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|Ta-da! The long-awaited story concerning the ancient race of the Elflings! And so the journey begins... This is part of my 'Personal Project,' a required part of the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme. In other words, I'm using this as part of a long-term project. Two more sample stories to come. ^_^||
An evil lay in the northernmost parts of a secret world, Arctizia. He was a demon, a devourer of souls. Within his lands lived an army of demon-creatures. But the world that he lived in was far too… bright. It was filled with the stench of life and growth. He hungered for the souls of those who lived in his lands; Haseth yearned for the scent of death.
His feeble minions could never accomplish this, so Haseth bred dark elves with another demonic, compassionless creature unknown to man. The resulting demon he called his Night Ghosts. They were swift, silent, and cunning. They had the immortality of the elves, and the deceitfulness Haseth had wanted. Their build was very similar to an elf’s, but smaller, about a head shorter than the average elf. Each had dark, blazing eyes and dark shades of hair. Their features were crisp and clean-cut, and their movements were easy, graceful, and cat-like. It was everything Haseth had wanted, and more. These Night Ghosts would be Arctizia’s downfall. But something happened the fiend did not foresee: these “Night Ghosts” did not succumb to Haseth’s power. They would not obey him.
A group of them fled to the dense, tangled forests of the south. There, they built a magnificent city in the safety of the dense forest. This city, T’landerin, was to be the greatest city Arctizia had ever seen, raised from the hands of the low. As a society, T’landerin’s people came to love the land and its creatures, and soon they became skilled Healers. Creatures born of death now lived to preserve life. But Haseth would not let such insolence go unpunished. Some of the escaped were caught, and tortured to their death.
Soon after the Revolt, Haseth drove his demons through the lands in maddened search of the escaped. It was not long before the races came down upon their invaders, slaughtering Haseth and his minions.
Today, three thousand years later, T’landerin lives in secrecy, fearful that someone would find them and destroy what they had.
Such was the fate of the Elflings.
I knew not a home. I left it so long ago. Staring into the bitter rain that soaked my clothing, I wondered where my wandering would take me. What would become of me in years to come? Would I come to face death at the end of this world, or would I go on? I stood there, watching the rain seep through the land for a while longer. My hair, the deep, dusty brown of the books I studied on my travels, quickly became saturated with the crisp spring rain. I shook the rainwater from my eyes, rich cherry-wood in pigment, and turned back to the caravan I currently resided with.
I wandered over to my dark stallion, Dreman, who was tied to a canvas-covered wagon with two other horses. As I approached him, he bent his head low and eagerly searched my tunic for sugar cubes. He found the last few in one of my pockets, and obligingly I took them out and gave them to him, stroking his black head softly. The spring rains would bring a handful of sicknesses, and once I treated those, I would leave the caravan and travel north to Ixya.
That was what I did – I traveled from city to city, offering my services to the sick. Every now and then, I would come across a caravan, and for a few meals and a bed, I would aid the ill there as well. Dreman was my only companion in my travels, but he was all I needed.
When I was still just a girl, I left my home, T’landerin. Unlike my Elflen kin, I was not afraid to leave the borders of the Shadowvale. I don’t remember what drove me to leave, but one autumn night I took Dreman, saddlebags full with roots and leaves, fruit, bread, and dried meat, and I didn’t look back.
That was a few hundred years ago. Elflen horses live very long, and Dreman was no exception. He was sixteen or so hands high, by human measures, and very proud. Ever since I fled my home, we had traveled together. Both of us were still very young compared to our relatives, and looked it.
I walked over to the canvas wagon that housed my bed and opened the flaps. A sudden cold washed over me that made me halt stiffly. The coldness went, and I looked nervously about, searching the dark forestry around the caravan. Somewhat shaken, I turned to enter the wagon for the night. Sharply, the coldness returned, remaining stubbornly this time. This was no trick of the weather. There was death about.
