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Druids of Bendenwood

The countdown to the release of Princess of Lanfor is now underway! Editing is done (thank you Sandra) and the manuscript is off to S Pro Designs for formatting. With any luck, it should be published sometime in the next 30 days. In the meantime, as promised lets delve into the mysterious Druids of Bendenwood.

Druids are mystics and sages who safeguard the various aspects of nature from the ravages of civilization. They have numerous magical abilities including nature-related spells, healing, summoning animal allies, and shapeshifting. Druids span the entire length and breathe of the isle of Thac, but the Eastern Order is centered around the town of Bendenwood.

The quiet town of Bendenwood is located in the middle of the eastern forest that bears the same name. It is the first stop on the road through the Korlokesel mountains to Ravenford on the east coast. It is also a stopover on the north/south road from the small town of Twin Oaks to the bustling City of Dunwynn to the north.

Bendenwood is nestled amongst the ancient coniferous trees that populate the heart of the forest. Roughly fourteen hundred people inhabit the town, but not all are druids. The upper town sits high above the ground and is restricted to druids and those rare few deemed “druid-friends.” Spacious tree houses, rope bridges, catwalks, and various ladders adorn the trunks of the great trees like a spider web, providing its occupants with giant eagle landings, lodgings, offices, halls, an extensive library, and a druid school.

Non-druid folk live in the lower town, which is comprised of houses built into the base and roots of the ancient trees. The houses that line the roads are storefronts, while those sitting away from the road are dwellings. Where the two main roads intersect stands a single large log cabin. It is the designated inn and tavern for travelers, bearing the name “The Dancing Faun.”

Lysandra Melassul is the current High Druid of the Eastern Order. The short wood elf from Kia Arborus is just a little over 500 years old, yet her diminutive stature does little to diminish her imposing presence. The High Druid maintains a small staff around her, but most of the druids who live in Bendenwood come and go as they wander Eastern Thac, tending to the focus of their chosen circles.

There are six Druid Circles in all, each dedicated to a specific aspect of nature. The Circle of the Sun for instance is focused on the purity of the air and the creatures of the sky. Druids from this order have magical abilities related to the healing nature of the sun and the warmth it provides. In contrast, members of the Circle of the Moon are concerned with nature’s cycles and secrets. They are researchers that study all of nature and wield powers related to the shadows and shapeshifting.

The Circle of the Beast focuses on the care of all animals, its followers wielding the power to summon any creature as an ally. The last three circles are the Circle of the Earth, Circle of the Forest, and Circle of the Seas. These circles concentrate on maintaining the earth, plant life, and the waters, respectively, their members exercising powers related to their associated domain.

Every full moon, druids on the Council of Bendenwood silently gather together at a circle of monolithic stones hidden within the forest northeast of town. There are twelve members on the council, including the High Druid, comprised of two members from each Druid Circle. These twelve individuals are some of the oldest and most skilled druids in all Thac. It is for this reason that many believe Dunwynn has remained polite to Bendenwood after their recent refusal to join the Duchy.

Once a year during the summer solstice, the majority of the Eastern Order of Druids gather in Bendenwood for their annual council meeting. During those times, the number of folks in Bendenwood increases dramatically and the otherwise peaceful town buzzes with activity.

The druids of Bendenwood play a key role in the Princess of Lanfor. Seth is the first to come across them, along with the effervescent Kalyn Rhan. Let’s end this month’s blog with an excerpt depicting Seth’s and Kalyn’s arrival in Bendenwood:

The sun was long gone, and the stars twinkled brightly in the night sky when the massive trees of Bendenwood finally came into view. Glowing lights beneath the tree-line gently illuminated the canopy of the forest. As the dragonflies drew closer, Seth could make out treehouses wrapping themselves around the massive trunks, and wooden bridges weaving through the air to connect the houses to one another.

A shadow entered the corner of Seth’s eye. He turned to see a giant eagle draw up beside them, the creature soaring through the night air on unwavering wings. It peered at him and Kia, then shifted its focus to Kalyn a short distance ahead. The eagle gently beat its wings, pulling ahead of Seth and coming even with Kalyn.

Kalyn whipped her head around and started at the sight of the massive eagle, nearly losing her seat. She quickly righted herself, then nonchalantly saluted the eagle, motioning for it to take the lead.

