MYSTIC HIGHLANDS – THE GENESIS
Chapter One- The Pre-history of Mystic Highlands
No-one quite knows how Mystic Highlands came to be, but the old folks have retold this story many times to those who would care to listen.
Legend says that the land was created by The Great Fire that engulfed and destroyed the old world. The old world was a dark, dangerous place with many hardships to be endured by all. There were originally four kingdoms each ruled by an elected leader. The oldest kingdoms, Mol-Rehan, Jenn-Kellon and Horde of the Summoned fought one another for many years. It became difficult for a person to live in these lands though it must be admitted they produced many fine warriors and the quality of their horses was known everywhere. People gradually tired of war and so prayed to their gods for help. As so often happens, there was a great price to pay for peace and it was that they must agree to start their civilisation anew. Reluctantly they accepted those conditions and the great fire sparked into life.
The fire destroyed much of the evidence of the ancient land but with one notable exception. The capital city and Royal Family survived almost intact. The wise ones combined to use their alchemy skills to protect the city. The veil of smoke from the fire swirled around the outskirts but was unable to spread into the city. Instead it formed a dome of protection that prevented the further spread of fire and allowed the finest, most ancient buildings in the land to remain intact. It also refracted the light so that from the outside the capital became invisible.
A new land was formed between these ancient kingdoms in an attempt to create a barrier to the hatred and ill-feeling of the old world and it was here that the gods created the new life that they hoped would spread out over the continents. The new world is now central to all the ancient kingdoms that existed for eons. No-one yet knows what the origin of the name of this land is but due to the strange happenings even on those early days, and the huge, imposing, snow-capped mountains it became known locally as Mystic Highlands.
The wise ones still talk about how when our ancestors gathered in ancient circles, the center became a symbol of their interconnections and so it was with Mystic Highlands. At the very centre of Mystic Highlands is believed to be a stone, marked with ancient rune-like ciphers. It is known in our legend as the navel of our world and it is here that our kings and queens were crowned. It was known as a place of great importance and of mystery. It was the point of reference where all citizens needed to come together as communities for feasting, remembering their ancestors and worshipping their deities. The stone was supposed to contain details that could tell the people the precise location where the gods placed the capital of these lands. The Great Chronicle in the ancient library gave scholars the name of this city as Eldergate – The City of Dreams. Alas we do not have anyone who remembers this site. Many people have tried to rediscover our heritage but as of yet, no-one has succeeded.
Chapter Two- The Royal Family, Government and early conflict
The first ruler of our beloved land is King Eadwulf. He was married to Queen Eoforhild with whom he had two sons and two daughters but alas he was destined to outlive all but the youngest daughter. Each child and the Queen, however, were destined to make their own indelible mark on our fledgling civilisation. The king was crowned in the temporary encampment that is Safehold so named because it is a place of safety for the citizens of this new land.
The youngest son was Prince Alfred who was given the task of ensuring that the granaries were always kept full, the forests had wood to keep the people warm in the harsh winters and to make sure that the knights had fine horses. Alfred grew to love nature but was killed in battle protecting the kingdom and on his death was buried with his armour, favourite steed and sword. In addition to these usual artifacts, young sprouts, thorns and a bow were laid alongside his body. Pottery, cloth and food were also buried so that these could be sacrificed for favour in his new life. A fine rare silver coin was placed in his hand so that he could pay for his passage to the after-life. The priests raised Alfred to the status of a god of our nation and he became known as Fo, god of nature.
The next son was Edric a huge mountain of a man. His task was to ensure that the smiths of the kingdom had free access to the many mines. Edric was an expert in locating and finding the best ores. His great love was trying to locate some rare stone He was also a just, kind man who spent his life ensuring that every person was able to try and achieve all that they dreamed of. He believed that each and every person should be born free and would often be called upon to advise the law-makers so that justice could be done. He died trying to rid the land of the evil that inevitably appears wherever humans live. Upon his death, Edric was buried with his armour, steed and great riches hewn from the deepest mines. His sword, inlaid with gems lay alongside him and a silver coin was carefully placed in his hand. Edric was raised to the status of a god by the priests and was given his name- Magranon.
Elfgifu was the eldest daughter of Eadwulf. She loved learning and enjoyed studying the ancient legends of the kingdom. She could be often seen hunting using the bows that she had hewn from the willow that swept the banks of the lakes. Fishing was another love and once again, she would create her own fine rods from her favoured willow. Eadwulf ensured that Elfgifu could safely walk to the lakes and many fine paved paths were created. One day which was to be burned in the mind of Eadwulf the body of his daughter was found by the banks of the lake. In her hand was a bow, a rod and a book. The book was opened at a page containing an ancient map containing clues about how to reach the Mystic Stone. Had Elfgifu discovered how to reach the stone, was someone trying to prevent from doing this? Eadwulf pondered all of this over and over again. Elfgifu was buried in her finest clothes, her fastest most favoured steed and her beloved bow, rod and books. A rare silver coin was placed lovingly in the hand of the princess. The King blamed himself for the death of his daughter and was becoming increasingly distant from his Queen, his court and his subjects. Like her siblings, Elfgifu was raised to the status of a goddess and was given the name Vynora.
