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Welcome to my Living City thread. I wanted to collect all my pictures and lore in one place so from now on I'll be updating everything here. Hope you enjoy :)

 

Backstory

According to legends the continent of Cytharai was once amongst the most desolate of lands in a realm already caught in the oppressive grip of death. Yet for years, it came to stand as an anomaly of life and colour centered around the everblossoming forest of Athel Mirai. Until, as with all corners of the realms, the taint of chaos infected Cytharai, and great armies arose to tear down the largest cities that had grown fat on food gained from trade with the forest, and drove the inhabitants of Athel Mirai back to the sheltered groves that lay deep within the forest.

A return to desolation was inevitable, until, in a case of cosmic irony, the Necroquake unleashed by Nagash set in motion the means to return life to the continent.

Whilst the initial damage dealt to the forest was horrendous, many of it's inhabitants managed to seek refuge through the realmpools that lay at the heart of the forest. Alas, the pools connected not to the safety of another realms corelands, but to the outer rim of Ghyran, where the magics of life flowed untamed.

Many were overwhelmed by the primal force of pure life, their bodies overflowing with magics in a lethal manner. The Aelves and Duardin of the forest were able to fare alright, with their innate control and resistance of magic respectively, but the human residents were wiped out to almost the man.

Return to the forest was bittersweet however, for whilst the men of the forest were no more, and the outer edges were now haunted by the spirits of those slain in the war, the forces of Chaos, not able to escape from the sheer wall of death magic, had been struck a major blow. For the first time in a hundred years, the people of Athel Mirai were on the offensive, hoping to root out the forces of Chaos who now found themselves fighting a war on two fronts with the legions of spirits, and expand Athel Mirai till it covers the whole of Cytharai.

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The Song of the Dryads

Pyralis pushed her way through the flowering undergrowth of Athel Mirai, relying the strength on her newly corrupted form to pass unhindered. The initiates of the Fluxflame Cult followed in her wake, handpicked for this mission for their knowledge of warpflame magicks.

Since reaching the edge of the forest that still teemed with life, Pyralis and her underlings had heard a strange song that rang out through the trees. The song clearly made the cultists unnerved but Pyralis found the song amusing. If the inhabitants of the forest were still singing they were clearly not aware of the doom that was coming for them.

Continuing onwards, Pyralis found herself breaking through to a grove filled with wildflowers. Perfect for the ritual she had planned to engulf this part of the forest in holy fluxflame. Pyralis ordered the initiates to form a perimeter, whilst she set at work preparing the ritual.

Taking her place in the centre of the grove, she started to chant the ninety-nine verses of the Pyrofane prayer, until she noticed something was off. Lowering her voice she reached out with her sense until she noticed what had set her off-ease. The song which had until now stayed the same had changed to a faster tempo, whilst also seeking somewhat louder.

About to shrug her suspicions off, the forest around her burst into life. Figures the same colour as the bark on the trees around her, and trailing the same pink petals, jumped at the defensive perimeter of acolytes around her, quickly overwhelming them in a deadly surprise attack with flailing arms of sharpened bark.

Those few that remained standing backed up towards Pyralis, clearly shaken by the attack but determined to defend their leader with their lives. Not that would be necessary, Pyralis though, as she swung her arm and threw out a soaring ball of Fluxflame. The fire arced through the sky towards the nearest tree creature, before stuttering fizzing out.

Enraged, Pyralis turned, searching for the one that had unwound her spell. Emerging from the trees behind her came a figure different to the rest of others, her arm outstretched as she finished the enchantation of unbinding.

Pyralis made to summon another ball of fire, but before she could the tree creatures were on her surviving men, tearing them down in a burst of activity. Seeing the battle was lost, Pyralis turned and ran, using her large frame to smash through the tree creature and out through the forest. All around her the forest seemed to be coming alive and clawing at her, drawing blood which burnt whatever it landed on.

Pyralis burst out into the dead part of the forest and the frenzied song behind her started to calm as her persuers seemingly gave up the chase. Not wanting to risk her chances, Pyralis continue to run back out towards the library her cult called home, knowing she would live, but with her pride gravely wounded.
 

