The Koradesh jungle stretched for leagues in every direction, a coiled mass of greenery that was home to all manner of life: Serpents, insects, and mammals worked their way through the lush undergrowth. Only one tribe ruled here: the Koradesh hunym-sidhe who had fallen under the glamour of the perilous Lady Koradesh sitting with her eyes of void, motionless at the very center of life in the Koradesh Jungle. The lady Koradesh was a true sidhe, the heart of the jungle, and her body was no place for travellers. The serpents were poisonous and the swamps were often rife with pests and disease. The hunym-sidhe lived through the aid of slight magics, which they thought the Lady Koradesh gave unto them.
One of their tribe knew better. Her name was Er-Delia-Ston. As a girl, she became Nor, a disciple of the magics of the jungle, and her teachers were amazed at her progress. By womanhood, she had been given the surname of Ston, the true adepts of hunym-sidhe magic. There were none to rival her, and for a time she taught others. But the call of the Koradesh sidhe was upon her; so, the other Ston withdrew her from her students, for the others feared the sidhe even as they worshiped her. At the summer solstice while the tribe feasted, Delia-ston travelled to the center of the Koradesh jungle bending her will toward the sidhe. Beasts and birds left her path and the swamps parted at her coming. Then, Delia-ston knew that the sidhe had become aware of her. Delia-ston stared into the eyes of the Koradesh sidhe and did not return to her tribe until the next generation had entirely passed into the earth. Upon her homecoming, she was hailed as Er, the sidhe blessed, but none could harbor her stare, so she left them for a solitary life coming only to council when her queen, Liennalor, commanded her.
Her home was a homage to the Koradesh sidhe. a great oak, twisted to her will, bent at the center where moss grew for her chair. She practiced the arts of tranquility and silence, and the other Ston wondered why. It became a fashion for a time among the hunym-sidhe to sit motionless and silent, but it passed as the Ston perceived no use in such "mockery" of the Lady Koradesh. Er-Delia-ston settled into her oak and watched and waited.
She listened to the distant trampling that had started weeks ago as the foreigners entered the Koradesh jungle and trampled toward her. They fought off the perils of the jungle with human magics and sharp metal. The two humans called themselves wizards though they differed physically, and their auras were perverted in damned configurations: hellish anguish, sadistic anger.
She had often heard of humans who had, through some overweening desire, become fey. One had a yellow cast to his skin while his partner was as pale as one of her cousins at mount Koral. Both had the steady, cold flame in their eyes that marked them as damned; and that was the only similarity binding them together. The pale one wore the blue robes of the ascetic Sanctuarian priests with a tiny, blue journeystone that coldly glowed hanging from his sash. The other was more unusual–garish. He dressed in tanned leathers adorned with animal fetishes. Feathers and tusks of obscure wilderness animals littered his person. That one wore an inordinate amount of glittering metals all shaped in the likenesses of fearsome creatures as if he preferred animals to his manshape.
Er Delia ston had seen their kind. Over the years, many had come to her. She was one of the three living archmagi on the face of the known world. Her queen often called upon her in council and Delia knew that her name had long since become known beyond the borders of the Koradesh jungle to reach soft and rounded human ears.
She didn’t mind. In fact, she enjoyed the occasional visits. The pilgrims were entertainment. It was easier to divine the truth from them than those she met in the spirit world. Once, a dragon from Glered nigh, the caves of the dreaming mountain, had come to her disguised as a hunym sidhe claiming to be one of her cousins from the cold Koral mountain. She had seen through his adopted guise immediately and had enjoyed the perverse conversation so much that she granted the worm’s favor. She endured her years for the sake of her tribe, and the word games were a way to harmlessly pass the time with those who dared to come into her power.
These supplicants were different. Usually, people came to her to ask some imponderable, absurd question like the meaning of life or some such nonsense. Others wanted a dream or omen explained. Sometimes, she would tell them what they wanted to hear. Othertimes, when she was irritable, she would tell them the truth. These were the first pilgrims to frighten her. They wanted to know about the Ebon.
