"Lost..." said the dwarf, "AGAIN!" He frowned to himself and scratched his chin.
"Maybe if I had a compass... but I don't have one of those. Maybe a map... nope that isn't there either. Nothing here but apples and dried beef." The dwarf paced around a tree shaking his bag to blame it for not bringing a compass or a map on the trip, "What to do... what to do... even a gnomish contraption would come in handy," the dwarf snorted.
Disgruntled, he slumped down on a boulder resting his head on his hand in thought, and then he saw it! A faint path leading southwards!
"Aha!" he exclaimed, jumping up in relief and running off towards it, tripping over rocks and sticks and other things in the process, all the while grumbling to himself and thinking about who left those there.
"Finally!" he said sighing, clapping his hands with pleasure, "This better be the right road, otherwise I'll get angry again," he threatened the road. But his mood soon change and he was soon merrily following the road singing an old dwarven travel song.
Blessed be the trees of Mother's creation,
Upon the holy roads of travel,
These grand roads lead to haven,
Lead to our Dwarven Mountains of creation,
On which the great god smote the world,
With the sacred hammer of our birth.
Praise be to roads and travel,
To let all the sacred things unravel,
Savour the smell of each piece of timber,
The smooth surface of stone and glimmer of metal.
Such a simple thing, connecting secrets,
The key to life and living.
The roads thus I travel, to praise those I love,
To live and be given life,
That is the purpose of travel.
After a while it began to get dark, the road became invisible and the clumsy and poorly navigational dwarf got lost quite quickly, wandering into what seemed to be a forest. After many hours of walking in the dark the dwarf finally decided to take a well-needed break for the night.
"Quite soft ground for a road…" he mumbled to himself in thought, patting the ground with one hand, but too tired to think he shrugged grabbing a quick bite of jerky and then setting down his pack on the soft grass to rest.
"WHAT! How is it possible for someone to get lost so often?" He shouted furiously, looking about he tried to determine where he was. It was morning now for the dwarf and he had awakened to the song of the birds only to find himself on a clear patch of grass among what seemed to be endless rows of trees. The road he had been travelling last night had faded and not caring to check his location - and unable to - the dwarf wandered into here.
He was thinking of kicking himself or hanging himself off the nearest tree when his thoughts were interrupted by a low, grumbling noise. At first the dwarf reached for his axe in fear, but realised the noise wasn't coming from the trees, it was his stomach.
"Hungry are ya?" the dwarf asked his stomach with a smirk and then rubbed it lovingly, "Alright then, let's see what we have in the pack…"
The dwarf however did not need to check, he already knew. The pack had a few pieces of beef jerky lying about and a couple of apples. Elf food, the dwarf thought with disgust his stomach still rumbling more than ever. He needed some good meat or game. Some deer meat or a good roast chicken or pig's head, the dwarf thought drooling with dreamy eyes. He cheered up slightly as he realized where he was - a forest. Surely there were some animals living here, and if there were, he'd catch them.
The dwarf was no hunter by nature, always living in the mountains and mines where hunting was not needed, such being a survival method only for elves and a game for humans. But the dwarf knew his axe and he knew how to swing it, the rest would come easy he decided.
Wandering deeper inside the woods his eyes scouted the area around him - nothing in sight. Then, a rustle in the bushes and the dwarf quickly leapt up and rushed for it. In the bush was a small rabbit looking at him with pleading eyes. For a moment the dwarf felt sorry for the defenceless rabbit, but he felt more sorry for his grumbling stomach and this did not make him hesitate to kill.
He took aim, swung the axe and… off went the rabbit running deep inside the wood, his axe missing and getting lodged in a piece of wood, "Argh!" the dwarf roared, his patience and anger getting the better of him, he doubled back and then smashed his fist into the nearest tree trunk, cracking both the tree and his hand.
Falling to the floor in agony he held his bleeding hand trying to stop the pain and blood. Out of the corner of his eye he caught the rabbit staring at him, its grey pleading eyes now in a somewhat cynical smile. The dwarf cursed the rabbit under his breath and grabbing a rock threw it at the rabbit with all his might. He closed his eyes to try and get the pain away but could not achieve it, when a cracking sound of bones and a whimper made his eyes open up again, his pain seemingly easier as he looked hopefully to his side. Where the rabbit stood smiling at him a second before, it now lay dead with a rock on its head.
"Well, what'd ya know?" the dwarf laughed loudly, "I have the last laugh."
Another day had gone by for the dwarf, the clear blue summer sky was now turning red, marking the start of the sun's sleep. The dwarf had - with effort - cooked the rabbit over the fire with one hand, the other being badly sprained by the blow he inflicted on himself. The rabbit was simply cooked and more or less raw, the dwarf not being the keenest cook in the world. But at least this day he had something beside dried beef and fruit to eat.