Celesia, the Branchwraith

Celasia was once a normal Dryad, till she was sent on a mission through the realmpool in an attempt to gather the jadestone that allowed them to expand the forest. Once in the untamed wilds of Ghyran however, the shifting terrain led to her becoming separated from the rest of her grove as a giant wall of thorns rose up from the ground. Deemed lost by her companions, she was mourned as one of the many who gave their lives in return for the precious jadestone.

As such, even Canna, eldest of the Treelord was surprised when she emerged from the realmpool a year later. The Celasia that emerged was not the playful Dryad she had once been however, and where her form had once been rough with bark, it was now soft and feminine with heartwood. The greatest change however was her now effortless control of the magic that flowed through the portal

With a mere change of pitch in the song she led her Dryads in, she could heal gaping wounds, awaken great wyldwoods, or even bring sentience to the branches around her, creating new Dryads to join the forest. Now she leads the forces of Dryads, both in nurturing the forest as they were originally grown for, as well as in defending them. In both, she is helped by the branch nymphs Anemone and Lobelia who lead smaller groupings of Dryads.

 

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And a few sneak peaks at other units I'm working on.

Tree Revenants should come tomorrow too, just working on lore :)

 

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It's a bit later than planned but here's the lore for my Tree-Revenants. Next up, Alarielle herself!

Also, a small note but I'm hoping to slowly build up an image of the overall forest through short stories so I'd appreciate feedback on them too if you have any. I appreciate I'm not necessarily the best writer in the world so I'd love to hear how I could improve.

The Jade-Shrines of the Forest

The song of the dryads floated through the trees to Cyclamen, the calm rhythm letting him know that things in the forest were as normal.

Whilst not able to feel the heartsong that allowed his purewood-kin to communicate internally, Cyclamen and his fellow Tree-Revenants were more than capable of understanding it when the dryads gave it an external voice. Nodding to Impatiens, he gave the order to let the forest know that the Jade-Shrine they guarded was safe.

Impatiens, the most musically inclined of his kin, starting playing the wind pipes he carried at all times, adding his melody to the song in order to communicate Cyclamen's order. A quick flurry of notes came drifting back, letting Cyclamen know his message had been received.

Satisfied, Cyclamen turned back to the Jade-Shrine hidden within the great tree he and his kin were positioned around. The realmstone within shone with a dull green light as its pattern shifted as it cycled through various matters. Cyclamen noted with pride that the stone in the centre would need to be replaced soon, as he and his kin had guarded it long enough for it to bring life back to this once dead part of the forest. Vowing to never let such desolation return, he turned around and continued his long vigil, hidden from any would-be intruders by the rich colours of the flowers around him.

So he remained, until shortly after the sun set. Cyclamen was just getting ready to rotate his kin to allow them to rest, when the ever-present song of forest changed. Picking up in tempo, the dryads announced intruders, coming in through the still-dead western edge of the Everblossom Glades. Given their proximity, Cyclamen ordered Impatiens to signal they would join the force already assembling to push them back, before quickly gathering most of his kin and setting off.

The speed at which the Tree-Revenants moved through the thick forest would have astounded many, but for ones who were as much of the forest as they were it's inhabitants, the undergrowth of Athel Mirai was familiar and welcoming. All the while as they ran, the dryads kept them informed of the exact positioning of the intruders, as well as their numbers and perceived strength. Impatiens periodically sent a short burst of music back, informing the rest of the forest of where they were.

At first, Cyclamen was unworried about the intrusion. Many minor warbands and travelling groups attempted to enter the forest, hoping it would keep them safe from the legions of chaos devotees and risen spirits that plagued the surrounding lands. Most fled after the first sign of resistance, preferring to return and find a boat to bypass the continent entirely, and based on the numbers communicated by the dryads this group seemed no different.

It wasn't until the song started to tell of the first engagements with the enemy, as well as the enemies determination to move in a specific direction that the true threat became clear. The warriors, though few in number, appeared to be devotees of Khorne, grown strong from the incessant warring outside the forest. They thrived in the challenge the forest provided, and were slowly but surely carving a path towards another of the jade-shrines that had been discovered during a separate raid many weeks before. As veterans of the chaos intrusions, they seemed to be aware that the forest would fight back hardest when the shrines were threatened and in their attempts to bring glory to their god were heading straight towards it.

