Come sit down by the fire son, and let me tell you a tale. It is of the first journey of Bregon king of Avalon. Bregon; the bright sun of our ancient land, wild stallion of the western plains, none could tame him as a youth and as he grew into a man his stature and spirit grew in step with his wisdom.
But amongst all the women of Avalon he could not find himself a wife, for his heart raged in him like a wildfire and he could not settle for anyone born in those peaceful lands. He was forever walking the edges of his kingdom searching desperately for someone with whom he could share his love for he did indeed love with great passion even though he had nothing to love. I am not talking about physical love of course for that is merely the ultimate expression of pure love of the heart and the soul. So troubled by his wanderings were the people of Avalon that they feared he must have fallen under some malady or a dark spell. So they send his brother Pellean as an embassy to the king begging him to return to his throne.
So it was that the two brothers met beneath the ancient oak that resides at the heart of the old forest. However, despite all Pellean’s persuasive words Bregon refused to return until his heart had found peace. For he said, “How can man love his people if his heart is forever consumed by the loneliness of separation. And even more how can a child grow to maturity if he has only a father and no mother. So it is for the kingdom with no queen.” With these words he handed his crown and rod of kingship to his brother and bade him return to the halls of Avalon to take up a stewardship until his return or news of his death. Then Bregon left the kingdom with nothing in his hands to find himself a wife.
So Bregon walked through the mists of the dawn and the twilight at evening, braving both the cold wind of the mountains and the festering marshes of the downs. Three times the sun rose in the sky and set again in the evening before he saw another living soul and when he did on the morning of the fourth day he was surprised to see an old man bent and withered with hair like a cloak of moss and a twiggy bird’s nest of a beard. He was supported by a staff cut from a wood of the purest white and he looked upon Bregon from under bushy eyebrows with eyes of the sharpest green.
He called to Bregon from the distance. “Will you give a weary traveller some rest or will you leave him by the roadside?”
“I am but a traveller myself.” Bregon said “But what I have you are welcome to share with me.”
The stranger approached Bregon and sat down on a wide stone. Bregon sat next to him and gave him food from his own pack and water from his flask. As they ate together, the wild man plied Bregon with many questions about his past and his quest. So Bregon bagan to tell him of his search for a bride and the emptiness he felt inside because of his loneliness. When he had finished speaking the stranger rose and pointed back the way he had come.
“They say that king Mark of Lonway has a daughter of astounding beauty and free spirit. If you want a bride then that should be your destination, but be warned the road will be dangerous and the prize uncertain as the wind for king mark is protective of his daughter and she has not been known to accept the advances of anyone who has yet courted her.”
Bregon thanked the stranger for his advice and for his company. “But come now friend will you not tell me your name for two men who have shared a meal together should not part as strangers to one another.”
But even as he the words left his lips he realised that the stranger had gone leaving nothing behind save his staff. Bregon called after him but either he was long gone into the mists or he had never been there at all. Bregon took the staff, thinking to himself; “I will keep it safe in the hope that I will meet him again before my journey is done.”
So he left that place and headed down the path he had been shown. As he walked he was greatly troubled for although he found the going much easier now he feared that he had been tricked and was even now heading towards his doom.
“Still,” he reasoned “I have hardly a better alternative since I know not the destination of my journey any more than I knew when I set out.”
So he walked on and at length he came to a forest that towered above him like an insurmountable wall. Around the roots of the great trees there hung a white fog that swirled and dance like the waves on the sea. Through the leafy canopy above no light could pierce shrouding the ground in shadow. At the sight of this Bregon’s resolve shuddered but he steeled himself for his road lay through this darkness. The further he walked into the trees the smaller the light of day behind him became. Soon he walked alone in darkness under the cover of the trees. In fact he would have become utterly lost in the twisting paths if not for the staff that he had taken from the stranger. It shown with its own light granting him vision and it alone seemed to point the true way to go. So Bregon followed the light ever deeper into the wood.
