Dácariel

Dácariel is a queen of the Wood-elves, ruling the small forest kingdom of Tol Ankil. She has ruled this mysterious realm on the north-eastern border of Maristonia for millennia. The armists, who are relative newcomers to this part of the world, know her only as a vague legend, for their tales tell of a warlike queen with strange powers who rules a forbidden realm closed to any mortals. Few indeed in Maristonia know any of what I’m about to tell you…

Dácariel was born during the Great Bliss, the peaceful ancient days of the early First Chapter. Her mother, Arniel, was a princess of the Firnai royal-house, a grand-daughter of King Firnar himself. Her father, Carion, was a noble Wood-elf who won the heart of the princess when they both still dwelt in Therenmar, the great Wood-elven domain in the heart of Kalimar. Yet this noble pair were not long content to dwell in the Firnai homelands, and led forth a small company of Wood-elves to found a new realm. With them went their two children, Arnim and Dácariel, a boy and a girl still in their early childhood, as elves reckon it. They settled in Tol Ankil, a forest on the southern borders of Kalimar that stretched from the skirts of the Black Mountains to the great lake in what would one day be called the East-fold of Maristonia.

Here Arniel and Carion dwelt in joy, ruling their own folk with special dispensation from King Firnar to call themselves queen and king of this small realm. It was during this time, when Dácariel had grown to beautiful adulthood, dark-haired and fleet-footed, that she met Sinolfin, an enigmatic elf who had joined the migration south. He was grim and spoke little, a quiet, intense elf who was famed for his skill with a bow and for his shape-shifting abilities, which at that time were still rare amongst the Firnai. Despite the disapproval of her parents, Dácariel joined Sinolfin on his adventures, travelling through the forests and hills all over Kalimar. With reluctant consent from Carion and Arniel they were eventually wed, but by this time Sinolfin had taught Dácariel how to morph and take on the form and flight of birds. While he preferred to take the shape of a nightjar, she favoured the goshawk, the supreme woodland hunter, though in later days she could also be seen in the guise of blackbird.

This shape-shifting ability was inherited by their three children, Serin, Solar and Tolor, who were born in quick succession and who were so alike in face and frame that few could tell them apart, even Serin, the oldest, being virtually identical to her two brothers. These children grew up in peace, but they became hunters like their parents, and belligerence was in their blood.

The peace was long, but it did not last, and when the demon-armies invaded the Inner Isles, Arniel and Carion set out for the war at the head of a small host of archers, leaving Dácariel and her brother Arnim as stewards of Tol Ankil. Yet their parents never returned, nor any of their folk. All were slain in the battles on the Joran Isles, as one island after another fell to the forces of evil.

The Wood-elves were dismayed by these tidings, both in Tol Ankil and in Therenmar, and most were reluctant to continue the fight, unlike the Avatar who made up the bulk of the elven armies and who kept up a valiant struggle with their Sea-elven allies. In this hour Dácariel stepped forth to lead her people, and her valour inspired thousands of them from across Kalimar to go to war in defence of their people. Arnim elected to stay and rule Tol Ankil, but while their three children all followed their mother’s banner eagerly, Sinolfin refused to go.

Space is too short here to tell of all Dácariel’s deeds in the Great Wars, but she became a great captain and leader, doing deeds of great renown. She fought alongside Carea, her aunt, and the friendship that had formerly existed between them was forged into a more profound bond. Many songs in particular were sung of her heroic rearguard during the retreat across the Triumblen Isles. The time she and her archers won for the defenders of Avariandel proved crucial to Avatar’s ultimate victory. In this weeks-long battle her children also acquired a fearsome reputation as both captains and marksmen. They fought with great longbows of a rare white wood, fashioned for them by Tolidaran, the great weaponsmith of the Firnai, and from this took their name, Sinithrai, the White-Bows. Ever after the elvish word for bow, sin, was attached to their names, and thus they were known to legend as Sin-Serin, Sin-Solar and Sin-Tolor.

When they returned home after the wars it was with mingled sorrow and elation, grieving for the many comrades they had lost to war’s horrors, but exulting in their feats of arms and in their legendary victory. The people of Tol Ankil were awed by Dácariel’s return, for she had become a great warrior, and they acclaimed her as their queen. Arnim meekly stepped aside to make way for his sister, serving her faithfully and without grudge as a counsellor in the years that followed.

Sinolfin’s refusal to fight in the Great Wars caused a rift between himself and his wife, and he went forth from Tol Ankil estranged from her, for she despised his decision and he found her much changed when she returned from the war. He spent his solitary days wandering the wilds of Astrom, though he and Dácariel would still meet at whiles in some of their favourite haunts of old.

Dácariel and Tol Ankil enjoyed many centuries of peace after the Great Wars, and she developed the woodland city of Firnon into a place of imposing, otherworldly beauty. From her treetop palace she ruled her kingdom, using bird form when it suited her and rarely seen without her armour when in elf-form. She befriended stags who became constant companions and her great shield was ever propped against her carven throne. She held converse with the strange spirits that inhabited the waters and glades of the forest, and had influence over them that was useful at need in many ways.

Often Carea would come to visit, for she loved her niece dearly, but the visits would be fleeting, for unlike Dácariel, who was content in her guarded realm, Carea was ever restless and busy in the affairs of the world. In those days Dácariel’s chief concern became the protection and leadership of the countless Firnai who dwelt in the woods of future Maristonia or wandered its open plains and hills. She mistrusted both Arvarion, the Avatar King of Alanmar, and the profit-hungry merchants of the city-states along the road to Kalimar, and made sure that neither harassed the Wood-elves.

Other enemies came in time: goblins and wolves in the Great Winter, the flooding River Vanri, whose great deluge inundated even the eaves of Tol Ankil, and wild men from the hills after the Great Betrayal. The vigilant bows of the Sinithrai kept them all at bay, giving Tol Ankil a fearsome reputation as a guarded realm, open to no mortals, and few even of Kalimar ever went there.

Yet their greatest enemies were the Harracks, a degenerate mountain race akin to the Dwarves, who took up residence in the Black Mountains in the Third Chapter. Secure in their subterranean fastnesses and wielding strange powers, they were a persistent thorn in Dácariel’s side, and ever and anon there was strife in the foothills between them as the Wood-elves sought to free captives and prevent the harracks encroaching on their lands.

On the only occasion that war came to Kalimar itself, during the Second War of Kurundar, Dácariel and her warlike children went to the aid of their kindred in Therenmar and played a valiant role in the repulse of Kurundar’s forces, though not before grievous harm had been done.

That was the last conflict in which Dácariel fought in earnest. The Fourth Chapter was a time of watchful peace, when Kalimar lapsed further into insular isolation from the world, and when Dácariel’s main concern was to maintain a careful watch on her borders so that her folk could live in peace. So vigilant were her march-wardens that no armist ever came within a league of the forest, though they could not prevent the capture of Carea by the Harracks. Thus, it was that the arrival of Curillian and his questing company during the Quest of Oron Amular was utterly unprecedented, and made necessary only by the plight of Carea.

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