Queen Eoforhild had been married to Eadwulf for over thirty years. Her name was to become both significant and feared by many citizens. She was given the name from the ancient language elements eofor “boar” and hild “battle”. For some unknown reason, when hunting she would always be the focus of attacks from the boars that she searched for in the forests. The Queen could be found at the side of Eadwulf in battles. She earned a reputation as a fearsome warrior. The enemy who fell into the hands of Eoforhild was not so fortunate. She would take pleasure in torturing, maiming and killing anyone who dared attack her kingdom but over the years she had started to treat her own citizens in the same sadistic manner. Her children became ashamed of what their mother had become and her husband, the King, became increasingly estranged. One day Queen Eoforhild was out hunting boar when her horse stumbled. She fell to the ground and as she lay unconscious the boar turned and gored her. The Queen died where she lay. King Eadwulf mourned his wife despite the terrible things that she had done in her later years and despite their inner feelings, the priests made Eoforhild a goddess, however they were to call her Libila, the evil, dark goddess and those who wanted to worship her were warned to think hard before doing so.
King Eadwulf was filled with despair, anger and sadness at his losses and was seen less and less in court and in his lands though the love of his land was undiminished. The only time his subjects would hear from him were when he asked them for tax due on their small estates or when they were rewarded with a coin for dispatching a dangerous creature. The one bit of light in his life was his youngest daughter- Princess Leofflaed. She had been named such from our ancient language leof “beloved” and flæd “beauty”. As her father remained away from the people, Leofflaed became more and more influential in the kingdom. The court and the priests came to love her and trust her. It was her ambition to see the kingdom restored to its previous glory. She dreamed of a kingdom of strength but also a kingdom where the law was respected. She was, like her sister, absorbed by the ancient texts and legends. She longed to discover the ancient stone in the centre of the land and from it discover the site where the new capital was to be built.
Leofflaed had long since been prepared by trusted servants to take on more and more responsibility and had already been given more powers by her father; however, she herself yearned for her father to return to leading the kingdom as was his birthright and indeed his destiny. One day, a famed mystic named Justus approached Leofflaed to warn her that one of the initiates, Mustes, had talked of destroying the kingdom and creating a theocracy which was precisely what the priests had vowed never to do.
Leofflaed determined to keep this news from her father and so she called Mustes forward and confronted him with the accusation of trying to usurp the throne and destroy the kingdom that her father had so lovingly built up. Mustes remained silent, closed his eyes and vanished to the remotest part of the kingdom. Leofflaed talked with her most trusted priests and after some thought calmly made two edicts. The first was that Mustes and anyone who supported his aim were to be forever banished from the kingdom. The second was that anyone who supported the kingdom against Mustes was to be well rewarded in coins according to their effort in battle.
The Royal Family now lives in the citadel which dominates the city of Eldergate. Only they and a small number of trusted servants know the exact location of where they live. Mustes was banished from the city before the protective veil from the fire and so is now unable to return to Eldergate. His aim, to destroy the kingdom must wait until he is able to locate the city once more. The city shall have to remain hidden until it can be certain that the fledgling citizens are able to protect their beloved Royals.
Chapter Three- New Citizens and new challenges
Now in the present day, the kingdom appears to be safer and calmer than it has been for many years. The fledgling kingdom saw a steady influx of new citizens many of whom came from neighboring kingdoms but all with the aim of making our lands great again. Many years have passed and many old friends have died or have decided to return back to their own lands but my memory somehow seems pulled back towards the beginning.
Without being able to locate Eldergate and pay homage to our King, new citizens set out from Safehold. This small, protected enclave was created by three knights of the kingdom: Lord Valiance, Lord Razathor and Lady Kaylie. They were soon joined by many others who sought refuge there but also to support King Eadwulf and Princess Leofflaed. These first settlers were ill-prepared for the journey that lay ahead of them and in the early days most simply spent time learning skills that will no doubt be of great importance in the future. Skills such as mining, smithing and of course fighting dominated the thoughts of many but some felt the urge to venture from Safehold and gain some tiny foothold away from Safehold.
Whilst people of Mystic Highlands went about their business, Mustes, forever banished from the kingdom had spent the intervening time to raise his alchemy skills and supported by his allies decided to once-and-for-all to wipe out the fledgling kingdom before ultimately turning his attention to Eldergate. Soon after arriving the new citizens were called to arms in defence of Safehold and ultimately the kingdom. People used Safehold as a simple fortress and were aided by a single Templar and Tower Guards. It was a bloody battle and many from both sides lost their lives but, eventually, good won out and Mustes was defeated. As he fled to fight again he was given a new name by the people who had bravely fought him The Necromancer, a name that was to become synonymous with evil as over the next few years he attempted time and time again to exert his will on all.
In the early days the new citizens heard from ancient peoples who already lived in other parts of Mystic Highlands. One of these mysterious places was the Tower of the Wanderer. Access to and from the Tower was afforded to the people of this fine land via a portal as a reward for fighting off bands of evil creatures. The citizens were able to explore the Tower and the region around it. What is was exactly, when was it built and why was it there were questions that were not asked at the time. Is the Tower evidence of a previous civilisation? What force or what person prevented the Tower from being destroyed in the great cataclysm or The Great Fire? These are questions that still burn in the mind even though by now many years have passed.
The discovery of the Tower may have raised questions but it also allowed citizens to spread to parts of Mystic Highlands that were far from Safehold. It was also around this time that life became more challenging as winter chill threatened to wipe out the early community but this did afford the opportunity to spend our winters huddled around the forge creating and sharpening the weapons that were to be so important in our quest to solve the mystery that is Mystic Highlands.
In the intervening years, with an improving road system, many newcomers spread out from Safehold to make a new life. Some became farmers, some smiths and others priests. All were made welcome but all were ready to lend their sword-hand or healing powers against the Necromancer. Sail boats could be seen travelling along the coasts and people learned to create bridges that were used to make travelling around the land easier. Small towns could be seen growing in distant parts of the land and then fall into disrepair as their founders find the challenges of Mystic Highlands too great.
