Blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart
‘Hello there.’ he said. The naga cocked its head. It moved closer.
Naga said his eyes. Creature said his brain.
It was dressed in the manner of a Freeborn, in deep scarlet and ... black? Not Freeborn then. It had a shock of bright red hair, and the scales on its face and neck glittered in the forest gloom like rubies. It reminded him incongruously of a fanciful image of an exotic beast of distant lands - a flame salamander they called it. As it closed with him, he realised it was much taller than he had at first thought. It seemed to thrum with nervous energy.
‘Hello?’ he was less certain. There had been some idle conversation about the forest recently, about it being darker. A few reports of strange fires starting from nowhere and burning out just as quickly.
"You smell of fear but also are curious and bravery and just a little excitement" said the naga in a sing song voice as it came still closer.
‘Look….’ he replied, backing away. The naga cut him off.
"I like you! You are funny! I will keep you!" Its voice was deep, almost purring, and its eyes narrowed until they were little more than slits. The woodsman found he could not look away, could not move. The "naga" reached out long nimble fingers to trace the curve of his jaw.
‘Enough,’ came another voice.
Whatever spell the naga was weaving broke. A figure emerged from the shadows beneath the trees from the same direction the naga had approached. Clearly a warrior, it wore breastplate, greaves, and gauntlets of blackened steel, and its eyes burned like living embers. Flames danced and wove across its body where its skin was visible between the plates. Over one shoulder the woodsman could see the haft of a great two-handed sword.
As it emerged from the shadows, its appearance shifted and changed. Its features resolved into those of a striking woman, dressed in long black and red robes. It addressed the naga with a firm voice full of conviction.
"Freedom, the Shadowed Flame does not constrain, but this is neither the time nor the place."
The creature that was in truth nothing like a naga shrugged its shoulders languorously, stretched like a cat, and pointedly turned its back on the woodcutter. Feigning disinterest, it began to gather spring flowers.
The newcomer considered the woodcutter carefully.
"I am the first of the knights of Janon." it said. "The fire that dances in the dark desires that the night magicians, the artists, and the priests of the Empire come to it here beneath the trees to attend court with it and its brother the prince of toads. The Muse of Fire will open the way, and pledges safety for any who come with honest intention and open hearts. Do you understand? Will you take this message?"
The woodcutter stammered something and backed up. Another armoured figure stepped from the forest, and a little more of the late evening light drained away as it came. Then another. And another. Through the branches of the trees, the woodcutter could see stars. He could hear music. He turned and fled as the darkness gathered around him."Pretty" hissed the creature that was not a naga, as the posey of snowdrops she had collected withered and turned to ashes in her hands.
The eternal Janon, called (among other things) the Shadowed Flame invites the people of the Empire to a gathering in the forests of Astolat on the third night of the Spring Equinox. The Rosered Woods lie several miles south-east of Laroc and have long been known to be the site of a potent regio aligned with the magic of the night realm. Janon intends to open the regio at its heart, and the chamber beyond, to any who wish to attend.
The eternal has specifically invited magicians versed in the lore of night, artists, and priests but anyone who can pass through the Sentinel Gate should be able to attend. Musicians and performers of all stripes are likely to receive a warm welcome in the court of Janon, especially if they come ready to perform for the eternal and its guests.
There is also an open invitation for visitors to bring samples of fine food and drink, to be shared by the eternals and their guests alike. Other contests have been hinted at, as well as the suggestion that Janon will listen to petitioners who desire boons from it - especially if those petitioners first attract its attention with their passionate intensity.
According to the knights of Janon, the prince of toads will also be in attendance for some or all of the audience. This is very likely a reference to Janon' fellow night eternal Sadogua, although why the brother of wizards would be guesting with Janon instead of hosting his own audience is unclear.
The Lover Tells of the Rose in His Heart
All things uncomely and broken, all things worn out and old,
The cry of a child by the roadway, the creak of a lumbering cart,
The heavy steps of the ploughman, splashing the wintry mould,
Are wronging your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart.
The wrong of unshapely things is a wrong too great to be told;
I hunger to build them anew and sit on a green knoll apart,
With the earth and the sky and the water, re-made, like a casket of gold
For my dreams of your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart.
By holding audience in a chamber connected to a regio within the Empire, Janon has made it possible for those who are not magicians to meet with it. A way must still be found to get to the Snowdrop Glade, but the eternal seems blithely confident that the Sentinel Gate will open to the Rosered Woods near Laroc, in the territory of Astolat. A magician will still be needed to open the gate but once there, Janon's invitation should allow anyone who wishes to enter the regio - and presumably leave again freely.
Visitors should be a little careful however; those without the ability to open a portal themselves leave a magical chamber such as this at the sufferance of the eternal who has opened it.
Janon's audience is set to begin at nine o' clock at night on Sunday and it is likely that the Sentinel Gate will open at or around this time. How long it will remain open is unclear, but it should be a simple matter for visitors to determine how long they have once they have passed through it to Astolat, even before they enter the regio in the Rosered woods.