Cyclamen led his kin to ever faster speeds through the forest, hoping to cut the intruders off before they made it to the shrine. As such, he almost ran straight into a great axe covered in sap as he struggled to stop himself upon bursting into the glade the Khorne worshippers found themselves in. Two of his kin were less lucky however, and were hacked down by great axes that cut their bark as if it werent there.

Cylcamen jumped back to narrowly avoid a second blow aimed directly at his glowing heart-wood, and struck out with his protector glaive, slicing the arm of his assailant off with a swift blow. As his opponent roared in pain, he quickly glanced around to see the state of the battle. The warriors of the Everblossom Glades had gathered as soon as possible but the opponent's advance had been quick and many were still en route to join the fight. Of those that had already come, Cylcamen noticed many had wounds cut deep into their heartwood, and a good number lay on the ground unlikely to ever rise again.

Knowing the shrine would likely be defiled if they did not manage to gather a strong defence, Cylcamen finished the roaring warrior in front of him and ordered his kin to disperse, so as to use their greater mobility to keep the enemy off guard and scare them from advancing beyond the glade.

He himself ran forward, engaging two lesser armoured foes screaming in their blood frenzy. He quickly cut them down taking advantage of the longer reach of his weapon, as he saw his kin start to jump in and out of the edges of combat, slashing at foes and then vanishing into the trees before the foe could fight back. At first it seemed to be a great success, but as the fight continued the warriors they fought start to take on a more defensive position, covering one another from attack.

Cylcamen and his kin had succeeded in holding the opponent back, but he knew that they had no chance of defeating the foe as his watched three of his kin cut down in succession as they attempted to strike at the Khornite warriors.

The song was announcing that aid from the Moonlily Pools was near, but as the one that appeared to be the warriors leader start to whip his men to get back on the offensive, Cylcamen knew they would be too late if he didn't do anything.

Roaring a challenge at the leader, he charged forth, cutting down three warriors whose back streaked blood from the whip their leader was viciously lashing at them with, albeit it taking a glance to his left arm covered in tough bark in the process. Roaring back, the leader turned to Cylcamen and struck out with his whip. Trusting to his instincts, Cylcamen dodged to the side, however he felt the sting of the barbed lashes catch the arm that had already been struck and he spun round to strike back with his glaive.

Moving with surprising speed the large warrior gracefully sidestepped the blade, before quickly throwing all his weight straight into Cylcamen's side, throwing him off balance. The warrior stamped down with his foot, crushing Cylcamen's softer right arm and forcing him to drop his weapon.

Bearing over him, the warrior roared a warcry and drew a gore covered serrated dagger from his belt. Raising his arms, the warrior made to stab down at Cyclamen's neck when a large etherial arrow slammed through his chest. Looking round with watery eyes, Cylcamen saw his saviour striding out of the woods.

Aid had arrived and Cylcamen watched as the large hunter of the Moonlily Pools stood his ground, carefully felling after foe from afar who were now starting to break  with their leader dead. As he fought, a shield wall of duardin clad in the heraldry of the Gardneri Halls formed around him, pushing back those that still attempted to fight. In the face of this new show of force, the last of the enemy broke and started to run. Running for the edge of the glade, they instead found they were running to their doom as a flurry of aelven arrows flew out from the cover of the canopy where an enclave of the Everblossom Glades resident aelves had quietly encircled the battle to cut off any escape.

Trapped between two walls, the Khornite warriors threw themselves at the defenders one last time, but in the face of the combined arms of Athel Mirai their frenzied fighting stood little chance and they were cut down to a man. Satisfied he and his kin had played his part well, Cyclamen ordered his kin back to the forest to return to their own shrine, giving little more than a glance of acknowledge to the leaders of the warriors that had come to his aid.

 

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Finally finished Alarielle. Had this model for a year and a half so it's a great feeling to finally get it done. Planning on using her in her first game fully painted this week.

Once again, c&c welcome and wanted.

The Blossom Mother

Alarielle is worshipped by all who have a close link to nature and life, be it in her most common form of the Everqueen or any one of her aspects as diverse in number as the species she has given the breath of life. For the inhabitants of Athel Mirai she is the Blossom Mother, the founder of their forest home and She Who Brings Life To Death.