The Crypt was a place that was found close to Safehold and the adventurer could attempt to accept the challenges that lay deep in the bowels of the earth. Citizens were amply rewarded for their efforts but possibly their greatest reward was the fighting experience that was to be gained. As citizens were time and time again challenged by the Necromancer, many brave souls met their end in Safehold Graveyard valiantly succumbing to the hell hounds and lava spiders brought to life by our evil nemesis
The Shifting Maze and the Perilous Paths were other ancient places of interest that were uncovered in time. These were places where citizens could challenge themselves and raise their skills still further in order to prepare for even greater challenges. In the times of peace, Merchants arrived in our lands and even along the coast citizens could trade their gems for coin. The Knights of our Kingdom used many of these ancient sites to bring the community together but also to raise the fighting capabilities of the citizens and prepare for the battles that must surely come in the future if we are to bring peace to these ancient, mysterious lands.
More recent places to have been discovered include the Dragonpath Raceway and Knightmare Castle. Once discovered, citizens flocked to them to participate in the challenges that each posed. Some citizens have started to wonder why these places of wonder have survived The Great Fire. Are we being aided by an as-yet-unknown god? Many of the places of interest exist along the coast. The coast would certainly offer some protection against any historic fires but could they also suggest that there may yet be distant lands across the great ocean that surrounds our continent? Evidence for this may have come from an event when marine monsters were summoned to attack Safehold Harbour. It took many citizens to prevent the loss of this landing but in the end, we were successful.
Portals have been discovered near Safehold that allow the explorer or fighter to travel great distances in a moment although there is a fear in some minds that the Necromancer may be able to use these for his own evil purpose. Where the Necromancer lives, no-one knows just now. There are still remote areas of Mystic Highlands where a cunning, determined foe may hide though much of the land has seen at least some footsteps from the new citizens. Could this evil creature live in a land yet to be discovered or could he be dwelling deep in the furthest mountains readying his armies for yet another attack on our still fledgling civilisation?
The land has changed a great deal during these last few years and the King has watched with interest. One year citizens found scraps of maps that could be used to find danger and maybe coins but these have been lost now. Perhaps they could hold the key to finding the ancient stone that we learn about in our legends? This stone will guide us as to where we may locate Eldergate- a capital fit for King Eadwulf and his daughter. We could however, simply stumble across the city just as citizens found many other places- through exploration.
Citizens often talk about where this capital may be. Some say it should be a citadel situated high in the mountains for defence whereas others warn that this could make it easy for The Necromancer to call his evil creatures out of the darkest, deepest mines. Some people say that the capital ought to be in a lush, verdant valley making it easy for our farmers to produce the crops that will be needed. Other citizens say that the capital should be found along the coast or off the coast to allow protection from the dark creatures and enable merchants to trade and sell their wares around the lands. When we find the city that has eluded us for many years then we will surely know- time will tell.
The time is surely approaching when the Necromancer again attempts to make the kingdom his own and people wonder if we can once again defeat him and his cohorts of evil. Old friends will no doubt leave and new friends will hopefully arrive as we attempt to create the vast thriving kingdom that our King deserves. Our capital- Eldergate- is a place that will surely have many stories to tell and many wondrous buildings to view, although we must search for its location first. When we finally find our capital then Mystic Highlands will surely become known as the most important kingdom of all. I am just a lowly servant but if we all work as one, then we surely can find what we search for. I wonder if new gods will be created to join those already with us but that will be for others better than me to decide. This story will then be continued in the way that a true chronicle should and will be talked about around camp fires, forges and ovens for generations to come.
Chapter Four- Princess Leofflaed asks for help
The Kingdom has enjoyed relative peace in recent years apart from the occasional testing attack from the evil army that is so cunningly controlled by the Necromancer. The citizens have used this time to raise their skills in fighting, armour-making and weaponry as well as farming, leather-working, tailoring and all the other skills so necessary for survival in these lands. Some fighters are so skilled that most animals pose little fear in an attack- but have we become over-confident?
Sir Valiance and Lady Kaylie, at the behest of Princess Leofflaed invited citizens to The Twilight Arena. Those able to attend included some of the most experienced fighters in these lands but also some of our newest citizens.
Everyone gathered in the arena looking around the empty tiers lest it be a trap but exactly on-time the quiet but forceful voice of Princess Leofflaed could be heard echoing around the magnificent edifice…
‘The King is gravely ill and our doctors and alchemists cannot help. His Majesty was poisoned and only one person knows the recipe for the cure.
The Goblin alchemist knows the cure. Please find this goblin as soon as possible.
Kill all the goblins as the Goblin alchemist is not easily recognisable. When any goblin is killed, look carefully through their belongings and seek the recipe’
Princess Leofflaed, despite her obvious distress, invited those present to practice their weapon skills. During the evening we were attacked by Goblins, Spiders, Crocodiles, Scorpions, Hell Hounds, Lava Spiders, Trolls and even a No-Gump. These creatures caused many injuries but most were defeated and healers were able to assist many fighters.
Many people thought that this was to be the closure of the event but The Princess announced a final battle against a Venerable Green Dragon Hatchling. Against such a beast we were found wanting- a true reminder that we must endeavour to raise our skills still further.
In recent days I have heard citizens describing how they are working hard to find this elusive Goblin but as of yet- to no avail. It has always been this way. Mystic Highlands is a tough unforgiving land where people can only survive though hard work, cunning and good luck. It is however, a beautiful land full of wonderful monuments that may one day show us how to link the ancient history of the Kingdom with the present day situation and ultimately the future.
Good luck to all who work in these lands and who search for our past as well as our future. Long live King Eadwulf and Princess Leofflaed and all our Mystic Highlands citizens.