I tore into the canvas wagon and snatched up my bow and my quiver. Though I was not an expert shot, I refused to remain defenseless. I stumbled hurriedly out of the wagon and turned just in the instant that the death-monster tore ruthlessly into the opposite side of the caravan circle, its great scaled body silhouetted against the faint light seeping from the wagons. Horses screamed hysterically as the creature shattered wagons, slew confused oxen and otherwise violently obliterated the camp. Men bearing swords and longbows flooded out of the wagons left untouched, faithfully defending their families. The great creature snarled and stood menacingly on its hind legs. It stood head and shoulders above its foes, shaking off the arrows that sought unprotected skin. I drew an arrow to my bowstring and took aim. I let my arrow loose, and it skimmed the creature’s shoulder. Completely ignoring my shot, the creature turned to slay the men closest to it, tossing them aside indifferently. Already another arrow was ready to fly from my bow, and I let loose, aiming for the creature’s face. My shot missed as the creature snarled this way and that. I drew another arrow and waited this time. The creature rose up on its hind legs again, giving a deafening roar, bearing its dagger-like teeth and exposing soft flesh. I let my arrow loose once more, and it lodged itself in the back of the creature’s throat. It tried to claw the arrow loose, but to no avail, and with a groan of defeat, it collapsed to the rain-seeped earth, dead.
There was an eerie silence throughout the camp for a few moments while the shock of what had happened washed over everyone in a cold wave. A few brave men went to search the surrounding forestry for more creatures, but none were found. This one came alone.
The caravan leader, Drax, called to me from where the creature lay dead, and wounded men lay scattered close by. Some were already being carried into spare wagons that were left untouched. I took this opportunity to quickly examine a few of the wounded, and catch a glimpse of the creature responsible for so much destruction. Its body was almost human-like, but oddly distorted and heavily scaled. With scales like steel plates, claws like swords and dagger-sharp teeth, it was a surprise to see it defeated with a single arrow. My white Elflen-woven robes were soaked through with the past few hours’ worth of rain, and my long white forest cloak felt suddenly heavy on my shoulders. Shuddering, I turned to follow three young men into a nearby wagon.
A few splints, anti-venoms, and a lot of bandages later, Drax took me aside. There was fear in his eyes.
“Skyler, do you know what that thing was?”
I racked my brain quickly. “No, I don’t think so,” I said, after a few moments.
“That thing was a demon. A mist-demon. You haven’t heard of them?”
Suddenly, something clicked. “A mist-demon? But they’re all gone, Haseth died, that thing couldn’t have been a mist-demon!”
Drax shook his head slowly. “I thought all of that was all legend. The soul-eater, his demons, the whole bit. But now….” He let his sentence hang unfinished.
My mind couldn’t absorb what Drax just said. It wouldn’t absorb it. There were no mist-demons any more. Their master was killed after the Revolt, leaving them scattered and leaderless. Every last one was killed. It was written that way in the Elflen histories! I knew it all by heart. History was my passion.
I shook my head in disbelief. “It isn’t possible.”
Drax pulled me out into the softly drizzling rain, leading me out to where the creature still lay dead. He drew his head close to my own, his hand still locked on my wrist. “Do you see every dark scale on that creature? Do you see its claws, its teeth, its eyes? Every fiber of that dark being screams mist-demon. It’s not a legend. It’s not long-lost history. What lies festering before you is reality.”
Morning rays crept over the eastern horizon, scattering the grey clouds, emptied of their rain. The muddied ground soaked up the warm sunshine in soft content. The morning had come softly, but I didn’t notice any of it. My mind was in a million places at once.
Hurriedly, I checked to make sure I had everything packed. Food, medicines, water, bow and arrows, dagger…. I brushed the canvas flaps aside and stepped out into the dawn. A few of the wagon drivers were up already, but none noticed me when I went over to untie Dreman. Sensing my uneasiness, he refrained from sugar cube searching and bent his head so I could fit his harness and put the bit behind his teeth. I ran my hand down his neck and obediently he laid down for me to mount him. When my weight was evenly across his back, Dreman leapt eagerly to his feet. Drax then emerged from a nearby wagon, and I turned Dreman to follow.
Trotting up beside Drax, I was filled with a feeling close to resignation. He turned to me, the same feeling reflected in his eyes. “Thank you,” he said, sincerity apparent in his voice. “And I understand what you have to do.” And with that, he nodded warmly, and turned away. I looked after him, my thoughts wandering around this caravan and others I had healed, but brought myself back sharply and turned Dreman to go south. And south we went.