Long ago, in the lost annals of the Age of Myth, Alarielle wandered the realm of Ghyran, hoping to better know the world she was linked to, as well as to experience all the life it held in its wilderness. Whilst exploring the far edges of the realm, where the magics of life were so strong as to even test her abilities to control them, she encountered a small collection of pools. Unlike all the teeming life around her, the pools were unnaturally calm, and no life called their depths home. To the normal eye, these pools were merely anomalies in a realm otherwise overrun in life, but to one so linked to the magics of the realm, Alarielle could see the pools were a maelstrom of magic, all being pulled into the pools surface.

Intrigued, Alarielle stepped into the largest of the pools. Approaching the centre she suddenly found herself falling, though as she fell into the pool, she found her feet suddenly pulled in the opposite direction and once again she was standing. She no longer looked upon the teeming jungles of Ghyran however. Instead, just outside the pools lay a vast, open land of desolation, hung over by purple skies.

Alarielle recognised the realm as that of Shyish, a place anathema to her powers. On other visits to this realm of death, she had found her body rebel against itself, and the air had crackled as her own jade magic had violently reacted with the amethyst magic that hung in the air. This time however, it was not the air around herself that crackled, but that just outside of the pools, where the magic that had been sucked into the pools pushed out into the realm before being violently neutralised by the native magics.

Where the magic flowed, Alarielle spotted some small flowers and grass growing, and looking around she saw a small tree that was attempting to grow in the middle of the pools where the Jade magics flowed strongest. Stepping out towards the tree, she took her first step onto the land. Where her foot touched, flowers suddenly burst out of the ground, her own magics strengthening those of the pools and allowing plant life to gain a proper foothold. She took another step forward and more flowers sprouted, carpeting the ground in colour, as small insects started to flit between the now opened buds, feasting on the pollen inside.

Seeing how even a small increase in magic shifted the balance in lifes favour, Alarielle felt joy. Here was her chance to bring life to even the most hostile of environments. Walking now with more purpose, she strode over towards the struggling tree, leaving a trail of blossoms and life in her wake. Reaching the tree, she noticed it starting to grow small leaves, though the energy needed to sustain it was much greater than that required by the flowers and despite her presence it did not grow any taller.

Recognising she would need more power if she were to take advantage of this opportunity, Alarielle stepped back through the pool to Ghyran, and set about collecting the realmstone that formed naturally so close to the edge of the realm. After a few hours, she decided she had enough and headed back to the tree.

Reaching the tree once more, she set about placing the realmstone around the tree, burying some in the roots below, and placing some on the branches that steadily grew in size with each piece placed. By the time she had finished the tree had grown to be many times her own size, and it now teemed with life that jumped between its pink blossoms. Some bright blue spites had even started to appear, chasing each other through the branches.

Looking around, Alarielle smiled as she saw the glade around her slowly filling with grass, flower, and even other, smaller, trees. Most significantly however, the crackling air that marked the boundary of life was slowly expanding, the jade magics building up to levels that the naturally occurring death magic could not hold back any longer.

Alarielle knew however that the magics of life were cyclical, their powers waxing and waning. In this hostile land, such waning would likely prove lethal to these new sprouted plants, and so Alarielle reached to the soul amphorae that hung on her back. She knew this land would need guardians to nurture it, and so she reached out, placing the soul amphorae into a large crevice in the tree. Instantly, the bark reshaped, growing around the amphorae until it encased it, showing only the glowing crest to the world. Immediately, glowing soul pods started to appear on the ends of the largest branches, like strange fruit that would one day flower into Slyvaneth.

Alarielle heard the singing spirits of each of these new beings within her as soon as the pods appeared, and she reached out with her own song, informing her new children of their duty to this land, as well as their mission to ensure that there was always a steady supply of realmstone to keep the forest expanding. Satisfied they understood her intent, Alarielle stepped back to the pools, sad she could not see this land grow herself but knowing how important it was to spread similar blessings across all the realms, so that they could all know the glories of Ghyran.