Chapter Five- King Eadwulf succumbs
Much time passed since Princess Leofflaed asked for our help to find a cure for her beloved father. Many a brave warrior has travelled these lands to try and find a cure for our King but to no avail. The recipe that contains the cure for the affliction that affects him remains as elusive as we all feared it would. Nothing here on Mystic Highlands is ever easy but it does instill a determination, fortitude, even stubbornness into the hearts and minds of the citizens who choose to make it their home.
It happened one day- as well all knew it would- a message was sent out throughout the Kingdom requesting that citizens report to Safehold to defend the town against the Goblin Horde and their evil allies. This message did not come from Princess Leofflaed but instead came from King Eadwulf himself. Our King somehow raised himself from his sick-bed demonstrating the same characteristics that typify all who dwell here.
For some citizens, the journey to Safehold is a short horse-ride but for others it is a journey lasting many hours. This seemed not to matter to his loyal subjects as the time given to us by our King the roads were crowded with knights, soldiers, priests and even newly arrived adventurers eager to prove their bravery.
The day arrived, bright and clear. The valley that cuts though Safehold looked empty apart from the army of citizens that continued to arrive. Even the most accomplished knights looked tense and rode their steeds up and down the road waiting for the foe to arrive but where would they be? Some of our army used humour in an attempt to hide the strain of waiting for an enemy that could arrive at any time, some simply remained silent, contemplating the fact that for some this fine Spring day could be their last
A call went up- the King and our Princess were arriving, suitably late as befits people of such high status. ‘Hail!’ went the call from many as the royal party slowly made their way out of Safehold to where their main army was to be found. People bowed respectfully but at the same time managing to catch a glimpse of their beloved King.
This was surely the opportunity that the Goblin army was looking for. They had long vowed to destroy not just our Royal Family but also the citizens of Mystic Highlands and Safehold itself. The scent of death descended onto this most beautiful valley. Who was destined to survive and who would lay down their life for the King, our Princess, and indeed our kingdom? The answer would sadly not take long.
The alarm went out and all looked around to see their foe. They came in waves, goblins, wolves, trolls and wolves again. Fighters hastened from North to South and then back again. As fighters tended their wounds, champion creatures were unleashed on the brave army defending Safehold and our Royal Family. Lava spiders were the next wave to attack. We had all become accustomed to these foes during our endless battles with the Necromancer but nothing could warn us of what was about to be unleashed…..
Rift beasts of all shapes and sizes tore at the scattered army These creatures had never been seen on Mystic Highlands before. They looked evil, were numerous and unleashed great powers of darkness in every attack.
The defenders of Safehold gave everything and some their lives. During the melee it became apparent that our King feared that these great creatures posed too great a threat for his army.
His calm, powerful voice could be heard above the battle cries saying,
‘I know not what draws me to the North’
‘I fear we cannot keep this up’
As he slowly turned away from his loyal subjects he could be heard saying, “Farewell Leofflaed, my beloved daughter. I love you now and for always”
King Eadwulf increasingly found himself drawn to the North. Some brave fighters could be heard vowing to stop their beloved King being drawn further into an increasingly desperate situation, but to no avail. Fighters were still struggling to battle the rift beasts when Princess Leofflaed called out to the warriors and announced that her beloved father and our great King had died.
A silence descended across the valley. The rift beasts had been defeated or had withdrawn from the field of battle but there was no sense of jubilation, rather a hollow-feeling in all our stomachs and a pain that signalled our failure to protect His Majesty from his nemesis.
The Mystic Highlands army encircled Princess Leofflaed, protecting her in a wall of armour lest there would be any further attacks from our foe.
‘The King has passed from these lands to meet his fathers’ she announced. She also told us that King Eadwulf had given his life so that Safehold could go free. ‘It was the prophecy’
The last sentence caused great questioning and many puzzled glances amongst the gathered troops and priests but now was not the time to ask our Princess who was already preparing to take the body of her beloved father back to their home.
This sad day ended with Princess Leofflaed leaving the battle-field with the words that, ‘you will hear from me soon, thank you all for your loyalty to my father, my heart is breaking’. With that, she turned and with her closest advisers left to prepare for the next chapter in her life.
Chapter Six- The Search for the Navel of the World
In the days that followed the death of our beloved King Eadwulf, the lives of citizens continued as before albeit with an ache in their hearts. New citizens arrived and good friends disappeared as has happened since the formation of these lands. We knew from the wise ones the stories about the mystical place where all our Kings and Queens who ruled before Eadwulf had been crowned but until this sad time no-one had given much notice to our history.
An proclamation asking all citizens loyal to Princess Leofflaed was published after a suitable period of mourning for both court and country. All were asked to travel to Safehold where further details would be forthcoming.
It was another fine day when carts, horses and even people on foot started to arrive from all directions. Some had travelled only a short distance whereas others had travelled from across the country. Weapons had been sharpened and armour improved. Priests were also in attendance to support the fighters through their art of healing.
As before, there was an air of nervous anticipation. There was much speculation but no-one knew what was to be asked of them and what lay ahead. The question that all wanted to ask was about to be answered. An insignificant- but obviously of high status- man came slowly up the road to the waiting throng. He was a senior diplomat sent by the High Council of Mystic Highlands.
The Diplomat informed us all in a clear, quiet voice that the High Council had a problem that could only be solved by the citizens here at Safehold. It was a dangerous quest but one that must be undertaken as the future of Mystic Highlands depended on it. It was a quest that would take not just bravery but dedication and leadership. With that final word, all eyes turned towards Lord Valiance and Lady Kaylie yet almost immediately the diplomat informed the gathered crowd that these fine citizens could not be asked.
