Hope - Tome of Chaos Story
The billowing smoke created a thick black line across the orange sunset. The enemy forces had reached the Great Border Mountains, destroying everything in their path. The shaman stared up at the mountain peaks, silhouetted against the sky, and sighed heavily. The survival of her clan depended on her leadership. She couldn’t waver now.
She turned to the small group before her. Only a dozen had survived their journey, fleeing from their home in the Elder Wood and crossing the mountains to avoid the enemies that amassed on their homeland.
“They’ve reached the mountains,” an elderly man said, resting against his cane. “We cannot hope to outrun them.”
Another man broke down sobbing, holding his child close. A young woman dropped to her knees, her eyes vacant as she resigned herself to this fate.
They had traveled nonstop after the attack on the Elder Wood. The shaman had no idea who these enemies were or where they had come from. They were strange, not of this land. The forest was burning and their people were dying. The only option left was to run. They had reached the far side of the mountains, and all that stretched before them was a boulder-strewn plain.
“The spirits of nature have abandoned us,” a woman groaned. “Have we done something to displease them?”
The elderly man with his cane looked to the shaman. “Have the spirits of our ancestors spoken to you? Do they have guidance for us?”
The shaman looked across what was left of the clan. They were people of the earth and of the forest. They garbed themselves in greens and browns, cultivated the plants, and befriended the animals. They existed in harmony with nature, and under the moon the shaman would sometimes call to the spirits of the ancestors or of nature itself. She would receive visions of bountiful harvests, of droughts to prepare for, or of raiders crossing the area. There would be times when she would receive no vision, which she always interpreted that everything was fine.
Their life had changed so suddenly the day the Mountain of Ash had thundered. It was not long after that their Elder Wood was attacked.
She glanced up at the darkening sky. A full moon peeked through the clouds. A time for deep meditation and grounding. The shaman lifted her chin and returned her gaze to her people. “I will confer with the spirits. Remain here until I return.”
The group huddled amongst the boulders, staying in the shadows and whispering prayers that caught the chill wind. The shaman walked several paces away, her brown cloak trailing behind her. She found a spot in a semi-circle of boulders with mushrooms sprouting. New life amidst all this death. She knelt and pulled out a bundle of blue sage from her satchel. Lighting it to strengthen her spiritual connection, she set it on a rock beside her, and then rested her tattooed hands on her knees.
The shaman closed her eyes and reached out with her mind and spirit. The energy of the world moved through her like a river. After a few centering breaths, she spoke aloud.
“Spirits of nature, spirits of the ancestors, I call on you in our greatest hour of need. Strange enemies invaded our home and slaughtered our people. We few that remain flee for our lives past the mountains. If this is meant to be our end, we will accept it with peace. Birth, growth, decay, and death are the way. But if there is hope, we will fight for our survival. I ask for guidance and give thanks for all you have given.”
She waited, silent and still. The calming scent of the blue sage overpowered the smell of distant smoke.
A light entered her mind. It wavered and then took on an oval shape, suspended upon a featureless ground. Figures emerged from it, indistinct in form but standing tall and strong. She saw the figures clash with creatures of smoke and shadow. She saw the smoke and shadow dissipate, and all that was left was calm.
A smile crossed her face as she opened her green eyes once more. Putting out the sage, she returned to her people. They looked up at her with anxious eyes reflected in the moonlight. Some looked with hope, and others with despair.
“There are defenders coming,” the shaman stated with certainty. “They will come to fight this darkness that has descended on our home.”
“When?” one of the people asked.
“I do not know, but I know that there is hope. We will not succumb to these invaders. We know these lands better than them. Let us use it to our advantage. We will outmaneuver them and cover our tracks well. We will survive until these defenders come. Then, we reclaim our home.”
Smiles and relief crossed the faces of her people as they got to their feet once again. Turning toward the plains, the group vanished into the night.
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Story: Ashley Roepel & Scott Roepel
Editor: Sean Ryan
Narrative Lead: Joey Shimerdla
Character Art (cover): Candycal
Illustrations: Tyler Wronski
Graphic Design: Tamer "Defolt" Oukour
Voice Acting: David Dahdah
Music / Post-Production: Isaria
Creative Director: Nate Aguila