Over the long ages of Myth and Chaos, those Alarielle gave life have watched over the forest of Athel Mirai, never once playing host to the one they called the Blossom Mother. All heard of the song she sung that day from the buddings that came before, and all pass it on to those that come after. However, with the wake of the Necroquake, and the importance Shyish has to play in the ongoing Soul Wars, Alarielle has once again returned to Athel Mirai. Hoping to have used it as a staging point to wage war against the forces of Nagash, she instead emerged into a place of desolation and loss, fighting to reclaim what was once theirs. Now, she leads the united forces of Slyvaneth, Aelves, Duardin and Stormcast into battle, the full fury of the forest crashing into her foes as she unleashes her wrath at those who would see death and chaos prevail.

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Edited by Yoshiya
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I agree very nicely done. Quite enjoyed the lore you created for yourself. She looks awesome. 

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It's been a while since I last update though I've been slowly working away in the interim whilst fleshing out the backstory of the army.

I have large game coming up up in mid-January for which I want to play with a fully painted army for the first time so I have a Treelord Ancient and 6 Kurnoth with scythes on the way (Treelord Ancient is almost finished now).

Today's update is three bow Kurnoth, who I plan on summoning with Alarielle. They were an experiment for painting larger tree-kin and I'm pretty happy with how they came out :)

As ever, C&C welcome and desired. Hope you enjoy :)

 

 

+ Dear Cordalis

Please find attached a transcript of an extract from a book titled 'A Study of Athel Mirai', penned by an unknown author who appears to have been resident in Athel Mirai during the Cycle of Welcoming. We found the book in the aftermath of the last raid on the Gardneri Halls, on the body of a Magister from the Fluxflame Cult.

Most of the book was deemed uninteresting, with the information being deemed dated or otherwise common knowledge, however, the following page was found to contain knowledge of the forest that is normally kept secret, even from many of our own. Alas, it appears the enemy were also aware of the importance of the information, and the page has been marked with a number of shifting runes that even myself am unable to decipher.

Given the sensitive nature, the Gardneri Halls would thus like to petition for a Gathering to be held at the Heartsoul Tree at your earliest convenience.

Dianthus, Runemaster of the Gardneri Halls+

Chapter 23 - The Moonlily Pools

Over my long years studying Athel Mirai, I had come to think of myself as something of an expert on the forest. Alas, as ever, the forest proved me wrong when I was one day invited to take part in a ritual I had hitherto been unaware of.

On the appointed day, me and my companions, a number of aelves and humans I had come to know over the years, set off from the Great Hall in the Everblossom Glades just as the sun was starting to set. We headed in an easterly direction, and I mistakenly believed the venue for the ritual must be centre of the forest, to which I had been fortunate enough to visit twice before now. I thus allowed myself to fall into my thoughts, paying little attention to what I believed would be naught but familiar sights, catalogued and studied in this very tome many times before, and simply allowing myself to follow my companions.

It wasn't until my eyes lazily fell upon the first of the mysterious flowers, that I came to realise my mistake. Shaking out my stupor I took in my new surroundings, in as much awe as the day I first laid eyes on the forest all those years back. Around me grew the most exotic of all plants I saw in my time in Athel Mirai.

The Moonlilies, a name I was informed of at a later date, were marvelous to behold. They shone from within with a soft, blue light, though the petals themselves were a pale white. Dotted around the dark forest they appeared as though stars in the night sky and I wished for nothing more than take one with me for study. Unfortunately, I had learnt before of the wrath the inhabitants of the forest held towards those that took without permission and wisely stayed my hand.

At first they were few and far behind, but as we continued to walk, the lights grew more numerous, until the trees opened up, revealing a pond no more than five strides across, around which the Moonlilies grew abundance. It was here that I came to realise the glow of the flowers was not from the petals or stems themselves, but the sap that lay within. I watched as this sap pooled at the edge of a petal which overhung the pond, till the weight of it broke the fragile balance of the plant, releasing the heavy load in a small drop, which hit the surface of the water with a barely noticeable ripple.

All around the pond, this same scene was repeated, hundreds of small drops falling from petals into the pond which glowed with the light of the sap it contained.

Enraptured by the scene I failed to notice my companions slowing, eventually stopping before one of the trees. After ashamedly walking into the back of the aelf in front of me, I turned to see why they had stopped. It was then that I noticed we were not alone.