We were told that our Princess needs to become Queen of these lands lest her powers will fail. We were getting to the crux of the problem that the High Council had. The ancient legends spoke of a stone marked with rune-like ciphers at the heart of Mystic Highlands. The stone had been lost for many years and no-one knew where it is. All attending were being asked to help find the stone and from that, the ancient place known as the Navel of the World which would allow the coronation of Princess Leofflaed to take place.
We were told that the Necromancer must not find out about these plans least all would be lost for Mystic Highlands. As he finished his short speech, the Diplomat informed everyone that if the stone was successfully found, he could be found resting in the inn at Safehold.
The Diplomat slowly turned and moved down the road into Safehold. As he disappeared through the gates into the protective arms of Safehold the murmur of those gathered increased into an exited cacophony of sound. Names were put forward as to who would be suitable as a leader of our group. There were many present who could do the job, instill loyalty and protect the weaker members assembled but one name was put forward that possessed a great advantage. They knew the centre areas of our great land better than most people and knew the roads and tracks that could take everyone there. Lord Malsheck was the one who was chosen to lead us all in this great task –to find the Navel of the World.
The party set off from Safehold, travelling along wide open roads that were well known to many. The air was full of carefree jesting as though this was a normal day. Passing Moles Holes, Elysian and Willowhome the road beckoned us eastwards. Daylight improved the morale and any wild creatures were soon dispatched. Onwards we rode, passing between mountain ranges and in sight of some of the smaller lakes of our land. Ravens Rest came into sight and was soon left far in the distance. Increasingly citizens felt the sense that we were now travelling through places that were known to few. It soon became apparent that Lord Malsheck was an inspired choice to lead us into his remote lands. The wide roads had long since dwindled in size to single tracks. Wild creatures were still blocking our path from time to time but even trolls were eventually defeated. These creatures served to reassure everyone that we must be heading in the right direction.
The party turned North, further from civilisation but still occasionally passing near remote outposts such as Willow Haven and Lumberjack’s Refuge. As this last hamlet faded into the distance the roads that had supported our quest now become little more than a cleared path through vegetation. We were in lands that had not seen many visitors and it was surely in lands such as these that the Navel of the World was to be seen. The sense of heading into the wilderness was heightened by the fact that daylight was fading and the creatures sent to prevent our task were becoming more numerous and difficult to see clearly.
We were being led further North and into more mountainous lands by our leader, supported by our strongest fighters. It was dark by now but this was ultimately to work in our favour. In the distance, orange glowing lights could be seen. As we approached it become apparent that these were not lights from our goal rather numerous lava spiders. A sense of foreboding sped through the throng. Thorns made our task more difficult and many a cotton was used up to heal the vicious tears from these evil weeds. The fighters were able to defeat the ‘glowing orbs’ one by one but there seemed to be an infinite number of these colourful arachnids. We were being drawn further into the mountains, through thick, sometimes vicious undergrowth and the last light of this day had long since disappeared behind the mountains.
‘Follow the line of the spiders’ came the call. Lord Valiance had seen beyond the task of simply defeating these creatures. He could see that the animals formed a winding, glowing path around the base of the mountains. Was this the break that we had waited for? Had the Necromancer made a simple mistake?
In the melee that followed, the brave group of adventurers was pulled far and wide in order to defeat the spiders but bit-by-bit were unwittingly being led towards our goal by the very creatures sent to defeat us. Many cooling bodies of the spiders were lying all along the base of the mountain but citizens were starting to wonder if we would ever find this place of legends. Our leaders urged us forward in one last great effort. It was by now completely dark and at times when out of range of the torches and lanterns of our friends it seemed as though we would never see our homes again.
Moving further around the mountain and surviving one last attack from our luminous foe we received the most wondrous message ‘You enter the Navel of the World’. Despair turned to elation and there was much rejoicing. Silence was requested and it was then that we were informed that our work was not over. Princess Leofflaed was to be crowned our Queen in the near future but only if this place was connected to the rest of the lands of Mystic Highlands and made a place worthy of such an occasion.
As the last of this information was lost in the sounds of the night, citizens started to create a deed worthy of our future Queen.
Chapter Seven- The Navel of the World rises from the land
And so the hard work began to transform an area of rock, trees and many wild animals into a place worthy of our Queen-to-be. The area was a long way from anywhere that could be called civilisation and yet our task was to make the Navel of the World a focus for the entire kingdom, a place where history could once again come to life and a place where the next phase of the evolution of Mystic Highlands could begin.
Even before the light had faded from the eventful day whereby this wondrous place had been rediscovered, some citizens had begun to join it to the rest of our lands. Lord Sandman planned a route through the wilderness that would create a road from the more civilised coast through the vast forest. In its final stages it would lead majestically up to the Navel from the small lakes around its base. Lord Helgi helped create a plan for the deed that would celebrate the wonderful raw materials that we have in our lands. Gold of course exists in nearly all civilisations to represent royalty. The building was planned to be in the shape of a horse-shoe as a tribute to the horses on which we depend. Even the carpet was to be red, signifying the blood that has been and will no doubt still be shed trying to keep the kingdom safe. Everything possible was done to create a centre that represented all aspects of our land and the history that we are currently aware of.
Citizens came from all over the kingdom in an attempt to create this special place. Lady Debbie crafted materials made from gold; Lord Tidaril created many beautiful candelabra that hopefully one day will shine brightly during many royal feasts and celebrations. Lord Duskwind and Lord Kishnar generously brought many raw materials for our Master Craftsmen and Women to use. It is probably unfair to single out these few citizens as many, many people contributed in some way whether it be giving ideas, support, clearing trees, laying roads, creating lamps, bringing stones, metals, tapestries or simply ensuring that there was a supply of food and water for their friends and neighbours. The Navel is truly a monument to the peoples of Mystic Highlands and the love and respect that they have for their Royal Family and Princess Leofflaed in particular.
