Under A Sea of Stars
                   - Dakota Frank
Chapter 1
Shillin,
The Second Day of Lavian,
2968 Common Reckoning,
Dusk

Áráná Télánrï, like most of the Dróïáë in the expedition sat alone while eating her supper. She stayed within sight of the
camp, yet out of earshot content to listen to her own thoughts. Áráná knew once she had left Qüálinárï, she would never
again live within the gates of the city. Until they reached their destination, Áráná was without a home. It was a difficult
change to accept and Áráná was grateful for the chance to contemplate her future in private.
I have grown too complacent! I
must embrace this journey. It is the life I had truly chosen, I never meant to be rooted so long in one place.
Leaving Qüálinárï
had been painful, yet it gave Áráná the chance to do more than she had for so long as the Guardian of the city.

I must cease to be the great oak and become a leaf in the wind. Yet, the wind can be cold and violent and I know not where
it shall take me. I can only pray that I shall come to rest in paradise. Yet, I do not know if that paradise will accept me. It
matters not, I am here and what is done is done. What wonders will I see in the untouched wilds of the jungle? What dangers
lurk in that green labyrinth?

A figure obscured by the light of the campfire slowly made its way toward Áráná, forcing her to set aside her thoughts and
her supper. As the figure approached, Áráná saw a young girl dressed in the white robe and emerald cape of a Novice in the
Order of Kïrïél. Her silver eyes, framed by long onyx hair that ran past her shoulders, glowed in the fading daylight. The girl’
s skin was pale reminding Áráná of an apparition. The novice seemed to float rather than walk toward Áráná, amplifying the
slight tingle that ran up Áráná’s spine. Silently the novice approached Áráná and knelt before her.

The novice spoke softly when she had settled herself, “Lady Áráná, I give my blessings to thee this night. Forgive me for
disturbing thy supper, My Lady, I was asked by my mentor to speak with thee.” The girl’s downcast eyes showed
meekness, while her voice had a note of untold power that intrigued Áráná.

Áráná gestured toward her, “I welcome the chance to speak with a Novice of the Order of Kïrïél. You may rise, your
reverences have been paid. Come and join me, I am curious to hear why your mentors have sent you.”

The novice ascended to her feet like the rising of the sun, she sat across from Áráná and wasted no time in getting to the
point. “My name is Drëá Órïá, I was chosen to speak on behalf of the entire order of a somewhat delicate matter.”

Drëá paused for a moment, picking her words carefully. “As I am sure you are aware, there is to be an eclipse this night.
Sërágáïd Lüní, the emerald moon, shall pass before Áïmëtïs Lüní, the amethyst moon. It is known that an eclipse of these
moons brings certain blessings upon those who wield natural magic. My Lady, eclipses are also considered sacred to our
Order. We know that Dróïáë are not priests and priestesses, yet it is known that you are a spiritual people and you also mark
such events. It was with this in mind the Order of Kïrïél wished to invite the Dróïáë to join us in our ritual.”

Áráná understood more about the mysterious novice as the girl spoke to her. She admired Drëá for her directness and for the
way she carried herself.
Dark Angel, she is aptly named. This girl shall become a very powerful priestess I think. Perhaps
she would have been a strong Dróïá, all things considered. Yet, I see that she still has much to learn
. Áráná smiled sweetly,
giving Drëá a gentle lesson. “It is said that we are priests and priestesses in a way. We simply see to the needs of the spirits
of nature, while your order sees to the needs of the spirits of men. Our power is divine just as yours is, the difference is that
it comes from Tárïnár itself, rather than the gods. We worship the gods as you do, my own family are worshippers of
Xatuan, the King of the Gods.”

Áráná’s expression darkened slightly, what the girl asked was indeed a delicate matter. Áráná chose her words very carefully.
“We are also a very private people, Lady Drëá. I cannot say for certain if such a merger would be welcome by my clan. I
must speak with the others before giving you my answer. If there is not to be a merging of our celebrations, each group
would still be allowed to mark the occasion in their own way. There is no danger, thus, there is no need to remain together at
all times.”

Drëá rose to her feet, her motions causing the tingle to return to Áráná’s spine. Áráná tried to remain serene as she came to
her feet to bid a proper farewell to the novice. She abruptly realized tingling in her spine was not from fear, instead it came
from the power of Drëá’s spirit. To Áráná it was as present as the wind through the forest and as warm as the summer sun.
Not all that is dark is evil, I must remember that. Thank you sweet Kïrïél for reminding me of this truth. May I be forgiven
for my mis-judgement of this radiant soul
. “Drëá, I wish to speak with you again. You have a beautiful spirit, I can feel it in
my very bones. I see its light reflecting in your eyes. I would be honored to learn more about you, if you wished it so.”
    