What I had mistaken for a particularly dense patch of flowers now revealed itself to be a great bow, easily twice my height, and grasped in the large wooden hands of one of the Hunters of Kurnoth. This was not the first Hunter I had seen, having been introduced to their power during a culling of the local undead beasts, their deadly blades cutting down beasts many times their size with ease. It was however, the first time I had seen one wielding a bow.

The bow radiated the same blue light as the lilies, and I came to the realisation the scythes and swords I had once assumed to be conjured from magic were actually made of the crystallised sap of the plants that grew here.

The Hunter looked at me, seemingly wary, before turning and walking deeper into the forest. My companions and I followed, and as I walked through the break in the trees I was startled as a trunk next to me suddenly shifted, and started to follow after the Hunter. Coming out of the shadows into the moonlight, the light of great sap arrows suddenly shone from the top of the trunk, and a pale blue spite the size of myself spread it's legs out from beneath.

I had never seen such a spite, but unfortunately I had little time to examine it further as it followed the Hunter, and I was forced to rush to catch up with my companions.

We passed more ponds as we walked, some smaller than the first, and some larger, but the majority were of similar dimensions. Silently we passed them all until we reached a pond seemingly just like any other.

My companions stopped suddenly, before moving out to surround the pool. I was pushed aside, made to wait under a nearby tree out of the way with one companion. Those surrounding the pool start to chant, singing in a native language I had yet had the time to study.

The air began to hang with the scent of fresh blossom, until soft winds blew in, carrying with them bright pink petals, though no such flowers seemed to grow there. At the height of the chanting, the eldest of the group reached into his robe and took out a bowl within which a lump of green realmstone sat, shifting between states of matter. He reached down and dipped the bowl in the pool, filling it to the brim.

Lifting the now full bowl, chanting of the others started to quiet, the ritual seemingly finished and I took advantage of the lull to inquire what was happening with my companion. I was informed the bowl was to be placed in a Jade Shrine, which were hidden on the edges of the forest (I sensed I was not supposed to know of their existance and thus made no mention of the two I had previously encountered in my wanderings). There, the water of the pools would work as a catalyst for the realmstone, spreading the magics of life and allowing the forest to expand.

I had desired to ask more but suddenly sensed large shadow over me. I turned to find the Hunter had moved beside me, somehow silent despite its large bulk and was now gesturing to follow it back the way we had come. My companion turned from me, and rejoined the others who were streaming past me.

For the whole return journey my mind was abuzz with questions looking for answers, and I desired nothing more than to be allowed to remain in this place. Alas, it was not to be and we were soon walking past the last of the pools, ready to depart back to the now seemingly mundane world of the Everblossom Glades that had once filled me with such wonder. I turned to take one last look at our guide here, only to find the Hunter had vanished, seemingly melting into the trees around him despite its large bulk, adding one last tantalising mystery to the whole experience.

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Been quite a while since I posted here...

Finished up my Treelord Ancient a while back but been struggling with getting a story for it. Not too keen on it still but I feel like it's best to put it out rather than keep rewriting it.

I plan on uploading the first of my Stormcast some time soon but after that it'll be a gap in uploads again. Currently working on my DoK for the new year, new army and KH3 just came out so not got much time for painting my Living City stuff at the moment.

As always C&C welcome.

The Seed of Ages

Cordalis marched swiftly eastward. Reports of a great Flesh-stone in the eastern-most glades had come to the notice of the Council of Seeds the moon prior, and the men she had dispatched to investigate were yet to return.

Having opted to personally investigate, she now walked at the head of a fifty aelf strong group of Briarguard. They were joined by a small group of Gladeguard from the Everblossom Glades who she had commandeered for their skill with a bow. Under any normal circumstance, she'd be more than confident with such a force, especially against the unorganised beastkin who roamed the eastern forest. The presence of the Treelord Ancient walking besides her however, set her at unease.

Canna was a giant in comparison to the aelves he marched with. A towering being encased in the bright white bark of the forest around him, and surrounded by a fluttering trail of pink petals that fell from his branches. He was known to those of the forest as the Heartwood Prince, and was more ancient than all in Athel Mirai save the great Heartwood Tree itself.

