Dendum (prime)/At Least He Had Mangos (vignette)
Title: At Least He Had Mangos
At Least He Had Mangos
Deep within the jungles of the Isle of Four Winds, among the towering trees and lush foliage, Dendum moved with the practiced grace of one intimately attuned to the wild, one raised as a forest gnome walks quietly almost as soon as they learn to walk. His blue eyes, darted between the leaves and branches, ever watchful. His leather armor was worn but meticulously cared for, blending seamlessly with the forest's hues.
On this day, his journey had brought him to a particular prize—a mango, abandoned on the jungle floor. It was a fruit of vibrant orange and green and even hints of red, and yet, upon closer inspection, disappointment coursed through him as he found it to be overly ripe. With a deft motion, he tossed it aside, the fruit's rejection did little to quell the deeper concerns that occupied his mind.
Dendum's thoughts were consumed by the enigmatic Circle and the looming threats that shadowed the Isle of Four Winds. The island, shrouded by a mystical fog that separated it from the world beyond, was a place of unique beauty and peril. He found its remoteness appealing to the wandering nature of his blood. The island harbored not only the immense jungles of the interior and the settlement of Mist Harbor, where Dendum had defended against marauding Krolvin, but also the Iyo—the native people whose presence held an air of mystery.
The Iyo, diminutive humans with dusky complexions, lived in loosely connected villages within the heart of the island. Their insular nature was palpable even to a Forest Gnome, and they preferred solitude over interaction with outsiders. Yet, even in their desire for seclusion, the Iyo possessed a ritual politeness he recognized.
Observing them from afar, Dendum recognized peculiar similarities between the Iyo and his forest gnome kin. Both revered the natural world and maintained strong traditions. Yet, despite their shared reverence for the wild, he and the Iyo kept a respectful distance from one another, an unspoken understanding that mirrored their cautious, and sometimes borderline xenophobic, natures.
Dendum's previous encounters with the Iyo had left him with a lasting impression of their integrity, a sharp contrast to the humans on the mainland who relentlessly expanded into the forests, heedless of the delicate balance of nature.
Recent events had rattled the tranquility of the island. Fires had raged through Mist Harbor, burning hotter and more erratically than nature intended. Investigations had revealed ominous symbols, leading to suspicions of a cult—the Hyssch, which the Iyo called the eternal flame. This cult sought something the Iyo fiercely guarded…some secret they kept hidden on their island…something they protected. Some dark future they defended against. The Iyo felt that the cult might awaken the volcano that was the heart of the island.
A massive fireball had laid waste to an Iyo village within the jungle, proof that their concerns were at least somewhat valid. Something was targeting them. Though Dendum had trouble telling the form of their stories from the reality they now faced.
As Dendum moved silently through the forest, a raven’s call sounded above the jungle canopy warning him he was not alone. The Iyo's patrols, their more overt presence in the jungle, were a testament to the worries they felt. They had been shadowing him for parts of the journey. Allowing themselves to be seen when, historically, they would have remained hidden.
As the gnome continued to navigate the dense jungle of the Isle of Four Winds, he couldn't help but notice subtle signs of the Iyo's presence. It seemed that they were no longer as discreet as they once were, and he often caught glimpses of them moving through the underbrush. It was as though they wanted him to be aware of their movements, to acknowledge their presence.
Sometimes, when the rustling leaves and the distant calls of jungle creatures were the only sounds in the dense foliage, Dendum would catch glimpses of an Iyo figure darting between the trees. They would make brief eye contact, and there would be a nod of acknowledgment, as if to say, "I see you, and you see me."
In these moments, he felt he understood something of the Iyo, a connection forged in the heart of the jungle. It was a silent understanding. They were kindred spirits, guardians of the wilderness, and protectors of lands who were also of the lands. He found such thoughts somewhat disturbing to his gnomish sensibilities.
Dendum's mind, as he moved through the lush jungle of the Isle of Four Winds, was not solely occupied by the mysteries of the Circle or the Iyo. His thoughts had been deeply impacted by a recent experience, watching as the Isle of Glaoveln, a land once filled with its own life, was reduced to smoldering ruins by the unrelenting fury of a volcanic eruption.
He had been there, on Glaoveln, when the world seemed to unravel. The eruption had been a cataclysmic event, a roaring inferno of molten fury that had swept through the island with unbridled wrath. Krolvin villages were consumed by fire, and the skies were choked with ash and despair.
In the midst of that burning chaos, he had been among those who rushed to rescue the refugees, to offer a glimmer of hope amidst the devastation. He had seen the terror in their eyes, heard their cries of anguish, and felt the searing heat of the volcanic ash on his skin.
The memory of Glaoveln haunted him, serving as a grim reminder of the immense destructive power that lay dormant within a volcano's heart. It was a force of nature that could annihilate entire swathes of land in an instant, and he knew all too well that the Isle of Four Winds was not immune to such a cataclysmic fate.
With each step he took into the jungle the thought of the looming volcano on the island pressed upon his mind. The destructive power it held, if awakened by the Circle's dark rituals, could spell disaster not only for the inhabitants of the island but for the lush, untamed wilderness that surrounded him.
In the midst of his contemplations Dendum discovered something that made the journey into the depths of the jungle worth it. He began to prod and poke at the foliage in front of him until at last his nimble fingers finally found ripe mangos, their vibrant orange and green hues a stark contrast to the looming darkness. He paused a moment to throw the best of the fruit in his basket. Nodding in quiet satisfaction as he silently worked.
With his newfound treasure in his possession, he began the journey back to Mist Harbor, alert to the dangers of the jungle and the growing shadows that surrounded him. Shadows were always both friend and foe to a Forest Gnome, offering protection and hiding dangers. He moved with the stealth of a seasoned ranger, his steps silent, and his presence a mere whisper among the trees. The eyes of the Iyo, ever vigilant, attempting to follow him in the shadows, a silent continuation of the never-ending game of hunted and hunter upon which life in the jungle was built upon.
As he made his way back to Mist Harbor, the weight of responsibility pressed upon him, the winds whispered about disturbances everywhere all at once. The elves of the east had been infiltrated and were still wounded by a dark coven’s actions, the north was in turmoil due to moving empires and forming nations, and even here, a place isolated by distance and magical barriers, destruction loomed.
But at least he had some mangos.