Part 1a: Otherworld
The hills were old around the basins of the great rivers. Scoured low and round by time, they still showed boulder cliffs and steep rills of falling water among the green coat worn by the stones. The spirit of that place was old as well, peaceful now, as a rule, content to dwell in vertical spaces where mortal life had little reach. Mortals might tend the forests and hunt the beasts, might cut through mountains to make their roads, but within the forms of the soil and the green, in the winds that the sun drove between the mountains, in the dew of the bright moon there lived the spirits. Wild essences of the world, sometimes interested in mortals, often indifferent, they went their way while mortal folks went theirs. In past times mortals and the spirits had spoken, the wise among them, and the brave, finding ways to get the attention of the un-material intelligences. Then mortals had worked together with the spirits, and each kept their place in the Dance of Worlds.
In more recent times this commerce had largely ended. Mortals had turned their eyes and hearts from the inner essences of things. In truth the spirits cared little, though those who had kept the Old Ways before became confused, or dismayed, and some even became angry. In a country filled with mines and boats and the work of hammers it is never wise to anger the spirits. The spirits toyed with mortals or ignored them, and mortals praised their 'God' for good luck or complained of bad.
But in places of power, where the voice of the spirits might be stronger, and in certain families, or in ways taught from teacher to student, the commerce with the spirits continued. There in the hills by the big river there were a few places where humans came together, and by their skill made themselves seen and heard by the spirits. Most especially there was the Fortress of the Seer. It was the only mortal place in the region that had a name among the spirits, and there the mortals had the longest history of traffic with them since the Old People disappeared.
Now an idea was spreading among the spirits, as it does, that new mortals were returning to the Seer's Rath. The bloodline of the Seer was known to the spirits, and even far at the edge of their places they watched that lineage. Even far away they had been present at the sacrifices, made offerings even as young children, and so they were known to the spirits. Now those children were returning to the Vale and the Fortress, and the spirits were interested.
A wild, strong spirit of air and night chose to find them and follow them as they came near the river. His eyes would be the eyes of the clan, and the Queen would know what he knew. As he drew near to the children in their car, he took on a more material form, wings and sharp eye as he swept around and before them as they went.
Before them lay the darkness upon Dun Faithe.
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