Canna's announcement that he would be attending them on this quest was a source of pride and discomfort. The greatest of the Council of Seeds, and he rarely ventured away from the Heartwood Tree at the centre of the forest, having sworn it to tend to it from before he emerged from his soulpod. For him to not only leave his charge, but to deem the presence of two of the Seeds necessary was unheard of save in times of open war.

Cordalis force herself to focus on the sounds of the forest, calming her mind in the peace of nature around her. Up above in the branches, she spied her wraithhawk Pendula resting, the bird having returned after leaving her this morning to hunt. The presence of her companion helped to soothe her worries, and she fell into a contented silence as she lead her men towards their quarry.

They heard it before they saw it.

It started as a faint wail on the wind. To an outsider it would likely be taken as a trick of the mind. To one so familiar with the forest as Cordalis however, it was an immediate sign of the enemy. Raising her hand, she ordered her men to slow down, leading them in a slow stalk towards the source.

It was a disturbing sound. Both a cry for a help, and invitation to madness. It dug into her deepest thoughts, threatening to unearth secrets long forgotten to all but herself. Steeling herself against its cry, she signalled to her men to gather within earshot, knowing it was dangerous to leave them to their own thoughts.

"The call of Chaos hangs thick in the air, pleading us to join it. I can see the effect it's having on all your faces, but I can also see the strength with which you resist it. This is why I chose you for this mission, and thus is why I know we will succeed!"

Her men raised a quiet cry in affirmation, but the strain was clear in their voice. They needed to finish this as soon as possible.

Ordering her men to take up a wide formation, she started forward towards the glade. As they approached, she noticed the trees starting to twist, their normal bark replaced in part by a weird fleshy growth. The closer they got, the more the corruption grew, until the trees around them were twisted into mockeries of limbs. The flesh now covered the trees in their entirety, and in places mouths gorged in the fruit growing from neighbouring branches.

The sight sickened her, and she saw Canna glare at the trees with a cold fury. She wished nothing more than to uproot it all, but she knew without first removing the source of the corruption they would only grow back.

Continuing the march, she at last came across the entrance to the glade, and stepped out into the light that filtered down.

In front of her stood the largest Flesh-stone she'd seen. It's squirming surface rising up towards the canopy, almost as tall enough to break through. It surface was covered in faces, the still living flesh being the source of thewailing. She recognised some of those she spotted, the fimilar features of the men she had dispatched to investigate standing out even amongst the horror. Their eyes now shone with a corrupted light that she knew she saw with her mind as opposed to her eyes.

Swallowing down revulsion, she made to command her men who'd started forming around her when she felt a sudden constriction around her leg.

Faster than she could react, Cordalis was lifted into the air, head facing back towards the ground. She flailed out, attempting to free herself from her captor, but the thing grabbing her shook her roughly, preventing her from getting a sense of her surroundings. The thing slammed her into the ground, before starting to pull her back to the nearby trees. As she passed a nearby root she reached out, managing to muster the strength to hold herself in place as the thing threatened to tear her apart.

Glimpsing back, she saw that she was being held captive by a long tongue that lead back to one of the mouths on the trees. She saw the tree thrash with frustration that it's meal had stopped in place, and the tongue pulled harder, hoping to release her grip.

A large hand came down in front of her vision, the long blade-like talons cutting through the flesh with ease. The tree screamed in pain, the sound as unnatural as its source. Canna stepped into view, smashing his staff into the tree and quickly silencing it.

Standing, Cordalis looked around her to find her men in chaos. A number of them were flailing through the air, grasped by tongues, tentacles and other, more disturbing appendages. Those still standing fought back hard, but the limbs moved too fast, and few of her men were able to be cut free. Some found themselves being turned into weapons themselves, the limbs using them as a flail to smash into their allies, but the majority were being pulled back towards hungering maws.

Cordalis knew the battle would be lost before it begun at this rate. Lifting her spear she commanded those nearby to form around her. They closed ranks quickly and quietly, centuries of experience making them an efficient fighting force. With shields raised and spears pointing out, they poked at the questing limbs, driving them back and clearing a small space around her.

As Cordalis and her men formed up in an orderly manner, Canna fought as though a force of nature unto himself. He smashed the branches of the nearest trees, freeing many from their grasp. As he fought, he raised his voice in a great song, the words as ancient as the forest itself. All around the grove, vines burst from the ground, forming walls to protect the survivors, or constricting around the trees, constricting their limbs to their trunks.