Seth let out a derisive snort. Yeah. Real smooth, Kalyn.

The eagle made a piping chirp sound, then took the lead. It gently banked and angled for an open platform on the nearest tree. Interestingly enough, the dragonflies followed it of their own accord.

The eagle landed well before they did. Seth watched curiously as the creature gave a mighty shake of its wings, and with a flurry of feathers, twisted and shrank, transforming into the girl that he recognized as Raina. Raina quickly moved to the side and watched the dragonflies land, tugging at one of her dreadlocks nervously.

As soon as the dragonflies stopped buzzing, Kalyn jumped off hers and ran up to Seth’s, ducking under its twitching wings, and grabbed Kia.

Raina suddenly appeared at Kalyn’s side, helping her with the small, frail girl. “What’s going on? Who is this?”

“We can explain later. Right now, I need to see someone who can fix her,” Kalyn said as she pulled the black robe off her sister and straightened the white one that had been underneath.

A puzzled expression crossed Raina’s face. “Fix her? Who is she? How is she broken?”

Seth jumped off his dragonfly, landing softly on his feet. “Her mind is basically mush. Oh! And, she’s Kalyn’s sister.”

Raina’s face snapped toward Seth, her brown eyes nearly bugging out of her head. She immediately shifted her gaze back toward Kalyn. “Your sister?”

Kalyn glared at the halfling while letting out an exasperated huff. “Really, Seth? I said we’d explain later. I don’t wanna tell the whole story fifty times.”

Seth folded his arms and shrugged, a thin smirk crossing his lips. “Eh, that’s a you problem.”

Raina positioned herself in front of Kia and looked the girl in the eyes. “I think I know what’s wrong with her. And, I think I know just the person to fix it.”

“The High Druid?” Kalyn asked in a hushed tone.

Raina peered at Kalyn and grinned. “Well, normally, yes, but I know someone better.”

Seth cocked an eyebrow at the druid girl. “Better than the High Druid?”

This I gotta see…

Raina turned on her heel and marched toward a nearby rope bridge. “You said it, not me! Just don’t tell the High Druid I said that.”

“Who in the blazes is better than the High Druid?” Kalyn asked, sounding completely mystified as she pulled Kia along in pursuit of Raina.

As Seth fell into step behind Kalyn and her sister, an interesting thought crossing his mind. It was something he had suspected for a couple of days now. “It wouldn’t be Fran, would it?”

Raina let out a soft giggle. “Seth, remind me to give you a piece of cake. You earned it.”

A wide grin spread across the halfling’s lips. “I’ll never turn down cake!”

“What?” Kalyn exclaimed, sounding even confused than before. “I know Fran is good at a lot of stuff, ‘specially at being strange, but better than the High Druid? Isn’t that stretching it?”

“Oh, you’ll see.” Raina said with a mysterious lilt to her voice. “Besides, Fran isn’t busy at the moment. Well… not real busy, anyway.”

The small party went silent as Raina led them across the bridge to another tree. This second tree was encircled with a walkway that had multiple bridges connected to it.

Seth gazed at the forest floor below as they followed Raina around the wide trunk. The lights from a few dwellings shone up at them, running in a fairly straight line. One of the buildings appeared larger than the rest—an inn, perhaps. Seth imagined it was the one they stayed at the last time they were in Bendenwood.

The halfling let out a short sigh. That seemed liked ages ago. It was back when he, Aksel, and Glo had first set out from Tarsmoor on the caravan headed east to Ravenford. The three of them had noted the lights in the trees above them that eve, but were told the upper town was strictly off limits to outsiders.

Kalyn mirrored his thoughts as Raina led them across another bridge. “I ain’t never been to the upper town before. How come you’ve never brought me here?”

Raina continued without turning her head. “That’s because you haven’t come to Bendenwood in years, Kalyn! I’m the one who’s always going to Deepwood to see you. Besides, the Druids live here in the upper city. Very few people are allowed to come here.”

Raina glanced back over her shoulder and smiled. “You guys have special permission to be here. Fran said so.”

Kalyn seemed taken aback by her statement. She grabbed Raina by the arm and whirled her around, placing her hands on her hips. “Fran said so? Doesn’t the High Druid get a say in this?”

Seth snorted, amused by the whole conversation. This only further confirmed what he had thought all along. Still, he wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to needle Kalyn. “Well yes, but only after Fran says so, obviously.”