Elflings scattered hurriedly as to not get run over by Dreman, cursing as we flew by. Dreman’s hooves kicked up dirt and small stones, clopping over the cobblestone roads with his haste as we wove our way to the center of the city, to the High Council of T’landerin. He slid to a sharp halt before the stone steps leading up to the Council building. I slipped quickly off the stallion’s back and ran up the stone steps still cold with the spring morning’s chill. I reached the top hurriedly, only to be stopped by a pair of guards.
“What do you want?” growled one of them.
“I need to speak to the Council.”
The other guard seemed to be in a better mood than his friend. “You’re in luck. The Council has had it slow the last few days. Now, Miss, I’ll need your name and your business before you can see the Council.”
“Skyler Talon, Elflen Healer, business concerning T’landerin,” I yammered quickly.
“Very well, Miss Talon, please follow me.”
The man opened the large ebony doors behind him and led me into a towering stone hallway with marble floors. At the end were more large ebony doors, identical to the ones we had just passed through. The guard through the doors and led me into a large, grey stone room, with a long, dark table against the wall. Elflings that had lived to see the Revolt and advisors to the king lined the table, dressed in white and blue robes. Dark eyes examined me as I was led to a small table and chair in the middle of the room.
“Miss Skyler Talon, Elflen Healer, brought before the High Council of T’landerin on business concerning the Elflen lands,” announced the man who had led me in. Without another word, he bowed to the councilmen and left the room, closing the large wooden doors with a clang.
“Please be seated, Miss Talon,” spoke the man at the center of the table, apparently the head councilman. Obediently, I sat. “Please tell the Council why you have come.”
I took a deep breath to steady my voice, and plunged into my story. I told how the demon had attacked the caravan, how it was a mist-demon, and how that could only mean that the Demon King was alive. As I spoke, my hands shook, so I clenched them tightly in my lap. All the while emotionless faces of the councilmen looked me over, feeling my words with their glances and stares. When I had finished, a strange silence overtook the room. After a few moments, the head councilman straightened.
“Miss Talon, do you expect me do believe your story? That you would bring it before the Council is laughable!” There was a soft murmuring at this.
My mouth opened slightly and my lungs refused to work, disbelief washing over me. “This is not a tale, some rumor from the outlands! I saw the demon with my own eyes, I think I would know a demon if I saw one!”
“Miss Talon, how old are you?”
“Six hundred and seventy-seven.”
“Nearly two and a half thousand years have passed between the time of the Revolt and your birth, and yet you try to convince me you know what a mist-demon looks like.” The head councilman raised his eyebrows skeptically.
Rage burned within my throat. I came to my feet sharply, bringing my fist down on the table in front of me. “That’s not the point! The point is something needs to be done about Haseth!”
The room seemed to be sucked of breath as the councilmen’s eyes grew wide with fear. A man on the far right end of the table stood, furious. “Speaking the name of the Demon King is forbidden in T’landerin. Your story is madness. I suggest you leave before you make an even bigger fool of yourself.”
“Why would I make this up?” I snapped, enraged.
An advisor to the left of the head councilman stood to answer my question. “Miss Talon, in order for mist-demons to be alive, the Demon King would have to be alive. For the Demon King to be alive, he would have to have survived the battle following the Revolt, and having been so close to death, he would have had to wait in the Northern Mists for three thousand years, festering in his hate, while his mist-demons multiplied. Three thousand years, child!”
“My story is true.” My eyes narrowed and a dark hate for the councilmen’s stupidity grew in the pit of my stomach.
“It doesn’t matter what you think, it is the opinion of the Council that matters,” the head councilman said coldly. A guard appeared at my side to show me out. “Good day, Miss Talon. Your case is closed.”
I resisted, brimming with fury at their disbelief. “I appeal to the King!” The guard hesitated, bound by law.
“The King is busy, he must not be disturbed today,” interjected one of the councilmen.
Then I will come back tomorrow, I spat silently. And the day after that. And the day after that. I will haunt you until you believe me. Determined and furious, I turned and left through the large wooden doors, vowing that I would never give up.
By mid-morning of the next day, I had come before the council again. I retold my tale, exactly as before, but this time I stood, examining the councilmen’s faces. A few looked mildly impressed with my determination. Some even looked a bit on the convinced side. But the vast majority looked thoroughly and utterly annoyed.
When I finished, the same odd silence filled the room. The head councilman had his head propped up on his hand, looking as if a great bit of his life had just been wasted. “My opinion of you has not changed, Miss Talon. I doubt you have changed the Council’s decision, either.” He glanced around apathetically. “And if you continue to waste our time on this earth, I will have you locked away with your ridiculous lies.”