Before long Bregon noticed that another light was growing, pale at first but growing as if the dawn was but a short time away and was just waiting for the sun to rise.
“Maybe I am coming to the other side of the forest.” Bregon said to himself.
But it soon became clear that it was not so. For the trees still stretched as far as the eye could see in every direction and the light seemed to only to hang around a small area of ground. Nevertheless as Bregon searched for the light it grew in intensity. Finally he saw the source of the light. One tree stood apart from the rest and it rose up in a twisting lattice of pale wood and leaves of silver that shone with a blue light bright and clear in a way that reminded Bregon of the clear sea on a sun drenched day. Around the foot of the tree a company of dancers whirled and sang, throwing their bodies in ways that Bregon would not have believed possible. Each dancer was unsurpassed in beauty and he felt drawn towards them. Now one of the dancers came over to him. Her hair was the colour of moonbeams and her face was smooth and pale, as if loving sculpted from marble. She tossed her hair and Bregon caught the scent of sweet flowers. When she spoke her voice was soft and high more akin to the trickle of a bright stream than the coarse talk of men.
“Will you not come and dance with me my lord?” She said spinning in a curtsy so that her garments flowed over her body in a wave of green silk. Bregon hardly remembered the warning of the old man before he entered the forest. Nevertheless he hesitated before accepting the invitation, he feared that he would fall and ruin the perfection of their dance and so instead of speaking he fell to his knees. With a crash of pain the spell laid on his senses was broken. Looking around the clearing he saw a great number of men lying at their ease on the ground. They seemed contented and happy but Bregon saw that their eyes were empty and dead. Fear gripped his heart for he knew if he had accepted the invitation he would now be lying with these men robbed of all life force.
The sylph repeated her question. “Will you not dance?”
Bregon looked up and there was a light in his eyes that made her step away from him.
“I am on my way to see king Mark of Lonway” he said “I was warned that the road would be perilous but now I see that not all danger comes with an open hand. Some would seek to confuse the senses and give a false feeling of security whilst they rob a man of his soul. I will not dance”
With those words he turned his back on the sylphs and walked back into the forest. The one who had spoken to him gave a great cry of anger and raised her fist striking Bregon him in the back with a powerful magic. Bregon staggered wounded sorely, nearly to the point of death, but he raised his head and continued walking. The Sylphs looked on in amazement for never had any man resisted both their charms and their anger. But Bregon carried the white staff and it became clear to him that he had been intended to carry it as a guide and protector on his journey. He walked on intending to leave the sylphs far behind him. But one of them followed him for she unlike her sisters had taken pity on this man and she wished to aid him on his journey. Her name was Auleria, and though it was said she was the least of the sylphs she had by far the greatest heart. Shrouding herself in a mantle of darkest green she followed Bregon until he collapsed by the river that is called Naya meaning life. There she knelt beside him and taking her cloak she gathered a measure of the water and poured it over Bregon’s body. Instantly his wounds were healed and he slept soundly. Then she took the ring from her finger and placed it in his right hand to act as award against the evil things that dwell in the dark places of the world. Finally she kissed his forehead and said “wake o sleeper from the darkness of death. Wake into morning’s light.”
With that she left him so that all he saw as he woke was a flash of green and the silver hem of her dress. He knew not who it was that had saved him but he resolved never again to fall into the snares of a beautiful woman who holds evil in her heart. When he saw the ring in his hand he was amazed for it was a finely wrought thing, mad out of two entwined pieces of silver and set with one single shard of clear blue. To look at it was like looking through water into a whole other world. H e placed it on his hand beside the royal ring that marked his heritage and began to walk again following precisely the path lit by the staff. He had strayed once and he was not about to stray again from the path before him.
He walked in this way for what seemed like a life age. Without the sun he could not tell day from night and had no way to measure the passage of the days. On every side of him eyes watched from the shadows of the forest. Beast of every kind watched him, waiting for a moment of weakness when they could attack him. But Auleria’s wards held strong about him for the sylph had twice blessed him. With the ring and with her kiss for no beast in the forest would dare oppose a sylph since they are the rulers of that realm and they hold everything that makes its dwelling under the trees under their dominion. So Bregon passed on safely and finally he came to the edge of the forest.
