There weren't always dragons in the valley. The people of the isle of Galathay would come to name them the Lohikäärme, a tribute to their Finnish ancestors who would bravely fight in the battle of 811AD. Unfortunately, none would survive such warfare, and the only surviving article of the war between man and beast was the scrolls of the ancients, an archive of information containing every detail of that seen during such violence. In an attempt to secure freedom from such creatures, the five armies of Peridonkle, Hindlegrove, Eruun, Grundlethorpe, and Berrydunne had taken to the valleys of Elderfulder to fight, the valleys of which are still home to many of the beasts of which were not quite dragons and yet, not quite human either. The battle would appear obsolete if not for the scriptures left behind by the former elders.
The year was now 909AD. What once was a family of five nations had now and over time, become five separate kingdoms hence the five armies. It was a contingency that our ancestors had anticipated, a means of ensuring survival in the event of separation. The people of the five kingdoms had lived disconnected by the valleys for just shy of two centuries, and each settlement had to retreat into the depths of the woods of each commonwealth to avoid further bloodshed caused by additional attacks. And to further learn their gifted craft.
It was pre-determined by the elder conjurors of Galathay that in the eventuality of certain death, each kingdom was to be assigned an archive of information and a gift; a particular set of skills that would allow them the dexterity of conjuring one of the four elements or the ability to communicate with the spirit realm for assistance, as seers.
The people of Berrydunne would soon learn to represent the earth. People of agriculture and herbology, to begin with, would soon after the battle learn to become conjurors of the hedge, crafting potions and elixirs from mother nature's offerings. Those of Hindlegrove would learn to manipulate air, their hearing susceptible to movement from hundreds of miles away, and to endow the ability to whisper messages through the trees of the five kingdoms to save from risking the lives of the men who would once deliver such reports. In a cataleptic state, such mages would close their eyes and enter a trance-like capacity in which they could travel through the astral plane, often seeking out dedicated delivery men, who would then pass along the message to the intended recipient. An epistle was never lost, and men remained safe, alive, and well. The township of Grundlethorpe would soon learn to wield fire at the click of their fingers, being able to conjure up temperatures similar to that of middle-earth at the snap of their fingers, while the people of Eruun would learn to manipulate water, using their minds to direct such elements or even to invoke images within its reflection no matter the distance.
Now those of Peridonkle would learn perhaps one of the most potent and meaningful skills of all; those of Peridonkle would learn the skill of working with spirit. The people of Peridonkle would thus be bestowed and gifted with the capability of seeing the past, present, and future allowing them to predict incoming attacks and prepare the kingdoms for such eventualities.
Most primarily would be the archives in which each settlement would develop. Over time, each kingdom would establish an athenaeum, a library of a wealth of information. Contrived through the mistakes of those of Galathay over the centuries, the athenaeum would become man's greatest weapon in the biggest battle to come.
The trees began to murmur. A young boy of only twelve, narrow and spindly in size, was out in the woods, gathering Grongleberries for his mother, who was making an elixir to help with his father's inflamed stomach when a message from a thaumaturge of Hindlegrove whispered;
"I have a communiqué for Njord of Berrydunne. There is a nebula of cloud heading southwest of the valleys of Elderfulder. I fear a Slödrugen may be heading towards you. Get to higher ground; I implore you. Earnestly, Gorm of Hindlegrove."
And with that, the boy began to hurry through the woods. He plunged, evaded, and leaped through the dark and blackened branches and twigs of the overgrown forests. It was imperative to the people to let mother nature, or the Goddess Gaia, continue to rule the forest to ensure clear messages. A sign of such respect was imperative, with the thickness of the forest acting as a strong signal for the messages of Hindlegrove. Each kingdom ensured that the woods remained untouched in their growth as such.
Sprinting through the density of the woods, he began to come to daylight and continued, his feet pounding the cobbled walkways of the town on his business to find a guard of the settlement where Njord of Berrydunne had taken residency, until finally.
"I have a message for Njord of Berrydunne! A Slödrügen is sending out a signal. Gorm of Hindlegrove urges that we get to higher ground as quickly as possible!" he exclaimed breathlessly to the guard.
The guard responded quickly and without hesitance -
"Sound the horns! And you, tell everyone to get to higher ground. Rooves, hilltops, anything higher than 10 feet. Go! and someone find Njord, quickly!"
"We need to pass it through to the people of the township. You boy, deliver the message. Men, accompany him with haste. Take a corner each and work quickly. Understood?" continued the guard.
And with that, the boy began to deliver his second message, perhaps one that would save many lives and accompanied by a team of men that would do their level best to ensure that the people of Berrydunne would lose no more men, women, or children to such a vile, despicable creature.
You see, a Slödrügen might be the nastiest, cruelest way to go. A creature of laziness, the Slödrügen is by far the smartest. It has to be. Due to its large size and dirty, tousled white fur, such a creature is slow in its pace and unable to leave its habitat. It instead chooses to lure men, women, and children to the rocky valleys of Elderfulder to eat. Its means of cunning and trickery are next to none, as it produces hallucinations within the fog, too beautiful for the eye to refuse to follow. As sure as a sirens song leads men to certain death, the deeper you go into the smoke, the more intense a hallucination is. Perhaps the vilest of demise, while heading towards undeniable necrosis, the smoke causes slow internal blistering to ensure a softer meal for such a beast. While some Lohikäärme can cloak and disguise themselves in human form, Its only ever been observed in its most terrifying form. One can only assume that the Slödrugen merely does not cloak.
Finding him in the moors of Berrydunne, the guard would soon pass along the incoming news.
"Brother, we're under attack. An incoming message from Gorm of Hindlegrove came with instructions to get to higher ground due to a Slödrugen smog incoming to the southwest. I have men and a young boy spreading the word. What next?" he asked.
"What about Grundlethorpe. Is there any news?" replied Njord his voice slightly shaking with fear.
"No brother, no news on Grundlethorpe other than that the smog may just yet miss them. There was no other news, just an instruction to get to higher ground." the guard returned.
"I suggest we do that then, and with the people. As always, we stand by each other. We're in this together, and no one gets left behind. Gather a team of men and scour the grounds and town. Make sure everyone is evacuating, albeit temporary. Encourage people to take rope if they can. In any event, we need to stick together, quite literally. If anyone gets caught in the smoke, we can pull them out and treat their internal wounds with an elixir of Wranglejuice. I'll make sure to take some before I leave. Now go. And thank you, brother."
Njord and his men made their way out of the castle grounds. A small team of men dispersed and began to search the town for any left behind while Njord searched the township swiftly for Wranglejuice. An elixir of such healing, crafted by the people of Berrydunne, would allow for the removal of any internal blisters, albeit not painlessly. A sweet potion of deep red concocted by the mixing of Hogweed, Dingledun berries, and the essence of Honeycup would soothe the mind into a lucid state before finally treating the wounds of those that were injured.
With many out of harm's reach, the people of Berrydunne would finally come to establish safety where they now stood on higher ground, hundreds a top of hills and roofing, now settling themselves in for unknown hours of waiting upon the smog to clear. The message soon passed to join hands with a rope. If anyone fell prey to the effects of the smoke, the people of Berrydunne could at least pull them back rather than allow them to walk towards sudden death.
Everyone was safe at last, for now.
End of chapter one.