The Navel of the World now stands in the centre of our lands awaiting the moment when it will be the site of the ceremony that has been lost in the mists of time. The coronation of a King or Queen of Mystic Highlands has never been seen by any citizens alive today. That ceremony surely gets ever closer but who knows what the Necromancer and his allies may do to prevent the Princess from becoming Queen?
Chapter Eight- Defence of the Navel of the World
It seemed so long since the Navel rose from the base of the mountains that overlook the Great Lake. The seasons changed as did the citizens that inhabit these beautiful, historic yet mysterious lands. Our Princess has continued to reward those who continue to free the lands of dangerous creatures and she has remained in our hearts and minds throughout the time.
The summer warmth was fading when we finally heard news. The Royal Council of Princess Leofflaed called on all citizens to travel to The Navel of the World. They stressed the ‘utmost urgency’ of this request. The Royal Council wondered, ‘who will answer this call?’ It had been so long, would the people remember their promise to the Princess?
The new road leading away from the North road sparkled bright in the afternoon sunshine. It was so quiet that it seemed imperceptible that we were heading towards a possible battle that could see some lose their lives. As if to prepare us for the ordeal ahead, a Champion Troll lay between citizens arriving early and the Navel. Fortunately Lord Duskwind was able to assist the small group and the troll was sent to meet its ancestors. Moving further along the road, winding through the forests, more and more citizens appeared until by the time The Navel of the World appeared, there was a gaggle of excited people welcoming their friends old and new. There was a buzz of anticipation but also an underlying sense of nervousness. Every now and then a small group would speed off to dispatch a solitary creature that dared to come close to the Navel.
The time given by the Royal Council approached and exactly on time one of their diplomats approached the massed throng.
‘Spectacular’ he uttered as he looked around. Some were not sure whether he meant the Navel or the large numbers who had answered the call to arms. He continued in a calm, clear voice:
‘…The Necromancer knows of our plans to crown the Princess. He has been rebuilding his armies ever since you Highlanders built the Navel….’
‘…he has been planning to attack and destroy this most sacred place once and for all and so prevent the Princess from becoming Queen- we must not allow this to happen…’
‘…the Royal Council has been asked by Princess Leofflaed to call for help once more…’
‘…can you hold the Navel?’
Before the last of his speech had faded away in the calm air, people were vowing to help our Princess and indeed to hold the Navel- or die in the process.
The Diplomat moved away and almost as he did that, the Necromancer began his attack on the Navel. A clutter of Spiders! Large numbers of hairy-legged arachnids were the first to appear. The gathered fighters used these to warm their sword arm and the spiders were soon left rotting on the ground.
Next was a swirling knot of snakes. These evil slithering creatures squirmed out from their origin and began attacking random fighters. Fortunately by force of arms and numbers the defenders fought off the attack with only a few simple injuries that were soon healed with the cotton that is the ‘must-carry’ of any respectable fighter.
Could it be that we were going to have an easy battle for once? Next to appear were large numbers of jet-black wolves and earth-brown bears. Even the chattering green goblins were sent back to the Necromancer with only the minimum of damage to sword and body. Trolls! Now we were being attacked by creatures that could cause real damage to the unwary or newly arrived. Fortunately, most of the fighters of Mystic Highlands know who our best fighters are and these brave men and women led the fight against these horrible creatures. The remainder of the Highlanders supported these ‘tanks’ as best they could. Eventually, the trolls lay in undignified heaps all around the area. This was an opportune moment to heal our wounds and much cotton was used. Swords were cleaned and sharpened and people wondered what our next challenge would be- or had we already defeated the Necromancer?
At that moment we all ‘heard’ from the Necromancer, ‘you have had it easy’
Before we could ponder what this meant Rift Beasts appeared close to the Navel. These were some of the elite fighters of the Necromancer’s army. The citizens showed no signs of tiring and their determination and skill fought off several of these evil creatures. Citizens were rushing around the area to try and support their friends or simply in an attempt to escape a creature and heal. The fighting became a blur. As soon as the Rift Beasts were left lying as bloody corpses Son of Nogumps materialised. For some of the citizens it was a fight too far and only the ancient magic allowed these unfortunate fighters survive to see another day.
The Nogumps drained the strength of the people but not their will. As a final horde of trolls entered the battle on the side of the Necromancer our fighters put aside their bites, cuts and bruises in one final herculean effort. The battle was still evenly balanced when the Princess was heard saying ‘take some of my power and vanquish these trolls’. The battle had finally been won by the tired, injured but loyal subjects of our Princess.
Before there was any time for jubilation or celebration, the Diplomat returned to speak to the weary group.
‘Well fought. I see we have paid dearly for this victory today’ He looked sadly at the neatly arranged bodies of our fallen as he said this.
‘I must speak to the Royal Council to look for word on where Princess Leofflaed is to depart from on her journey to the Navel’
‘She is going to need many a brave soul on her journey here, some will not survive the journey but our Princess must- at all cost’.
Ignoring their painful wounds a cacophony of sounds echoed around the Navel. Everyone there without exception vowed to help protect Princess Leofflaed. Citizens began to set off for home, jubilant in their victory but apprehensive about the next adventure. They had survived to fight another day.
Chapter Nine- Princess Leofflaed’s Armed Escort
And so the message was sent to all citizens.
Our beloved Princess urgently requires an armed escort from the beautiful new marble bridge in the far South East of our land all the way to The Navel of the World.