Drëá’s breath caught in her throat, for the first time Áráná could see mortality within the serene exterior of the novice and it
warmed her heart. The awe in the girl’s voice was unmistakable. “I would be honored, My Lady. I confess that I desire to
learn more about the Dróïáë. There was a time I nearly chose that path. Yet, I saw that I could serve Kïrïél by seeing to the
needs of the spirits of men more than the needs of the spirits of nature as you say.” Drëá’s voice trailed off, as if she were
reliving a distant memory. Áráná was curious to know what that memory could have been, yet she did not press the girl.
Time was growing short and Áráná needed to speak with her people before the eclipse began. “Thank you Novice Drëá for
speaking with me, the Order shall have an answer very shortly.”
    
Drëá regained her composure and sank to a knee with the grace she had shown when she first approached Áráná. “Áráná
Télánrï of the Clan of the Flame Spiders, I shall consider our meeting a wondrous blessing and remember thy name in my
prayers. May Kïrïél’s love protect thee all the days of thy life and may her wisdom be with thee always.” When the oath was
given she blessed herself. Tracing the sacred triangle which was the symbol of the Queen of the Gods upon her person.
I
appreciate her reverence to me, yet I hope our next meeting will not be so formal
.
    
Áráná placed her hand over her heart, “You honor me Drëá, may the hand of Kïrïél guide you in all things.” Drëá bowed her
head before coming to her feet and returning to the fire pit to speak with her mentors. Meanwhile, Áráná pulled the hood of
her cloak over her head to obscure her face. Áráná revealed the sigil she wore around her neck as she walked silently through
the camp and it began to glow bright red. It was a signal to the other Dróïáë that she wished to meet with them. When she
was satisfied the others were aware of her summons, she extinguished its light and made her way back to the wagons a fair
distance from the camp.

Soon the others came, each wearing the sigil of their clan to show they were all Dróïáë. They arrived slowly at first, yet it
was not long until they had all joined the meeting. Each Dróïá was dressed in a simple black cloak with their hoods pulled
over their heads to obscure their faces. When the circle was formed, the Clan of the Flame Spiders joined hands with one
another and Áráná gave an invocation in the language of the Dróïáë. “In harmony we stand under the sea of stars, the light of
those who came before us. May we keep forever the lessons of our clan’s namesake, letting nature guide our hand. As the
Flame Spider grants us its blessings, so must we give back by peaceful deliberation and skillful implementation of our power.”

With the invocation given, the amulets worn by each member of the clan began to glow like fire. Áráná was the one to speak
first since it was she who called for the meeting. The glow on her amulet changed from red to blue. She stepped forward,
pulling the hood of her cloak down to reveal her face. “I have spoken to a Novice in the Order of Kïrïél. She informed me her
mentors have requested that tonight’s observance of the eclipse be a joint one. I told her that we would consider it and give
them our answer, I ask for your thoughts in this matter.” Áráná pulled her hood back over her head and stepped back to wait
for a response from the clan, her amulet retuning to its red glow.

Sïórás Lëvï, a man with deep brown eyes and long black hair bound by a leather cord stepped forth. “My Lady, I have
always had an affinity with the Order of Kïrïél since my mother was a priestess in the Order. Yet, I must point out we have
not given ourselves the chance to bid farewell to the forest of Rüvánó, which has been our home since the clan was founded.
I respectfully submit that such an occasion must be kept private. I must point out that the impending eclipse would be a great
boon to our kind. I strongly believe we must take advantage of this opportunity. The energy raised from the eclipse would
grant us a distinct benefit for our quest. It is my belief we should respectfully decline the invitation from the Order of Kïrïél.”

Sïórás stepped back and pulled his hood over his head, giving others a chance to share their thoughts. Sïrhá Gëäth, a tall
slender woman with long brown hair and deep blue eyes stepped forward and removed her hood. “Brothers and sisters,
tonight all across our world Dróïáë from all clans will be observing this eclipse. For some it means more than others, for it is
not the triple eclipse. It is merely the Sërágáïd Lüní, the emerald moon, passing between our world and the amethyst moon.
Yet, this event is just as sacred to the Dróïáë as the three full moons are to the Order of Kïrïél. I echo my clan member's
feelings. We must bid farewell to our home, so that our spirits may find peace with our leaving it. Our souls are connected to
this place. We must acknowledge that and allow ourselves the chance to properly disconnect from the forest.” Sïrhá stepped
back into her place, allowing anyone else who wished to speak to enter the center of the circle and be heard.

When no one stepped forward, Áráná spoke to the gathering while remaining at her place in the circle. “If there are no more
of you who wish to speak, then I shall call a vote.” When No one else stepped forward, the vote was called. “Brothers and
sisters, through peaceful deliberations it was suggested we respectfully decline the invitation from the Order of Kïrïél. What is
the will of the clan?”

