The Alder Crown

The Alder Crown

Part 1- Daybreak over Blackwell Sound

When we left with Braugg’s blessing for the windswept rock at the north of Blackwell sound, little did our brotherhood know what our pilgrimage would herald for the good people of the Elder Congregations, or indeed for all of Theleston.

The decision to build our new abbey on North Blackwell isle was one that we came upon after months of deliberation. The remoteness of the place was a prime concern, as all of our needs would have to be provided by our own labors that far from home. At the time, we weren’t even sure that our farms would be able to produce enough! In hindsight this would be the least of our worries, as this narrative will soon relate.


Part 2 – The Storm

It was mid-spring in the 97th year of the New Reckoning when a storm unlike any we had yet experienced tore across the island. Many on the island lost their homes. Our abbey was 23 years finished, so there were halls enough that those who lost their cottages in the deluge could shelter within. Rooms filled quickly, though, and soon enough there were bundles sleeping or weathering the vengeful winds in every corner and hallway.

So fierce was the gale that the few ships in the harbor couldn’t leave, and no-one from without could get near the island. Much later, I heard sailors’ tales about a whirling vortex that spun wide ‘round the whole of the island, but Sister Freja claims that such a thing could not be possible without a great beast swimming ‘round, or some vast chasm opening beneath us, above which our island was perched upon a tall central spire. This she drew for me on a parchment, to illustrate the absurdity of the idea.

The storm blew for three days. Most of our regular seminars were cancelled for the duration, as there were no places to hold them that were not occupied by displaced citizens. The island was thrashed by wind, lightning and salty rain day and night, forcing most of the windows to be not only closed and barred, but stuffed with rags or covered tightly with tapestries. Still, the outer rooms were muggy and humid throughout. I feared for the books, but the library is the center-most chamber of our small abbey, and was not only kept tightly locked up, but was also the one room that was not loaned to the sheltering refugees.

It was while taking a moment with some colleagues in the library that we first broached the subject of metaphysics as pertained to the storm. Brother Milton, a scholar of Eld Nodens, mentioned a poem he had located recently. He related that these lyrics celebrated the triumph of the Elder Gods over a group of Great Old Ones referred to as the Trinity in the Sea.

As it went, Milton explained, a wicked convocation of Haedra-worshiping cultists is described as taking place “‘neath amber moon, on rocky shoal” and their works thus culminated in a three-day storm. Further, the monk reported excitedly, if his theories were accurate, the poem contained hints as to the proper date and time for such a ritual, and that the night when the stars had been correct had been only two days past.

Our companion was manic with his ideas, and began shuffling through this manuscript and that, jotting details and phrases. As he worked he took on a fevered aspect, his excitement reaching new crescendos with each discovery. The storm blew itself out precisely one day after, and as the last window was opened to the clearing sky, he burst from the library, sheaf of papyrus shaking in his hands. Brother Milton was in such a state, we had to put him into the infirmary until he could be calmed enough to speak. Yet by the time he did, the gods had already come and gone.

 

Part 3 – the Willow Grove

In the days after the storm, we monks then moved the refugees into a tent village in the nearby fields, where there had long stood a willow grove. Haggard now from the storm, these trees nonetheless provided a bit of shade and shelter from wind, so we chose to center the camp there. We had scarcely begun on the second row of tents when an acolyte cried out from the center of the grove. We all went to him, and found him kneeling before the great roots of a fallen willow tree. It was clear that this giant had been felled by the winds, blown over and torn from the earth. In the shallow pit left behind, lay a crown of carven wood.

The boy’s countenance had changed; where once we looked upon a face vibrant with youth, it now seemed more drawn, aged perhaps beyond his years. We asked the young man why he had cried out, but his reply was only that “The daughter stood the watch,” then he would speak no more of it. We took him to the infirmary, then, and the crown as well. We picked the latter up on the crook of a staff so as not to run afoul of any more magics. No one yet had a good idea what we would do with the artifact, but it was thought best to lock it in the vault until we learned more.

Imagine our surprise, then, when as we arrived, Brother Milton burst from the abbey door and ran to meet us, shouting, infirmary bedclothes streaming behind.

“The Crown! The Crown! The Crown, the Key!” he sang.

We thought him still most touched, but aside from being out of breath, Milton was bright of eye and clear of mind. He told us that as he had slept he had dreamt of a princess, clad in a gown of alder leaves. She came from the small wood near the coast, and walked to the meadow, and the willow grove. The sun shone on the variegated green of her dress, her brown hair fell loose beneath a crown of carven wood.

He told us that he saw her approach a young willow tree in the center of the grove, and place her crown at its base, before leaving as she had come. The sky turned above him then, and he saw the tree age and grow. As it did, the crown disappeared within it. He said that he woke then, knowing that we were returning, and sure that we had the crown from his dream.

We went into the abbey then, the crown went into the vault, and the acolyte youth to the infirmary, where he did recover some, and eventually went back to service in the abbey. Though he will not speak of the crown, even today.

 

Part 4 – Visitor in the Night

Later that month, Sister Celestianne was staying the night watch in the foyer, when she reported a clamoring of strange voices rising outside the door. She recounted that they had come suddenly, out of the quiet of the small hours, and that though they spoke Terce as she did, their voices were strange. In her own account, she wrote that they rose like night birds, a flock of them, suddenly, night birds and squalling frogs.

To her horror the things without began to thump and press at the door, but the stout oak held, Celestianne was transfixed, and could not ring the bell and call for assistance, such was her fear that the noise would embolden the strange visitors to greater feats. Yet she held her vigil, and the noise was gone with the sunrise, as abruptly gone as it had come. When Sister Celestianne struck then the courage to look outside, she found the flags dripping with seawater, and gouges inches deep upon the door.

 

Part 5 – A Home for the Crown

After Celestianne’s terrified report, it was decided that Brother Milton would be sent with an envoy upon a swift vessel to Tide’s End. From there they rode on to Skypass upon horses, travelling light. A council was held, and Milton was sent on to a cathedral of Nodens far south in Fallshollow.

There again a council was held, and upon hearing the fullness of Brother Milton’s account, an elder priest stepped forward and said that often in the scripture, there appear stories of the daughter of Nodens, Demma, standing against monsters and aberration. It is said, the priest elaborated, that she is in those guises seen as the balance of all things natural to Theleston, an emanation of life and death in harmony with the elements. It was decided that North Blackwell Island be the site of a larger cathedral, dedicated to the protection of the Crown, and when Milton left there, he left with many more companions, pilgrims returning with him in the name of Nodens and Animae to build a safe home for the divine Crown, and to give our island a new name.