His efforts alone may have been enough to save the warband, however as the last of the fleshy limbs started to withdraw, a loud keening rose. Smashing through one of the vine walls, a giant beast charged from the forest, smashing into the side of Canna and threatening to knock him balance.

The ghorgon nearly matched Canna in size, and huge muscles rippled through its oversized form. The beasts had four arms, though the lower two had had their hands replaced with large blades, the metal shimmering with an unnatural purple sheen. Following the giant, smaller beasts of a similar nature came bursting out of the forest.

"The Flay Herd has come to defend their twisted lair! Stand firm and they shall find the Briar deadlier than they think!"

Cordalis shouted the order and her men formed up in time to meet the charge of their foe. Aelves went flying as the largest of the beasts collided with the shield wall, but the brunt of the charge was absorbed as many of the gors were pushed onto the Briarguards spears by their allies behind them.

Behind the newly formed beastmen lines, Canna wrestled with the ghorgon, his strength being matched in kind by the beast. More vines rose up from the ground as he continued to sing, swatting away any of the smaller gor-kin who attempted to approach and wrapping around the legs of the ghorgon, attempting to pull it down. Bellowing in rage, the ghorgon snapped the vines that clawed at it, and thrust out with one of its blades.

The great blade curved through the air towards Canna's head faster than one would expect for a creature of its size. Canna, caught by surprise, narrowly dodged out of the way, though the blade caught one of his great antlers, slicing it in half. The beast pressed the advantage, pushing Canna back towards the Flesh-stone and slamming its horns into his chest to the sound of creaking wood.

Cordalis watched on, unable to help. She fought valiantly, and many had fallen to her already. Yet the tide of beasts that threatened to break the wall of spears, and she was unable to advance to the Treelords position.

She watched as Canna struggled to block the blocks of the beast, as the ghorgon used all four of its arms to its advantage. Slowly but surely he was pushed back to towards the stone, beast-kin braying in applause as their champion beat the great Treelord.

Canna was pushed back nearly all the way to the stone when his motions suddenly changed. Rather than blocking, he went on the offensive, slamming his hand up into the ghorgons chest. One of his talons impaled impale itself through a shoulder joint, catching the beast off guard. It roared in pain and slumped forward, grasping at the wound. Canna brought both his fists down hard on the beast's exposed neck in response, furthering knocking the beast down where thick grasping roots reached up to meet it.

The roots quickly entangled the beast, locking it in place as it came to its senses. It struggled to escape, the thicker roots proving harder to snap  than the vines from before. Finally able to break away, Canna stepped back and raised his staff high into the air. The beast rose from the ground, the roots carrying it groaning with the weight but for everyone that snapped under the pressure, more rose to replace them. Chanting his ancient song, Canna watched as the beast was constricted tighter and tighter, whilst the beast-kin that had been roaring in joy were now keening in fear.

The roots continued to grow up, lifting the ghorgon up to the height of the Flesh-stone it had been trying to protect. As it crested over the top, Canna drew his staff down in a sudden motion. Following his command, the roots too came slamming down, smashing the entangled ghorgon into the rock.

A large crack rang out through the clearing, followed swiftly by the shriek of a hundred souls screaming in pain. All the beast-kin turned to see, and even the disciplined ranks of the Thorns were shocked into inaction. The huge rock came crashing down, crushing those unfortunate gor-kin who stood where it fell. The body of the ghorgon twitched on top of it, before finally stilling.

A long moment dragged out, before a terrified cry came from the back ranks of the Flay Herd, shocking the rest into action. As one, they ran to the forest, their selfish sense of self preservation causing them to crush their own wounded and weak in the process. Not wanting to risk her own men in the stampede, Cordalis ordered them still. She watched the last of them attempt to pass Canna's root walls, that even now picked them off as they fled.

Whilst it pleased her to know they had won this day, she knew the corruption done to this part of the forest would not heal easily. Nor would it be the last of the nightmarish stones they would need to tear down, so long as the beast-kin and their dread masters roamed. But tear them down they would. For she was the Lady of Bramble, and wherever Chaos spread, she would seek it out and choke it out in briar.

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