I bit my tongue at this, a black hate stirring in my throat.
The head councilman waved his hand indifferently at me. “Now if you do not leave, Miss Talon, I may find reason to lock you away sooner rather than later.”
My fury began to spill over. “Is there anyone other than you spineless fools that I can reason with? Must I spoon-feed the truth to you blind worms? You dare to call yourselves Elflings? Coming here reminds me of hitting my head against a stone wall! I don’t get through and all I receive is a headache!”
The councilmen stirred bitterly at my words. I realized with a pang that I had just condemned myself. A pair of guards was summoned with a snarl, and I was dragged out a side door to the dungeons, still glaring at the councilmen.
I was led down countless stairs until the air began to feel stale. I knew exactly why the dungeons were underground; Elflings hated dark, dank areas. At the bottom of the stairs ran a long hallway, with cells branching off frequently. Convicts looked up from their straw beds to watch me, a white-robed Healer being led by two guards to the end of the hall.
Wordlessly, the guards escorted me to my cell, one of the very last. One of the guards fumbled through a ring of keys, fit one to the iron lock, and opened the iron-barred door for my entry. Obligingly, and with an impending sense of failure, I entered the small cell and heard the door close behind me with a creak and a clang. I glanced around my enclosure, suddenly tired, as if all that just happened had taken a great deal of effort. The straw bed looked strangely inviting, so I moved to sit down. Where the walls met the ceiling stood iron bars about a hand’s length tall, a thin window to the adjacent cell. The walls themselves were made of the same cold, grey stone as the council room and connecting hallway. The door I had come through was little more than thick iron bars hinged to the dreary walls. When my sight moved to what lay beyond the door, a pair of glinting black eyes looked back at me from the cell opposite mine.
Uneasy, I looked away. After a few minutes, I looked back again, those black, glittering eyes still locked on my own.
“You’re that Talon girl,” the Elfling spoke, his voice a harsh whisper. He shifted slightly, still in shadow. “You’re the one who spoke of the mist-demons.”
“How did you …”
The Elfling cackled. “News travels fast down here. We’ve got nowhere else to go.”
I shifted awkwardly. “What do you care?”
“I can help you.”
I stared at the glint in his eyes, uneasy. “Help me? Why?”
“Do I need a reason, girl?” The Elfling leaned forward into the dim light. “The point is, you’re looking for answers, and I have them.”
“Even if you had answers, it wouldn’t help me in here.”
A toothy grin appeared on the rough man’s face. “I can help you with that too.” I stayed silent, torn by indecision. To what lengths would I go to for what I had made my mission? The Elfling’s grin widened at my silence. “I believe you, you know. I believe that the Demon King has returned. And I know how to stop him.”
I decided to trust this Elfling, as foolish as it might turn out to be. “How can you help me?” I asked, cautious.
The Elfling brought forth a fist, opening it in the dim light. He held a small, pearl-like stone that glimmered softly in the dungeons. “You see this?” he asked. “This is the seed of the Tree of Life. Combine it with three other elements, and you will have a force powerful enough to stop the Demon King and his minions.”
“That little thing, stop Haseth’s forces?” I asked, skeptical. The Elfling nodded, his eye fixed on my own. “How did you acquire such a powerful thing, then?”
The Elfling laughed darkly. “I am a thief, I take whatever I want. Do you want it or not, Healer girl?”
I was seriously considering saying yes, just for the sake of accepting help from someone, even a thief. “What do I have to do with this seed?”
The Elfling’s eyes danced. “This seed, combined with sacred water, living earth, and liquid light will create a form of life so powerful as to consume the Demon King. Exactly how cannot be said, as the seed is the first of its kind. The sacred water must be taken from the Fire Springs Mountains, the living earth from where the Peaksong meets the Endless Waters, and the liquid light from the Bladepeak in the Daggertooth Mountains. When and where the will come together is your decision, but be careful, because you can only make it once.”
I laid my eyes on the pearl-like seed. It glittered most unnaturally in the faint light. I narrowed my eyes, determined. “So how are you going to get me out of here?”
|In-between||The Right Way Ch 1-3|
|To Be Free||Nilud's Struggle|
|The Right Way - Ch 1-3|