A Trespasser in Ivyhame

Author: Zamshiq af-Halazh
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By Zamshiq af-Halazh, Associate Folklorist at the University of Gwylim

The ancient Druids of Galen have always fascinated this humble scholar. Throughout my career I have visited the Systres Archipelago many times, searching out ruins left behind by the first druids of the isles and interviewing their living descendants. For years I have heard rumors of Ivyhame, the throne hall of the ancient druid kings, yet never could I convince any druid to take me there.

Finally, I decided to arrange a visit through other means. I hired a hunter from Vastyr to guide me to the wild northeast coast of Galen. Two days of hiking through warm forests and precipitous hills brought us to the head of a cliff-walled valley leading from the hills down to the sea.

Here my guide halted, refusing to move closer. "I already risked the druids' anger simply by bringing you to this place," he told me. "I'll wait for you here."

Though I am but a scholar, I am not without courage. I set off down the path into the vale of Ivyhame. The druids of old built no castle or palace to serve as their king's home. Instead, the Druid King reigned from this sacred valley, although there have been no kings in Ivyhame for nearly thirty centuries. Still, an air of holiness and hidden power lingers here. It is a cathedral of rock and nature.

I wandered reverently past standing stones covered in glyphs few know how to read and past the crumbling doorways of simple shelters carved into the valley walls. Near the place where the valley drops into the sea, I found a weathered dais before a great stone door in the hill. More markings covered the door. Unable to decipher the symbols, I sat down with my journal and began to sketch them.

I was almost finished when a voice startled me. "Do not do that!"

I leaped to my feet and found a stern, bearded druid in russet robes standing behind me. Ash streaked his clothing, and an ember smoldered brightly at the head of his staff. I had never met a druid of the Firesong Circle, but I knew I faced one now. "I am only making a picture so I can study it later," I protested.

"You are taking something that does not belong to you," he replied. "Something you have not earned. Leave and do not come back."

I was almost done with my sketch, but the druid's anger was unmistakable. I had never even heard of a Firesong druid deigning to address a mainlander; I recognized that I was on uncertain ground. "Very well," I said. "I will go." I put away my charcoal and turned to leave.

The Firesong druid took three quick strides and seized the journal from my hand. He tore the page with the sketch from the journal and threw the book at my feet. "Did you not understand? These markings belong here and here alone. You may not take them with you!"

Your humble scholar is not without common sense. I picked up my damaged journal and retreated as swiftly as my feet could carry me.

If you have the opportunity to visit Ivyhame, dear reader, you should do so. It is a beautiful and holy place. But be careful to take nothing away with you but your memories.

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