As he emerged he was nearly blinded by the light even though it was but the light of day when the sun is hidden behind the clouds. Even though, after so long in the darkness everything blazed with white light and it hurt Bregon’s eyes just to look at it. He found himself standing on the top of a cliff looking over a landscape of rolling hills and meadows dotted with copses of trees and winding rivers. Here and there were signs of human life; the odd collection of houses or a lone farmstead. In the distance he could see the high spires of a castle, the vastness of which put the towers of Avalon to shame. It seemed to Bregon that two paths could lead him to this far castle. One led straight through the pleasant land and was by far the shorter of the two roads. He perceived that if he took this road he might be in Lonway within two days. The other road wound away from the plains and into the high mountains It was not well marked and at times seemed to cease being a road all together. He could not see the destination of this road and he had no surety of it even reaching Lonway. But many thoughts rang in his ears now. The old man had warned of many danger’s and he had only encountered a very few so far, what is more he was wary of anything that appeared harmless after his experience with the sylphs and he was drawn towards the adventure of the harder path. Finally the staff in his hands seemed to point the way even though the light that had guided him through the forest was no longer visible under the light of day.
So he made his choice and began his decent down the cliff. It was hard going and many times he cut his hands and feet on the sharp rocks beneath him. Then he lost his grip and he fell only a short distance as he was already close to the bottom but he slid amongst the broken shards of rock at as he landed and was bruised and cut all over his body. He lifted the staff from his pack and limping because of his wounds he continued his long walk. He was bone tired now for he had been travelling many days and his food was long since consumed and he only had a little water. So he looked for a place to rest and as he walked, but either side of the road there was little shelter to be found. Now evening drew near and a biting wind picked up out of the mountains which froze bregon as he struggled along his way. As the sky darkened around Bregon he began to despair of ever finding sleep. He could hear the howl of wolves and much larger beasts over the wind of the mountains and his heart trembled within him. But Bregon walked on for he could not easily turn back and to stop meant freezing to death during the cold of night. Finally he found a craggy hole in the side of the mountain that provided some shelter from the wind at least. He curled up under his cloak in the mouth of the cave and fell asleep clutching the staff close to his chest. It was lucky for him that he shrouded himself in the shadows of the cave and his cloak for the owner of the cave soon returned and slept himself. It was the great wolf of the Snow Mountains. He was called Morlond but amongst the humans he was known as the red eyed one because his eyes glowed with a red battle hunger. As Morland entered he did not notice Bregon curled up in the corner of his cave, but he smelt blood which sent him into a towering rage and he dreamed of death and slaughter before the night. But he was also a cunning wolf and he planned to find who it was that dared to sleep in his cave before he ate them.
It was late morning by the time Bregon woke, and the sight that met him was that of a snarling face and blood red eyes. Bregon felt fear right down the core of his body for he thought “Certainly this beast will try and eat me and I have no sword to defend myself with.”
Morland now spoke for he had been gifted with the ability to communicate in the human tongue “Tell me your name human for I would know the name of a man who has the audacity to sleep under my nose reeking of blood.”
Bregon drew himself up to his full height which was not inconsiderable and at that moment the sun broke from behind the clouds to shine down into the mouth of the cave so that to Morland he became a dark silhouette and grew grim and dangerous.
“I am Bregon son of Bregar and king of Avalon. I sleep in your cave for it was that or death in the cold outside.” As he spoke these words he lifted the staff for he had decided that it was his best weapon in place of a sword.
When Morland saw the staff he fell back growling for he could see its power much more clearly than others could and he knew he could never kill Bregon whilst he carried it. However hunger gnawed at his belly so he thought of a plan to try and get Bregon to let go of the staff.
“If you give me that staff.” He said “I will let you go and will not trouble you any further.”