The South East of our land is an area that is not visited often by most citizens and as a result communication between there and the rest of the continent can be difficult. Some people have tried to exist in these unforgiving lands but few have remained. The journey to the bridge is an adventure in itself. The citizen is faced with a choice of travelling there by fast steed, so attempting to avoid the teeth of the many and varied denizens dwelling along the journey, or take a boat along the coast and be beholden to the vagaries of the wind.
The area around the bridge is very remote. There are a few roads that have been constructed by brave explorers but most of the land next to these narrow lines of communication is reverting steadily back to nature. The undergrowth provides superb hiding and camouflage for all of the most dangerous animals found here on Mystic Highlands. These creatures tend not to be the solitary animals found in the more civilised central district around Safehold rather they move around in groups so pose a real challenge for all but the most talented warrior.
As we approached the bridge- whether from the land or from sea- the marble shining in the early morning sunshine made it look like a mirage shimmering on the horizon. Closer to our destination, it became obvious that this magnificent structure stood alone in the unspoilt wilderness as a testament to the skilled engineers and builders who built it. Fighters and loyal subjects from all over the kingdom were arriving and the target of everyone was the centre of the bridge where supplies had been brought by Lord Blindmole for all to enjoy. He also advised people to collect some food for their steed to enable a faster journey later that day. This was advice that was to be heeded by many and it would ultimately enable their horse to keep up with the carriage that was to be used to carry our Princess.
Almost exactly as was fore-told, Princess Leofflaed arrived. Compared with many around her she was small in stature but there was an aura of positive energy about her that immediately commanded respect and loyalty. Citizens bowed silently and waited to hear what she would say:
‘Thank you for coming to my aid once more. I can see many faces, some new many familiar’
‘…my power, my power is failing..’
‘…. While there is no King or Queen on the throne of Mystic Highlands then the shield covering and protecting our capital city becomes weaker by the hour…’
‘….the shield is also what has held back the Necromancer….. without the shield Mystic Highlands will be engulfed in eternal darkness…’
‘…. We must start to fight back once so as to secure our freedom….. We must travel from here to The Navel of the World….. some will fall, I may fall. If that happens we will have failed and darkness will surely engulf our beloved land….’
As those massed around the Princess absorbed the meaning of the words uttered by Princess Leofflaed, she gave everyone a chance to leave. Almost as one her army swore fealty. There was an almost imperceptible smile by the Princess who then proceeded to ask her most loyal subject, Lord Valiance to speak.
Lord Valiance obviously had a plan to ensure success and he volunteered himself to drive and protect the Princess. He then asked for some of our strongest warriors to escort the carriage front, back and sides. Lords Cyno, Duskwind, Blindmole and Dixie offered their weapons to protect the Royal carriage. This was to be a truly formidable force that would surely test the forces of the Necromancer. Lord Valiance then asked for skilful horsemen to act as scouts and locate the enemy in good time so that we were not surprised. Lord Losttaco and Lord Kishnar were the obvious choice and both eagerly relished the opportunity to locate and destroy the forces of evil.
So, the army was ready. It was probably the most ready it had ever been.
The Princess climbed aboard her carriage that was drawn by two wondrous white unicorns. She was driven away by Lord Valiance surrounded by her protective Knights and the rest of her army. It was a quiet sunny day as the glimmering bridge was left behind as we sped up one of the few roads in the region,
In the past, the Necromancer has sent the weaker of his army against us early on- but not this time! We had only travelled a short distance when a horde of Trolls attacked the group. This was a true test at the very start of the journey. We were left in no doubt that this was to be a difficult task. Thanks to the earlier planning of our tactics, the Trolls were vanquished after some vigorous, often bitter fighting.
The army regrouped and sped off through open countryside. At least enemies could be seen clearly in this land. We passed through the ruins of settlements left to return to nature by their owners. Every now and then a wild cat would meet its death as it foolishly attempted to tackle well-equipped fighters. These were simply the normal wildlife found in these parts but the animals that we were to fight next were atypical simply in terms of their numbers.
Spiders! Not one spider, not two or three but dozens of the eight-legged beasts. In the past we had seen these creatures and dispatched them relatively easily. Not this day. There were huge amounts of them front, back, left and right. The army was moving in all directions in an attempt to reduce the attack. The Knights protecting the Princess were steadfast in their task and soon there were piles of bodies surrounding the Royal carriage. This was a terrifying battle but one that we were ultimately winning.
There was barely time for the last wound to be bandaged when there was another attack. This time a jet-black pack of wolves were darting around and through us biting the ankles of random warriors. The army was coping with this when a cluster of lava spiders were sent in against us. These glowing orbs were a more powerful opponent than the wolves they were sent to support and they lit up the area but eventually even this threat was extinguished and the light returned to normal.
As the glow from the lava spiders faded away it became noticeable that the sun was setting and a gloom was descending on the throng. It was around this time that the carriage carrying our Princess turned North. We were now moving towards the Navel of the World along a well-preserved road lined with majestic cedar trees. On the road it was still possible to travel at a good speed. The call went out- crocodiles! What were these ancient creatures doing so far from water? The fighters immediately took on these armoured foes. The thick hide of the crocodiles made it difficult for all but the sharpest swords or heaviest mauls to make their mark but gradually through effort and some good fortune the crocodiles were beaten back. They were about to be defeated when nests of snakes attacked the by-now tired and wounded army. This was to be another critical moment on our journey. Fighters already wounded could be seen making hasty retreats but were followed by slithering masses of anacondas. Once more, the fighters just held off the attack but the time taken to heal their wounds was now taking much longer that at the beginning of the trek.