One by one each of the amulets worn by the clan changed from red to blue, signifying agreement with the proposal. Áráná
was the last to vote and with the changing of her amulet from red to blue, the clan’s decision was unanimous. “The vote is
cast and the decision made. If there is nothing more for the clan to discuss, then I shall conclude this meeting.” The light
from each amulet vanished, a sign that the clan was ready for the meeting to end. Áráná broke the silence when the last
amulet’s magic faded. “We gathered here to speak of the decision to respectfully decline an invitation by the Order of Kïrïél.
Much energy was raised and more shall be before this night is ended. Let us now give the energy we have raised back to the
spirits of our home.” The clan joined hands once-more and Áráná gave the invocation to end the meeting. “Spirits of the
Forest of Rüváló, we came in trust and love, for our clan and for our world. We leave with gratitude for peaceful deliberation
and hope that the fruits of our meeting bring only goodness, for our clan and our world. May those who have come before
us be ever present and may the spirits of the forest protect us until the time comes when we must take our leave from this
realm. As one the Clan of the Flame Spiders now releases the energy we have raised during our meeting.”

Áráná could feel the power that had been raised as the clan deliberated. It flowed through the circle, traveled slowly from the
top of her head through her feet and left her body, returning to the forest from where it had come. After the invocation was
given, Áráná spoke to the gathering one last time. “We shall meet again in the clearing to the South when the eclipse is near
its beginning. There we shall bid farewell to the forest of Rüvánó.” The Clan of the Flame Spiders vanished into the night like
shadows, leaving Áráná to the task of informing the Order of Kïrïél of the clan’s decision.

Áráná started for the fire pit where she had seen members of the Order gathered to give lessons to the youngest of them.
Many thoughts flew through her mind as she walked. Although Áráná had been the Guardian of the Holy City of Qüálinárï for
most of her life and led the expedition to the Southern Jungle for a full day, it was the first time she had ever called for or
even led a meeting of her clan. Áráná was grateful the meeting was short and there was no dissension between her clan
members. Sadly, Áráná feared future meetings would not be as easy. After all, their mission was to begin a new city in a
foreign environment.
We may have disagreements, yet our bonds with one another must remain strong or we shall all perish.

Not only would the Dróïáë be concerned with the building process of a new city, there would be new forms of life with
which they and the people under their charge would need to live in harmony with if they were to survive. One last thought
echoed through Áráná’s mind before she caught sight of a high priestess. The road is dark, yet if the gods are willing perhaps
I shall one day see the path that has been laid before me. Áráná breathed in the sweet air of the forest allowing it to calm her
before approaching.

As Áráná came closer she saw the high priestess was sitting in the middle of a semi circle made up of white robed initiates,
expertly holding their attention in the palm of her hand. Kneeling behind them in prayerful repose, were the novices that
oversaw each of the initiates. The high priestess spotted Áráná as she came into the firelight, quickly finished her lesson for
the initiates and stood. “Children of the order, rise and greet Lady Áráná Télánrï. She is a Dróïá from the Clan of the Flame
Spiders. Their clan is named for the creatures who provide the thread we use to create the capes and robes our Order wears.
Lady Áráná was the guardian of the Holy City of Qüálinárï before our beloved Queen gave her the honor of leading this
expedition.”

Áráná’s face became flush and she grew self-conscious, she was used to living and working alone for most of her life. Being
thrust into the center of attention even in a small setting was disconcerting. Áráná relaxed, letting the feeling that came over
her pass like a ripple across a clear pond. Áráná watched as the initiates stood and turned to face her. The novices behind
them lowered their hands to their sides and came to their feet in a slow and ritualistic manner. They turned to face each other
and stepped back, allowing the initiates to come forward and form a semi circle around Áráná. The novices then turned to
stand behind each of their initiates who slowly descended to one knee before her, reminding Áráná of snowflakes falling to
the ground. A beat later the novices descended to a knee in perfect unison. Áráná stood fascinated by the display, even
though she had seen its like countless times before. She found herself wondering just how long it took for them to perfect
such rituals in perfect synchronization as they had just done. Their dedication and the reverences they paid her were truly
remarkable.
Surely Kïrïél shall bless our journey with such beautiful souls serving as her voice within this world. I can only
hope their faith can carry them through the dangers of the wilderness. I pray the children of the order shall be protected
.

Áráná smiled as she recognized Drëá Órïá the novice she had met earlier among them. Drëá, representing the children of the
Order, addressed Áráná. “Blessings to thee Lady Áráná Télánrï of the Clan of the Flame Spiders. We give thanks for the
blessings that your namesake provide us and for the work thy clan has done to make it so. May the hand of Kïrïél guide your
heart this day and always.”

Áráná smiled despite her discomfort and bowed gracefully with her hand over her heart. She reached out to them with her
other hand as she replied, “You have honored me with your reverences and your words. The Order of Kïrïél is like a beacon
in a storm and the children of the Order are its light.”

The high priestess stepped forward, “Children of the order, I must speak with Lady Áráná. Go now to the place where we
shall view the eclipse. Spend these last hours before it begins in meditation and prayer. You will find your sisters waiting for
you there.” The initiates were first to their feet, they walked past their mentors and genuflected one by one to the high
priestess who gave them each a blessing. The novices quickly followed and received blessings of their own before falling into
step with the initiates. Áráná watched them as they walked out of site, marveling at their precision.
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