Of Endings and Beginnings

The smoke from Hartmut’s funeral pyre spirals upward into the somber, slate colored sky. Valindra kneels before the flames, arms outstretched and lifted to the heavens, quietly intoning her sacred orisons to the Great Oak. In one hand she clutches a cluster of oak leaves, in the other a sprig of mistletoe. The heat of the fire has softened the frozen earth beneath her knees, turning it slushy, but she heeds it not, so intent is she upon her prayers.

It is the autumnal equinox one of her deity’s two most holy days, and she has fasted and meditated in preparation for the previous day. This morning, she rose early, bathed naked in the icy creek, blessed her flesh with the smoke of burning sage, and anointed herself with oil of rosemary, all in preparation for this sacred event. As a druid of the Great Oak, she celebrates this as a day of transformations and endings, and it thus feels appropriate to include the funeral of her fallen comrade as part of its ritual observance. In years past, she observed the equinox with feasting and dancing after the noontide ceremonies had ended, but not today. Today she has merged the equinoctial ceremony with Hartmut’s funeral, a great honor for someone she has known but a scant few weeks, but an honor owed him nevertheless. There will not likely be dancing tonight.

Eyes half lidded, her face lit by the fire’s glow, she begins her funerary chant as the rising flames consume the dwarf’s corpse:

Tumba seere a' lle, Hartmut Ironhelm
Tumba seere en' i' nurien estram a' lle
Tumba seere en' i' lienwold ‘n vilya a' lle
Tumba seere en' i' quiet Arda a' lle
Tumba seere en' i' shen giliath a' lle
Gatrea atar, creosa ho n'alaquel e'a lle rhatre

[Deep Peace to You, Hartmut Ironhelm
Deep peace of the running stream to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Great Father, welcome him back into your heart]

Valindra regrets that she knows very little about Hartmut’s Gods, if he even worshipped any at all, so her elvish prayers must suffice. Her comrades stand in a rough semicircle around the pyre, listening, heads bowed, each in turn thinking their own silent farewell to the dwarf.

That he fell by her hand makes the occasion all the more painful, and she will carry its sorrow with her forever like a stone. She knows it is not unheard of for comrades to die in this way; in the heat and clamor of battle, blows often go astray, and catastrophic mistakes do happen. Yet this knowledge does not lessen the anguish.

Later that evening, after having spent the afternoon constructing a cairn of stones atop Hartmut’s grave, she finds herself walking alone through the dusky gloaming. Heading nowhere particular, her feet take her along the frozen creek bank some distance from camp. In her hand, she holds the coin, so sacred to Hartmut, which bears the graven image of Dolora. Pausing, she looks down upon it, and she knows what she must do to honor the noble dwarf who fell by her hand. Someday, she thinks, she will find Dolora, give her this token, and speak Hartmut’s final words to her. A small gesture perhaps, but the only thing she can do.

Walking back to camp, dusk having turned to night, she suddenly senses a presence in the frost-rimed vegetation along the water’s edge ahead of her. Yes. There up ahead, at the edge of her vison, sits a beautiful creature. A large northern Lynx, its coat silvery grey and highlighted with dark spots. The animal turns its tufted ears towards the elf and fixes her with its stare. The two unlikely strangers, elf and lynx, sit for long moments quietly regarding each other. Then, unexpectedly, like a ghost gliding over the icy ground the cat silently approaches the priestess on its large pad-like paws. Purring deeply, it rubs its entire length back and forth across her buckskinned legs.

Valindra gasps. Deeply moved by the sudden and utterly unexpected appearance of this creature, she can only assume that it comes as a sign from the Leaf Lord himself. The equinox is a day of endings, after all, but it is also a day of beginnings. As with all things in opposition, you cannot have one without the other. Every and each is contained within its opposite. So teaches the Leaf Lord. Perhaps the friendship of this beautiful animal represents just such a potential new beginning found amid this day of endings.

She squats and gazes into the creature’s green eyes, breathing in its smell, its feline muskiness mingled with flavor of the winter landscape. She asks it its name, not in human or elf words, but in a more primal fashion. “Sasha” is the reply. A good name the elf thinks.

And for a moment the weight on her heart eases a tiny bit. “Well met, my friend,” she whispers to the nuzzling beast. “Well met.”

Session: Game Session #2 - Sunday, Oct 07 2018 from 12:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Viewable by: Public


You are elevating our journaling practice to a new level with these entries, Carl. This one flows like the cold creek you so vividly describe, and brings the cold world of the Outer Realms to life in such a way that I feel like I'm newly discovering the world I created. So nicely done! I especially like the description of Valindra's rituals, and the prayer she speaks.
That was great. Really felt Valindra's connection to the elements.
Hartmut would be so touched by Valindra’s ceremony. It was very heartfelt considering how little time she knew him.

Also, really love the description of the lynx meeting.