But now Bregon understood Morland’s purpose and clutched the staff even more powerfully than before. “This I would not give up for all the riches in the world for it is my guide and protection on my quest. But I would give you this ring that my father gave me as a token of kingship; for I see you are great amongst the wolves of this mountain.” Saying this he took of the royal ring engraved with the towers of Avalon and offered it to Morland. This greatly annoyed and pleased Morland in the same instance. He had been denied a meal but he was easily flattered and he found in his violent heart warmth for Bregon who had dared to defy him twice. So he took the ring and accompanied Bregon on the next part of his journey.
Man and wolf journey up into the mountains and there the forged a friendship stronger than iron. For Bregon was the first human ever to treat Morland with anything other than fear or hatred and Morland was a welcome companion to Morland who three times saved his life from harm, once on the treacherous mountain slopes, once when a mountain lion attacked them and for the third time when the came face to face with a mountain troll. On through the mountains they pressed until they came to the maze of Gothbog lord of the goblins. At times it was too narrow for them to pass side by side, so Bregon went ahead lighting the way with the staff and Morland followed closely behind. In this way the passed many long hours in conversation and so it was that Morland learned of Bregon’s quest to marry the king of Lonway’s daughter. He greatly desired to see his friend fulfil his dream and to be a part of it himself for he had heard of the fame of king Mark and saw that Bregon had nothing to make himself appear great, for his travelling clothes had become torn and ragged and had lost their splendour. Indeed the only thing that Bregon had owned to mark him out as a king he had given to Morland. So Morland decided that where other suitor’s might come riding on a horse Bregon should come riding the king of wolves. So he thought. But before he could say this to Bregon they came into the throne room of Gothbog at the centre of the maze. Morland could see the mighty stairs that led up to the surface and his dream was crushed for these stairs were designed for a human and he could not climb them as Bregon could. Still more pressing was the host of Gothbog that now arrayed against them. It was the largest army Bregon had seen arrayed at once nearly one thousand goblins led by their black chieftain. Gothbog was cofident of an easy victory for were not his adversaries only two in number. But he reckoned without Morland. With a wild battle howl he charged the goblins front rang. His jaws snapped three in half with one bite and he ripped another four apart with his claws before they had time to react. The weight of his charge broke the line and he was upon them snapping and growling he tore through the goblins scattering them left and right, being a cowardly breed goblins are easily terrified and they could not attack him all at once. But Gothbog rallied his army with curses and threats of punishments if they failed to kill the wolf. Now they crowed round him on all sides and pressed in the attack. Bregon saw this and was filled with concern for his friend. He also saw the halls for the chamber were filled with the blades of Gothbog’s defeated enemies. He was a noble warrior and his hand had not forgotten the blade. He chose one quickly and ran to save Morland. It was too late for the wolf however. Hundreds of biting knives and spears stung him again and again and yet he fought on with a berserker rage. But though a great pile of goblin grew around him and there seemed to be dead than living his strength finally failed him and he fell. The goblins cut of his head and began to skin him. This was the scene when Bregon struck them from behind sword in one hand and staff gleaming bright vengeance in the other. If Morland’s battle cry struck them with terror Bregon’s great cry paralysed them for he seemed to be a very avatar of their doom and none dared approach him. Of the entire host only Gothbog had the will to stand against Bregon his black sword drawn he charged seven times against Bregon and was seven times thrown back with gaping wound rent in his body. On the eighth charge he stumbled and Bregon took his head off with a single stroke of his sword. With their leader dead the other goblins fled into the darkness of their caves and did not come out again for many centuries for they were ever terrified of white warrior who smote down their leader. Bregon however went to Morland and spend long days weeping for his lost friend. He was so stricken with grief and weariness that he passed out of mind and space and dreamed for what seemed like an age. Like a shroud enveloping his body was his dream and he forgot all about King Mark and his daughter. Like a man asleep he stood up a gathered the fur of Morland about his shoulders like a cloak and though it was stained with the blood of battle it was warmth to him. Then with his sword in one hand and the staff in the other he mounted the stairs that lead back to the light of day.
