The Shaping of Seryth

Chapter 22: Molan thanked Seryth for his help, telling him not to mourn the passing of the fae, for the magic of the Shadowlands would lead to their rebirth soon enough. He went on to explain why Seryth's coming had been suspicious, apart from his possible connections to the Drust. The land of Ardenweald was suffering from an anima drought, and no one in Hibernal Hollow could spare anima for Seryth's whelpling. Molan suggested Seryth instead try asking at the Heart of the Forest, though he warned the Winter Queen rarely spoke to anyone, least of all strangers. He offered Seryth transport on one of Ardenweald's giant moths, as token of thanks and trust. Seryth accepted with all the graciousness he could muster, his thoughts on the well-being of the little dragon.

As Molan had warned, the Winter Queen declined in granting an audience to him. Her attendant explained her efforts were focused on the war with the Drust. If Seryth wanted to make it easier for her, the attendant said, perhaps a Necrolord such as himself could put his combat expertise to use.

Seryth wasn’t sure what a Necrolord was, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to get wrapped up in another world’s war, but until he found another way of securing anima, helping the Winter Queen was his best bet. He received scouting reports from the attendant, marking out several locations he could go to strike at the Drust. The first report had him returning to a familiar place by now: Hibernal Hollow.

After breaking a siege on Hibernal Hollow, Seryth pursued the Drust into the forests. The green foliage started to turn brown and red, and he passed into a part of the woods that looked like they had gone through a drought, even though the soil under his feet was still moist. Was this the anima drought or the work of the Drust?

He found another tree-town of the fae, this one overrun by Drust and their mask-wearing slaves. A few of the fae who had not yet been put under the ritual of the masks Seryth was able to rescue. He brought them back to Hibernal Hollow.

In thanks, Molan told him about the Tranquil Pools: ponds that were flush with anima. Because of his service, Molan trusted him to take the whelping there and soak in them. He warned him that more Drust lay between him and them. With a grin, Seryth said he’d be sure to take of them.

Seryth found the army of Drust, clustering around totems. The totems seemed to be sucking anima from the nearby land, though no matter how much Seryth studied them, he couldn’t determine how to reverse their flow, either back into the land or to the whelpling. He instead broke and burned them.

Seryth finally reached the Tranquil Pools, but not all was well with them, either. He tried getting the whelpling to drink from several of them, but none of them had the anima Molan promised, only instead tasting and acting like normal water.

Seryth returned to Molan to report and ask after the Tranquil Pools being bereft of anima. Molan was grim, saying it was a symptom with their greater war with the forces of the Maw.

“What is the Maw?” asked Seryth.

“Where the souls of the eternally damned go. They are trying to escape it.”

Seryth privately thought he would try to too, even as he felt a drop in his stomach. If he had been slain, would he be in the Maw now?

“Would the Maw have anima?” he asked instead.

“Only under tight guard,” replied Molan. “I doubt you would be able to retrieve it. Each of the Covenants has their own way of siphoning anima from the souls of the dead. If you wish some, perhaps you should join one. Some were less hard hit than we by the drought. I would be happy to give you my recommendation for one of them.”

And so Seryth learned of the four major Covenants. Despite Ulfar’s obvious connection to the Fae, Seryth doubted the same was right for him. It was too likely one of the spirits of the druids would recognize him…

“The Venthyr work to redeem souls of villains,” Molan went on.

“How do they do that?” Seryth asked with interest.

“I don’t know all the details. I’ve heard of torture and imprisonment.”

Not for him, Seryth quickly decided. He did not trust that the Venthyr might sense what he had been in the past, and try to “redeem” him, too, despite him not being dead.

“The Kyrian are their opposites,” said Molan. “They take the most valorous of souls and teach them to become shepherds of the dead.”

Not a people who were likely to accept him, Seryth thought. “And the fourth Covenant?”

“The Necrolords are protectors of the Shadowlands. Fierce warriors and magi.”

That sounded like something Seryth could do. He thanked Molan, and made plans to go to Maldraxxus.

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