Almost before everyone was healed, the carriage sped off northwards along the road which seemed to stretch through the trees as far as the eye could see. We were being continually attacked by spiders and the occasional troll but using our speed we were seemingly making good speed and distance. It was not always so easy and we encountered at least one Champion Troll. These creatures can inflict terrible damage and so it proved. One of our brave fighters, Sir Dixie was overwhelmed and fell due to the sheer number of wounds he took from the trolls and hell-hounds while protecting his Princess. Sir Dixie was one of the original knights given the task of protecting our Princess. Immediately Sir Helgi stepped forward offering to take that position and shield the Princess with sword and body.
We had been warned that this journey would bring with it great risk with no guarantee of reward. Before the gathered army had time to finish tending their wounds, Princess Leofflaed began to chant an ancient spell that had never been heard for many years in these lands. Lady Kaylie asked the Princess, ‘…do you possess the old magic?’ The Princess merely smiled and completed her chanting. Sir Dixie appeared amongst us again obviously unsure as to what had just happened. The chant had obviously taken much out of the Princess and she looked noticeably paler than before.
With the army back to full numbers, yet another attack was unleashed on the group. This time Champion Lava Spiders were attempting to halt the journey and send all present back to their ancestors. Things were getting increasingly desperate when we all received the message:
‘…you are inspired by the Princess to fight harder….’
As soon as that rousing message had disappeared into our collective memory, the Princess called out,
‘He is coming’.
Who? How? When? Where? These were questions that flooded through us all. As if to confuse us more, Lord Valiance called out from the carriage,
‘The Princess is almost unconscious.’
Helping Sir Dixie return to her side had obviously created a great strain on her already weakened state.
The light had by now faded and darkness was descending. The road was coming to its end, and with that, we turned into the thick forest. This was going to be the worst part of the journey for many with the carriage speeding away though between trees, up and down grassy knolls and even skirting some small un-named lakes. The task of the accompanying army was now two-fold. To keep up with the carriage carrying the Princess but also fight off regular contact with trolls, hell-hounds and of course, the ubiquitous spiders. There were times when our view of the carriage was lost. We sometimes needed to stop and fight when cornered but on other occasions people simply attempted to outrun their foe so that we could save our weapon arm from more distress. On welcome occasions the carriage would stop allowing the escort to catch up, regroup and take stock of our precarious situation. There were times when the journey simply became a blur as tree after tree came into view and then passed into the distance. It was the middle of the night and visibility was difficult but somehow we managed to keep together. Perhaps we were being aided by some ancient force? It was around this time when we lost another of our brave fighters- Sir Einar. Once again our wondrous Princess used the ancient magic to allow Einar to return to our loyal group but once again, this drained more of her life-force.
There was much cotton used on this part of our epic journey, it was around midnight and the night seemed darker than it had ever been before. There is a saying that night is at its darkest just before dawn. Our journey through the dark forest seemed as if it was going to be never-ending then suddenly we reached a small track. It was narrow but after the recent twisting through trees and wondering if we could ever see the carriage through the darkness it seemed like a wonderful highway was stretching away in front of us and beckoning us all forward to our destination.
It was likely that few people had seen this area in daylight let alone darkness but this sliver of stone heading through the forest afforded the weary army a chance to make haste to the Navel of the World. The carriage sped off with the out-riders struggling to keep up at times. From time to time the group needed to stop and fight terrifying Rift-beasts. These powerful dark creatures were fortunately few in number and were eventually defeated. Rift-Ogres and Ogre-Mages were also sent to test us all but suffered the same fate as their friends.
It was now that it became obvious that it was imperative that the Princess was to reach the Navel as soon as possible. Lord Valiance sped off, guiding the carriage that carried Princess Leofflaed. Her escort of four of our strongest Knights struggled to keep up at times but by now were gaining in confidence. The remainder of the army were at times left far behind but using the road made our task considerably easier. Our journey was a blur at times but at least the distance to the Navel was reducing by each passing minute. The night was passing and as the light slowly returned the journey seemed to be getting easier- perhaps too easy?
The band of weary travellers eventually reached the outskirts of the Navel. Near to the entrance of the Royal building were our final opponents on this day- Rift Warmasters and the all-pervasive trolls. It seemed like a dream, our weapons seemed by now to be working with a mind of their own and we were all desperate for the Princess to reach her goal. After a good few minutes and a great deal of effort, the last of the Trolls and Warmasters succumbed to the massed blades of the valiant band of fighters. We had made it, our Princess had made it.
There was no time for celebration as the gathered group of blooded, weary fighters took their rest, Lord Valiance beckoned to the Princess:
‘Go inside your Grace’
As loyal citizens made to follow her- as they had done all day long- Lord Valiance uttered,
‘No horses inside this Holy place’
And as the citizens respectfully halted, many knelt and bowed their heads before the Princess.
The Princess moved inside the Royal complex of the Navel, turned towards the blooded, dirtied, yet smiling group of her most loyal subjects:
‘Highlanders’ -her crystal clear, serene voice echoed gently around the Navel,
‘Once again you have proved your loyalty to me’
‘I have no gifts for you on this day I’m afraid- however…’ the Princess went on, ‘….on the day of my coronation, you will all be rewarded for your deeds today and exceptional gifts will be showered upon you should you be here at the time.’
‘Our time is near, soon we will take the fight to the black gates themselves but for now I am weary and must rest.’
‘Thank you all once more for not only saving me but in saving Mystic Highlands as well.’
‘…Farewell my friends…’
With that, the Princess left us. We were left not only to ponder the meaning of those words but also to re-live some of the adventures that we had all experienced today. One-by-one the adventurers left the Navel to return home and to no-doubt regale those who could not attend, with stories of what had happened this wondrous day.