"The Hyren's Journey"
by Steve McLaughlin
Storyline Tournament  Preview Fiction

The sky bends, if you push hard enough. It was bending now under the massive span of a hyren's wings. Rising quickly and quietly from its lair on the fringes of the Weave, the Monarch Hyren rose unseen into the skies. Spiraling into a thermal, the mighty hyren allowed the warm currents to fill its wings. Soon its dual cobalt heads crested the clouds.
Glancing across the cloud tops, the great aerial city of Arderial came quickly into view. The city's gardens and courtyards were full of activity, Magi in all manner of garb mingled with the authoritarian robes of the Arderian council members. Traditionally a solitary land, Arderial found itself inundated with a sudden rush of allies all asking for aid.
Dipping below the cloud cover, the Monarch Hyren exhilarated at the feeling of cold cloud mists on its faces. When the clouds parted to reveal the ocean below, the crystal clear sea brought sight of the domes of Orothe. Shadows lingered in the deeps, and some stood out in plain view. Shadows often hide from the light, but one in particular seemed to hide something else from view.
To the north, a glittering span cut across the waters. This finger of ice connected two lands that had not been joined in ages. Driven by words written nearly as long ago, a small group of foreigners struggled against the weather and their own apprehension as they crossed the bridge from Nar. As they were buffeted by the storms that raged across the northern seas, their strength dwindled; they would need a second wind of their own to survive the storm.
On the other end of the ice bridge, the once-gentle forests of Naroom accepted yet another foreign influence onto their lands. First darkness, then a deep chill invaded the serenity of the region. With a new leader and a fresh victory against those that brought blight and despair to the land, there was much to rebuild and set straight before the day was through. With a bit of coaxing, maybe new buds would sprout on these old, haggard trees.
The Monarch Hyren circled away from the north; cold winds driving it back from the bleak lands and waters. It glided southward, toward warmer climes and sunnier lands. The dense jungle loomed not so far below, it seemed. What few treetops remained unblemished by the recent conflicts here stretched mightily into the sky. Peace returned slowly to the hunters in the jungle; anxiety and trepidation mixed thickly with the jungle fog, unsettling the Magi of the tropics.
It was harder to discern damage to the lakes and marshes of Bograth, but the loss there was plainer to see on the faces of the people. These Magi had not only lost a war, they had lost a leader. Many of the Magi of the marsh looked to return to the ways before the war, while others sought gain from the fall of the King. New struggles would arise here if the provocateurs were not put in their place.
Dipping low to the ground, the scents of sulfur and ash came to the Monarch Hyren as it coursed over the lava pits of Cald. Thermals were common here, and it was easy fun to dive and climb amongst the volcanic spray. Looking to the War Council's hall, it seemed that the Warlord's seat had been empty for some time as shadow Geysers, Relic Robberies, and rampant shadow sightings had called for intervention. Would the Warlord's seat remain empty for long?
Not far beyond the volcanic region, a mouth of a great cave opened up to the Underneath. Peering within, the Monarch Hyren could only see so far into the cave before it faded to black. Palpable on the stale wind from the cave, however, was the unrest of the Magi who lived beneath. With such terror striking the land all around them, how long would it be until their homes and crèches were threatened? If terror did strike, would they be ready? Some had already begun to gather power there, preferring to think of 'when' rather than 'if'.
Looming high above the mouth of the cave, Kybar's Teeth rose up, challenging the sky itself with the height of the snowy peaks. From their high vantage, surely the Magi of the Teeth felt the weight of impending danger; shadows fled across the land, and all eyes were coming around to question their destination. It would take a strong resolve to fend off the approaching enemy, but could the strength of stone hold back nightfall?
From a safe distance, intermingled with the cloud cover, the Monarch Hyren gazed upon the darkness that traveled the Moonlands. Was it in flight, chased away by some heroic predator? Or was it in search of a quiet spot to pause and stretch its roots, blackening the land around it? Dark visions came to the Monarch Hyren then, glimpses of freedom and the terrible urges of those who have been imprisoned.
Looking to the sun, hoping to burn the dark images from its memory, the Monarch's gaze fell once more and landed on d'Resh. Here, the bright sunlight was reflected back into the sky at full force by the endless expanse of sand. But in that brightness, there was a spot of dim. The sands had brought the darkness within itself; to study it, and learn the ancient wisdoms kept secret by the shadows. It would be a difficult thing for the desert Magi to delve so deeply into the darkness without tainting themselves.
Up along the river of sand that trickled through the chasm at the north end of the desert, the Monarch Hyren soared, coming at last back to the Weave, where the Hyren had made its nest. The Monarch was safe on the outskirts of the great grass sea; safe from the strife and dissent that swept through the Magi of the Weave like so many waves. They had been duped by a dark force, and in the end, it was more than their pride that was hurt. These wounds were deep, and they festered even now, as the peaceful nature of the Weavers was troubled by grief and worry that they were still vulnerable to another dark ploy.
The Monarch Hyren lay down its twin heads on the soft grasses of its nest; its circuit of the Moonlands was tiring, and the things it had seen of the regions were less than calming. Knowing that dreams were on their way, the hyren drifted off to a furtive slumber. When it woke, it would know what to do, how to help the regions the most in their time of need. One people would receive the Monarch Hyren's blessing, and with it would come the knowledge of how to bring peace back to their land.

Read Part 2 "A Beacon of Hope"

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