As he walked he now followed the staff’s guidance much more closely for he had learned much of its power in the caves under the ground and he could read much more clearly its purpose. And so it was that feinting with hunger and exhaustion he came upon a mighty castle. Bregon fell in front of the twin gates on his face with arms outstretched. He could no longer move a muscle for his trials had taken away all his strength. This was how the king of Lonway found him for the castle was indeed that of king Mark of Lonway so in a way Morland’s dream came true he did go with Bregon to Lonway only as a cloak not a steed. And the king saw not suitor to his daughter but a warrior tired from his journeying and in need of shelter and aid. So he brought him inside and laid him in the care of his daughter Lorelian.
In this way Bregon came closer to this wild maiden than any of the suitors who had only observed her at a distance. What he spoke in his fever dreams only Lorelian heard and she never spoke of them to a living soul. But as she cared for him she saw something of his noble spirit and also his loneliness for he would oft cry out in anguish and not calm until she was by his side. She found for him a love that she could not have given anyone else for how could any man bearing the scars of a journey such as his be anything but a true warrior of legends. He lay for three weeks asleep and finally the day came when he returned to the land of the waking. Upon hearing this there was great rejoicing in Lonway for they anticipated a great tale of his adventures. Only Mark’s wife Larissa suspected the true cause of his coming but she remained silent for she at last saw someone who Lorelian loved and worthy of that love or not Bregon was greatly endeared to her because of it. For in truth the many suitors had failed not because they were ugly, although some of them were, and not because they were rich, many were wealthy far more that Lonway’s king, but it was because when they had stood and looked over the land towards the tall spires they had chosen the easy road and got to their goal sooner but there they found no success. Bregon alone had braved the longer road and prevailed over it. When the asked Bregon about his adventures he said nothing but instead sat in pensive thought trying in vain to remember what had happened to him before coming to Lonway. As he did this he began to grow to love Lorelian for himself, although he did not realise it he had found the cure to his restless wandering, Lorelian was a free as the air that blows over the mountain peaks and yet softer than the morning dew. When Larissa watched them together she saw how they complemented each other. Lorelian seeing that Bregon never lacked for anything, although he never asked her for service, she gave it freely and Bregon putting his life on the line to protect her from harm; One time as they were riding a band of men attacked them and would have dragged Lorelian from her horse had Bregon not driven them off with nothing more than a stout plank of wood. And still no one, least of all himself knew that he was of royal blood or that he had come in search of a bride. As far as Bregon was concerned he was Lorelian’s protector and he was content to live as such. Things went on like this and they two young lovers sought each others company more and more until finally one particularly proud suitor came to court with his entourage of servants and men at arms. To the king he seemed to be an inevitable choice of husband for his daughter for war was brewing and Lonway was not a kingdom with a vast military strength. To give up his daughter for his people’s safety tore at Mark’s heart but he was convinced that it was the right choice. To Lorelian however this man was a brutal monster, so consumed by his war lust and his lust for her that he became agitated whenever they were in the same room for he could not bear the wait of being away from his beloved battlefield and kept out of his beloved’s bed Dorthan was his name and he had come from Erogan. Bregon saw this and was enraged for he saw how Lorelian hated him and Bregon marvelled that no one else seemed to notice.
One day Dorthan returned from his hunt in the great forest and over his saddle he carried the sylph Auleria her pale skin covered in golden blood where his arrow had pierced her slender ankles. Bregon saw this and went down to meet him. “Why do bring back this treasure from the forest Dorthan. You seek enough treasures to last you a life time here in Lonway and yet you continue to ravage the countryside to satisfy your lust for violence.”
