Seeker. Seeker. Listen. All she sees is darkness, but she listens to this disembodied voice as commanded. They are not lost. They are not defeated. And They are returning. They. Who's They? Mesym is in danger. Some part of her realizes this is a dream, but the rest of her unconscious is enraptured by this mysterious void. It draws her in, invites her. The voice itself is feminine, but not dainty; instead, it is deep, solemn, booming as though the speaker were sitting in an empty church. It's familiar, and yet unrecognizable. You must protect it. She's confused, now. The dreamland suddenly is shattered, and the heavy weight of gravity settles against her chest. Winds whip against her face, cold and violent, and yet she still feels the burn of flames on her heels, heat pressing against her backside as though she lay inside the hearth. Her head pounds, her blood races, her heart hammers against her chest. She can't breathe. I must protect it. I must protect it. You are Strigine. It is your duty. She opens her eyes, and can make out shadows, and then tall trees, thick pine, the floor coated in needles. Needles that are now in flames, even as snow falls from the reddened sky above. The snow is gray, and melts into the smoke that pollutes the air, choking her. Before her is one tree with a particularly massive trunk, a gaping hole in it's center, just about her height. Inside is a sword, shining brilliant silver against the light of the flames, the dark and misty colored jewels in the hilt glimmering. It, too, speaks to her. Find me. Wield me. The world is enveloped by a snowy white owl, and then it all returns to black. Talindra woke with a start, the hammock she lay in swinging precariously as she jolted upright. Her eyes were blinded; bright light filtered through the colorful fabric of the walls and through the slitted opening, offering little in the way of shade. Over night, the tent had practically become a furnace, though the warmth had little to do with the cold sweat she had awoken in. For a few moments, she simply sat there, blinking the white spots from her vision and calming her racing heart. Then with clammy hands she pushed the mussed hair from her face over her shoulder, and tied it back as her bare feet touched over the woven floor mats and found their way into sandals. Judging by the light outside and the temperature, she had slept through to the afternoon. The other hammocks were empty of occupants. She doubted anybody would say it to her outright, but her absence had likely been noted, and her lack of participation in the preparation of the day's events would only be seen as lazy, crazy dream or not. With that in mind, she dressed quickly, hoping the rigors of her morning routine would shake her from the lingering feeling of dread that coursed through her veins like a poison. She wanted to believe that it had all been a dream, just a dream, but she had never experienced anything like it before. But, she could put it from her mind, at least until the end of the festival, and then she could ask some of the others for their thoughts before she decided to act on premonitions. She was already late: nobody would thank her for interrupting with her babble of nightmares. It was the twenty first year of Mesym's thirteenth era, an unnervingly ominous number. Even better, it was the sixth day of the year proper: there were twenty one Ancient gods, and are six in the Pantheon... and there exist Thirteen Makers. Though, not many believed in the true existence of the latter. For most, thirteen was simply a numerical symbol of unlucky circumstances. But for Tali and her people, thirteen meant so much more. This day had been long awaited. It had been decided years ago that they would hold the festival on this day, to be coupled with the arrival of the blue moon and the Communion. So many of her people had longed to live to this day, to see the Communion in it's glory. For it was on this day that they would meet with the Makers, and would finally receive validation for their fervent beliefs and reward for their devotion and labor. Tali's people, the Alrumite, were the only on Mesym who truly believed in the Makers. The Ancients had been long since defeated, but their creators still existed, biding their time and watching the world with a keen eye. All they ever desired was that the world was cared and loved for, and all they've ever seen is its abuse. The Alrumite believed that should Mesym ever come to a certain point of disrepair, the Makers would sweep down from their celestial homes and punish man and elves both as equals for the abuse on the land, and would wipe out both races so that the earth could recover and flourish once more. This festival was their final attempt at proving their dedication, and at swaying the people of the world to their cause. If they could just spread their message a little bit further, perhaps the Makers would be pleased, and their first meeting would go pleasantly. They feared how the Makers would react otherwise. Regardless, it meant that the day's proceedings must go well--exceptionally--at all costs. She dressed quickly in the yellow blouse and pants laid out across her dressing chest, and emerged from the tent into the daylight. The sun beat down unwaveringly, the heat almost visible in the air. What a day, she thought, for a populated festival. Will anybody even come in with such high temperatures? They had set up camp right outside of Namasar, a large city in the outskirts of Brundanya, and had spent the year spreading the word of the event. Free food. Fireworks. Games, dancing, music. Everything that allured the common people to a party. Except, of course, the suppressing heat. It seemed, though, that people hadn't been deterred. Their residence tents had been set up a fair distance from the festival itself, but even from there she could see the crowds, their forms blocking the green grass from view. She could smell food--her stomach growled, reminding her that she hadn't eaten in a day--and hear the raucous noise of gatherings and the melodious music. A band of nymphs had come from the nearby river to play, their sweet voices blending into their harps and flutes in the closest display of perfection she'd ever seen. The color of the tents and flags popped against the blue sky. She had best get working. Mere hours stood between this festival, and the supposed end of the world.