all the troops and dragons the brave dragon could spare.
Elfenmere's strength as a fort is that it can only be taken by an enemy with force with a frontal assault - high cliffs protected the rear of the fort - but this was also its weakness. A small force had the ability to hide on the cliffs and mask their attack.
Shandra strolled around their camp, looking at the men and women enjoying their well-earned victory celebration, she couldn't help thinking How many will celebrate our final triumph - if we have one?
Her mind was brought back to the present, when a voice called, "Shandra, are you not celebrating with us?"
Shandra glanced in the direction of the caller, and then replied, "I will be with the people in a while, Samilia. I have a few things to gather before I come down." Shandra stood silently, thinking about the events of the recent battle and what was in their near future, as she closed her eyes to absorb the spirits of the forest and ask their guidance, she spotted a young bird land on a high ridge not far away. She took this as a sign from the spirits and went to seek out the ridge. The ridge was at the top of a small mountain, and she began her ascent.
On her arrival, she found herself on a ridge no wider than a person's body and covered in small rocks. She watched as the bird walked along the ledge, gently tapping the stones with its beak, then for a moment the bird stopped by a pile of rocks and appeared to nod in her direction.
In the reflection of the bird's eye, Shandra thought she saw a cavern hidden far out over the lava plains, but she wasn't certain. The bird picked a small stone up in its talons and flew to Shandra; as she held her hand out to catch the pebble, she thought she heard a voice whisper, "Throw this rock and I shall receive you in my kingdom."
Shandra didn't understand what was happening, but she believed in the world of the spirits and believed they were talking to her now, so. She threw the small stone as far as her aching arm was able and watched as it appeared to fall from the sky, then to her surprise the rock took on a life of its own and flew out of sight.
The rock dipped and swirled in the steaming eddies of the lava plains before coming to rest on a patch of land at the edge of Shandra's sight. "That isn't right; I couldn't have thrown the rock that far after such a grueling battle," she muttered,"and what about the way it traveled?"
In the back of her mind, a thought emerged; "No, you didn't throw the stone. My powers drew the stone to me, Shandra. Only those of true faith can see me."