The two, intense humans waited patiently and aloof for her response. Er Delia ston knew they could, as wizards, see her aura so they knew she would speak. She hoped they discerned the fear in her aura when they had asked their question.
Delia’s voice, though aged, resounded with the bass common to the Koradesh hunym-sidhe as she said, "The Ebon. You don’t want to meet Him. He’s black: blacker than pitch, coal, or shadowcrows. You know the kind of black I mean, wizards, so don’t pretend different or that you don’t know what you asked. He is older than man or nym, probably older than the world. Who knows? His darkness has often been compared to the spaces between stars on the new moon; and that is appropriate, for the new moon is his quickening time."
"Is he a wraith?" The blue robed man asked eagerly, stupidly.
Delia leaned back against the jungle moss that sucked at the tree, which had grown into a shape for her leisure. "No, no. You misunderstand. You fail to comprehend the depth of what you seek. You cannot see the Ebon even with your second sight. You feel Ebon, and that is how you know that He is the darkness. His power comes from the spot in the spirit where the bottomless well resides. He can take hold of you and plunge you down that well until you would fain kill yourself."
The fetishist smiled grimly. "How can we summon him?"
Still, they persisted. So be it. "He has a servant, a squire if you will, who can be invoked in His name. You must pass your hand over a maiden heavy with child. It must be one who is in love and wants the child. Thinking upon the Ebon while you do this deed is crucial. You must feel His darkness in yourself or there will be no result. On the next new moon, the child shall come out of its mother as the squire holding the innocent spirit in bondage. That is how you will know it is the squire. It scrambles away into the night leaving the birth vessel with a shattered spirit. And that is how you will know that the Ebon is near."
The Sanctuarian priest grabbed his blue stone, and Delia thought the man might have lost his resolve until he asked, "Yes, I understand, but how do we control the Ebon. Through the squire?"
Had the world sprouted dullards during her hermitage? "Rattlepate. You cannot control the Ebon. You must barter with the squire. If the thing you want is encouraging to His darkness, the squire will mix his blood with yours, and you will speak in His tongue. If you retain your wits, the Ebon will come upon you both and no way shall be barred ’till your request is fulfilled. Then, the Ebon is free upon the physical world. That is why he will do your one bidding. I do not think that you will retain your wits to appreciate whatever vengeance you seek."
The two men left her. They were wizards and familiar with the details of an invocation.
Er Delia ston watched their retreating forms make their labored way through the Koradesh jungle. They had proved themselves to her with a greater surety than any second sight could bespeak. Delia laughed at the pleasure those two had brought.
After she saw into the realms of faerie through the sidhe’s voids, Delia had become aware and the people gave her the Er praenomen naming her sidhe blessed, naming her what they could not understand, but with that elevation came a greater limitation. Things, things like the Ebon, could notice her if she stirred heavily on the spirit world. Her greatest magics were thus rendered too dangerous to use leaving her with only a voyeur’s delights.
How many times she had impotently cursed the necromancers and their ilk as she watched them perform their rites, she could not remember. Ah, the wyrd of the world had been kind to her. Fate had given her a respite from her delicate retirement by delivering her two fools. Familiar with them, she felt where they were in the jungle. They were known to her now. No great magic would be needed to dispose of them. Her sight and the debts incurred for her information would be enough. She savoured the rare decision: Upon whom would she bestow this honor? And how terrific would their end be?
Let them leave the jungle. No need to soil the land of the Koradesh sidhe with their twisted auras of vengeance. She remembered the one she first thought of when they had asked about the Ebon: Marond, the dragon of sixth tier at Glered nigh. Tonight, under the waxing moon, her spirit would pay a visit to mount Glered. Marond would be only too happy to devour them and retain their essences within the inferno that raged in his breast, too terribly bright for any Ebon to approach.