Dorthan was astounded for no man had ever dared to talk to him thus, least of all a man who he considered to be the lowest born of all. In fury he marched into the great hall and demanded that he be given the wolf pelt that Bregon had brought with him. Mark could not very well refuse for Dorthan had enough men and arms to take anything by force that was not given freely. So Morland’s hide was sewn into a great cloak that was presented to Dorthan as a wedding gift for his marriage to Lorelian. But he had reckoned without Bregon for upon seeing Auleria his memories were restored and he now knew the path to saving the kingdom and his loved one. He strode into the hall bearing his staff and sword that were his weapons of choice. Then he called in a mighty voice “Dorthan, son of worms I name you for you despoil what you can and destroy anything else but you have not the heart to built anything anew. I am Bregon king of Avalon and to me you will answer for your crimes.”
Dorthan spun around and was afraid for he knew the name of Avalon well and it was a name renowned for its warriors who are equally able to fight on horse and foot. Mark too was greatly glad for he now saw a duel way out of his predicament, safety in war and marriage to the man that his daughter loved. However Dorthan met the challenge boldly. “If you wish to fight me then let it be formally and without any wizardry or that staff you cling to for your survival.” Bregon agreed and they walked to the palce of combat. Lorelian in secret armed Bregon with a shield and helm covered in the scales of a dragon that Mark had slain once before. She said to him “Another Dragon faces the kingdom now. Slay it for me and nothing will be able to come between us again.” There they kissed and Bregon went forth to meet his enemy.
So it came to be that the two champions met each other in single combat on that day. Bregon wearing the armour of the dragon and Dorthan with a great two handed sword that it was said could cleave in half a castle wall. They circled each other five times before Dorthan leaped into the attack. Dorthan was stronger but Bregen was the lighter and quicker of the two and he spun under Dorthan’s blade and thrust his sword in a killing blow. But Dorthan was wearing the cloak of Morland and the spirit of the great wolf was on him and he spun away from the blow and then with a mighty swing he brought the sword down upon Bregon’s head. With a ring crash sword met scale but not all the strength of Dorthan and Morland combined could break through the hard armour of Bregon’s helm In rage Dorthan attacked again striking the shield square in the centre but it was imbued with unnatural hardness as well due to the dragon scales and Bregon remained unarmed. Then it seemed as if the spirit of Morland sensed who it was fighting and it rebelled against Dorthan stealing him of strength. He staggered and fell to his knees, but even as Bregon brought his blade down for the final blow Dorthan thrust his sword deep into Bregon’s un-armoured chest. Morland seeing his friend wounded to the point of death tightened the cloak around Dorthan’s neck so that he could not breathe and he fell dead ending his brief reign of terror of the kingdom of Lonway. His men saw that he died unnaturally and were too scared to try and avenge him. Lorelian rushed to Bregon’s side and cradled his head in her arms. It was King Mark himself who pulled out the sword, who carried the bold warrior back to his castle and tended to him day and night. It seemed that nothing would save Bregon and Lorelian was stricken with grief. But Auleria came on the fourth day and bade every one leave her with Bregon. Then she opened her wound again and took two drops of her own blood and let them fall into the wound. It is said that the blood of the sylphs is the most magical healing potion that ever existed in these lands and Bregon’s wounds healed instantly taking on the properties of dragon hide. However Auleria suffered the final price, as she faded and died the moment Bregon was healed exchanging one life for another, as she knew would happen for in her heart she had loved Bregon ever since he first escaped her sisters and all she wanted was to be with him. To sacrifice herself to save him was no great injustice for her.
So Bregon married Lorelian and took her back to Avalon where they ruled as King Bregon dragonhelm and Queen Lorelian the free. It was on the way back to Avalon that Bregon met with a beggar man on the road who called out to him “Will you give a weary traveller some rest or will you leave him by the roadside?”
Bregon laughed at this and said in reply. “I have now a wife and many fine gifts to take back to my own country. Some men might offer you some of theses and send you on your way. Others might offer them all knowing that it would be too much for you to carry and you would have to decline. But I have the one thing that I hold most precious to me and I believe is yours anyway. With these words he gave the man the white staff that had been his constant guide. And in that moment he saw not a beggar man but a man ,with mossy hair and sharp green eyes ,who smiled briefly and disappeared into the mists of the world leaving nothing but a name carved into the ground. What that name is I will never tell.