Raina let out a high-pitched laugh, then held up two fingers. “Two pieces of cake for Seth!”

“Bonus!” Seth cried, pumping his fist in the air.

Kalyn huffed in exasperation. “What am I missing here? I know Fran is bossy and has a lot of cards up her sleeves, but…”

Seth said nothing, but it was Raina’s turn to be exasperated. She placed her hands on her hips and narrowed her eyes at her friend. “Oh, come on, Kalyn! Think about it!”

“I am! I don’t get it!” Kalyn said through gritted teeth. “What is she? A druid?”

Seth peered up at Kalyn, his mouth twisting into a lopsided smirk. “Ya think?”

Raina rolled her eyes at Kalyn. “You probably know her better than anyone else, and you’ve never guessed?”

Kalyn swept her eyes from Seth to Raina, her face turning a bright shade of red. “Why would I need to guess? She’s never said she was a druid, she doesn’t live here in druid-ville, she doesn’t act like a snooty, goody-two-shoes druid – no offense – and I ain’t never seen her do any druidy things, aside from eat mushrooms. Besides that, she’s blind. Don’t magicky people, druids included, need to see to cast spells?”

Kalyn’s tantrum was interrupted by a familiar voice. “There are more ways a-seein’ than with yer eyes, child. Ya knows that.”

Everyone looked up as Fran came into view from around the tree, leaning on the arm of a thin old man. The butt of her staff tapped against the wooden catwalk gently as they approached. “There’s more ta the world than what we can see. Fer land’s sake, the stuff we can’t see is what holds this world from fallin’ ta pieces and make tha magics work.”

The old man raised a hand, waving it around for emphasis. “It surrounds us and binds us! You must feel it around you…”

He groaned and buckled over as Fran jammed her staff into his gut. “Shut up, Qualar. That weren’t what I was talkin’ about.”

The old man frowned. “Now, listen here, ya cantankerous ol’ woman! You is always interuptin’ my speech ‘bout…”

He jumped slightly as Fran cracked the end of her staff on the catwalk beneath them. “Yer jabber about the forces that surround us is as washed-up and old as you is, and nerbody here cares ‘bout it. So shut yer pie hole.”

As Fran spoke, Qualar held his free hand up in the air and pretended like it was mouthing her words. If Fran had any indication he was doing so, she chose to ignore him, instead addressing the others. “Na-then. Aside from tha idea that I’m a goody-two-shoes druid, what’s got my Kalyn’s feather’s all ruff…”

Fran abruptly halted, her mouth hanging open and her eyes squinting in concentration. “No… is that… yer lil sista?”

Kalyn looked twice at Fran, her mouth falling open. Her eyes shifted toward Raina, then down to Seth.

Seth was not surprised in the least that the old druid sensed the presence of Kalyn’s sister. He folded his arms over his chest and stared back up at Kalyn with a thin smirk. “Told ya.”

Kalyn appeared as if she were about to reply, but then stopped herself and shook her head. With a roll of her eyes, she grabbed her sister by the shoulders and stepped forward. “Yeah. I found Kia.”

Fran’s eyes narrowed even more, her brow furrowing. “And something’s not right ‘bout her, is there?”

Again, Kalyn glanced down at Seth, but the halfling chose to merely smirk back at her this time. Kalyn let out a short sigh, then looked back at Fran. “You’re full of surprises today. You know, you could make money at this. Next time the carnival is in town, I’m taking you.”

Fran snorted, a smile turning up her lips. “Wouldn’t be tha first time I played soothsayer at a carny. ‘Cept, that blonde always took the fun out of it. All I got was the girls wonderin’ when they’s gonna get married, while ol’ purple eyes got all the boys.”

Seth’s eyebrow shot up. He cast a sidelong glance at the old blind druid. Purple eyes? Now that’s interesting. I wonder what the odds are of another blonde soothsayer running around with those color eyes?

Raina cleared her throat, drawing everyone’s attention to her. “Back to the point, I think her mind has been enslaved in some way by magic.”

“She was a slave at Serpent’s Hollow, which we’ve got a mess of information on, by the way.” Seth swiftly added.

Fran immediately straightened her posture. “I knows what needs ta be done. Foller me. To the High Druid’s study! ”

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