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Artifact Contest: Fury of the Ancient Keepers

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"You are certain of this path?"  The Archdruid's voice filled the cavern, pulling Kreyen's attention away from the small table in front of him and its simple looking contents.  Darannas towered over the sin'dorei, his arms crossed and expression patient.  After six and a half years, the ghost of mistrust lingered in the druid's gaze.  There had been a time, briefly, when Kreyen had thought it would fade.  That opportunity was gone now, and the hunter could not have cared less.  In the cold depths of the barrow den clothed only in a pair of loose fitting shorts, all that mattered was the blackened seed resting on the simple surface before him.

"I wouldn't have volunteered if I wasn't, Archrduid,"  Kreyen said dryly, the impish humor that so often defined him stripped by recent events.

"It will kill you if you prove unworthy.  You know this, child."  Darannas's voice echoed in the sin'dorei's ears, dragging a memory through the fog of his mind and up to the surface of his thoughts.

"It will kill you if you prove unworthy,"  Maera's voice.  The simple leathers the kaldorei so often wore, the warm amber glow of her eyes, and the honeyed perfume she had worn that night still stood clearly in his mind.  Her smile had been as cryptic as ever, but Kreyen hadn't sensed any of the amusement she usually carried when asked about the artifacts they guarded.  There was a serious concern in her focus, a look she reserved for when she was trying not to be patronizing to the younger elf.  "Besides, your bow serves you well already, does it not?"

"The craftsmanship is astounding though,"  he had said, leaning over the weapon's seed to inspect the fine white wood of the weapon and the fine green and gold metal inlay that decorated it.  "Does its maker still live?"

"No..."  She'd pulled him away from the weapon then, stealing her hands around him and pulling the sin'dorei close in a protective embrace.  "He has been dead for ten thousand years, little fox."  The nickname had made him fidget, but only tightened her embrace.  When he calmed, his eyes went to the small metal plaque and read the inscription.

"Xaxas...delar.  That means..."  He'd had to think of the translation, his darnassian had never been anything close to fluent.  "Fury?  The Ancient Keeper's Fury?"  Kreyen's hands had roved over hers, a confused look on his face as he'd looked over his shoulder to her.  "So it was made by Keepers of the Grove?"

"No, Kreyen,"  Maera had said quietly, exhausted patience creeping into her voice.  "The name is the feeling it's crafting drew."  There'd been a long moment of silence as the two stood together,  the druid struggling to put the story to words.  "Xaxas'delar is a satyr creation," she'd finally explained.  "During the War of the Ancients, one of our grove protectors fell.  An Ancient of War."  A sigh had escaped her then, ensuring Kreyen's continued silence.  "The one who struck it down was called Azivas the Molder.  Before the Ancient was allowed to die however, he cut out it's heart.  From the still living wood, he twisted and molded the heart with fel tainted magics. When he was done, he had shaped both it and the Ancient's soul into the weapon you see now."

"The bow was put to use on its former allies mercilessly, long after the war had ended."  There'd been a sorrow in the Maera's voice, something that at the time he'd not fully understood.  "When it was recovered and purified, attempts were made to commune with it, both to make use of its power and see what wisdom still remained.  All that we know remains is the Ancient's rage, and during the bonding process that anger seared the minds of all those who have made an attempt."

"So.  It just takes a strong enough will?"  Kreyen had asked, teasing.

"We do not know, my love.  But you must promise me you will never touch it, or speak with the Archdruid about it.  He would take your offer at the merest chance of salvaging what lies within."  The druid's voice had been almost pleading, her arms squeezing him closer.  "After all, I do not wish to raise our child alone." Kreyen had frozen with shock, left to stammer out his surprise as she giggled at him.

The memory faded.  Kreyen's hands had curled into tight fists at the recollection, his nails almost drawing blood from his palms.  Jaw set, the hunter turned to the Archdruid as frustration clouded his features.  "I know what it does, Archdruid.  It is my choice how I pay my debts, and this should clear my slate if it works, should it not?"

Darannas frowned at the words, never having spoken of the hunter's bond to the circle as a debt.  That was a burden he'd placed on himself after they'd saved him, pulling him from the frozen wastes with a pike sticking clear through his torso.  "You have long ago paid any debt you owe us, Streamsong.  This will neither heal your wounds, nor bring back my daughter."

"I'm well aware."  Kreyen wasn't considering either possibility as he shook his head, closing the short distance between himself and the table with a grim expression.  He cast one glance back at the Archdruid before he picked up what was sure would be his death.  In a moment, it would be over.  There would be no more suffering, no more anger.  He would be free of the memories of those who had left him behind, surviving where they had not.  As he set the tiny object against his arm, he was so certain that he would fail.  The hunter didn't expect how fast the magic would work, or the tendrils that burst from the seed and burrowed into his arm.  He didn't expect the agony as the soul of the Ancient went to work on his mind, pounding an unyielding psyche against the anvil of its fury.

Perhaps though, what Kreyen expected least was to come to his senses hours later. Covered in sweat and curled into a pathetic heap on the cold stone of the cavern's floor, the hunter struggled to register where he even was.  His focus finally noticed that Archdruid Darannas stood above him, the ancient kaldorei's expression unreadable as he held the seed's counterpart.  Vines had grown from the bow's grip to form a sort of hand guard, their lengths snaking over the bow's limbs and covered in small buds.  As the sin'dorei's now dark green gaze found the object and tried to discern what was happening, something strange began to happen.  For the first time in millennia, the bow began to bloom.

Edited by Kreyen
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