The soft, summer breeze was cool against the dwarf's thick skin. It was one of the few times the dwarf had been out in the fresh air and not cooped up in the dark domains of the dwarven mountain or the mines. It was strange, but he could not help admitting to himself that this fresh air coming from the trees and the strong winds and the smell of blooming flowers and herbs were much more pleasant to the dull smell of stone and metal.
He had retired for the day after his meal and was now enjoying the passionate scene of the sun embossing the sky in a mixture of reds and oranges as a parting kiss as it left on its journey to distant lands. His thoughts drifted away into the evening, his mind filled with awe and inspiration and the constant whisper of his grandfather preaching his philosophies…
"Now… I need to work out where I am," the dwarf pondered, scratching his beard and getting back to the problems at hand, "I must be somewhere near Traitputt, except I got no idea whether I'm south or north or east or west, having no compass and all. Darn it!"
This was definitely a problem; he could be travelling for months before actually getting to a sign of civilization that is of course if he wasn't dead by then. A thought none too pleasant for the dwarf who feared death and those it consumed, never really understanding it.
The bright red sky grew hazy in his vision and at the same time seemed to ripple slightly, "My eye sight must be going…" the dwarf muttered rubbing his eyes trying to make them see clearly again.
"Wait a second…" the dwarf gasped, his eyes scanning the sky and then trailing it down towards the trees. Smoke! It was clear now, dark grey smoke rising from somewhere among the trees into the sky. Obviously someone was here, either that or lightning had started a bushfire. But gazing upwards into the cloudless sky and sensing the warm yet breezy weather around him, he quickly dispersed the idea.
He jumped up immediately from his resting spot and splashed the icy water left in his cooking pan onto the campfire. Gathering his things he rushed of in the direction of the fire, his hopes higher than ever. A sudden thought struck him however. It was a fire - yes, it meant that someone living was here - yes, but it was the question of who was here. For all he knew it could be some evil cult or goblin raiding party. Then again, one thing was as good as another. The dwarf could die knowing he put up a fight; he could not die however knowing he had an empty stomach.
Hiding behind a bush, he took a small peep at the area. A small wooden hut sat in the back of the clear patch of trees, with a small fire pit set in the center. On top of the fire was a large pot, in it was some sort of animal, but the dwarf couldn't tell what it was. He guessed it was a wild rabbit from the size of the pot. Thoughts went back to the rabbit he had just killed not so long ago, his ever-hungry stomach immediately send signals to his brain making him think of the smooth, virtually boneless body of the rabbit seasoned with aromatic spices and served with a pile of potatoes. How he loved to eat.
Something else caught the dwarf's eye beside the hut and pot. A slender man sat in the clear patch of trees, seemingly meditating. He adorned flowing brown robes that fell around his ankles, quite ragged in appearance. The hood was cast over his face casting a shadow over his face hiding his facial features.
The man was undoubtedly a hermit, most likely a monk or priest of some sort. The peaceful serene feeling seemed to encapsulate the clearing on which the hut stood, the meditation being some divine form of reaching out to the Gods to receive a blessing or some strange magical force. For a brief moment the dwarf could almost reach out his hand and touch his god Carnedell.
The smooth breeze blew harder chilling the dwarf, but it not only chilled him on the outside but on the inside also for the hood covering the man's head softly fluttered off and fell down below his neck, revealing the mark that all dwarves hated and feared - pointy ears.
"Elf…" was the first word out of the dwarf's mouth coming out as a snarl. In his surprise and anger he accidentally broke a twig off the bush he was hiding behind, the simple noise alerting the man of his presence. Elves and dwarves had forever despised each other. Dwarves hating the elves for relying on magic and being too arrogant and the elves hating the dwarves for complaining too much and hiding in their underground homes. Of course, then there was the matter of the Dwarven Exile that caused major racial hatred and other such wars and events. Suddenly the thought of an evil cult extracting his brain through the nose seemed more pleasant compared to the elf.
The elf ceased his mediation, his eyes flying open. Almost silently he gathered his robes around himself and stood up brushing himself off, his eyes looking far away. Grasping a staff that lay beside him during meditation he leaned upon it and slowly moved across the forest floor, his staff served as a tool of direction the dwarf noted, the elf slowly moving the butt end of it around in an arch to try and determine if there were any obstacles before him.
Blind, the dwarf decided, his face becoming more solemn rather than bitter thinking of what it would be like to not see the world and those that inhabited it. Putting his hatreds aside he could not help feel pity for the elf.
"Is someone there?" the elf called out in the dwarf's direction, his voice bold but the dwarf could easily sense the fear with which the elf spoke, "Please answer, you would not keep an old blind man standing here in the dark, friend."
The dwarf cautiously made his way out of the bushes, he decided that the elf's blindness would serve as an advantage; he could now easily deceive the elf by pretending to be an elf and not come to harm. The elf edged closer to the bush, his staff still guiding him as he walked.
"I-I am a High Elven traveller, stumbling upon these woods by pure accident," the dwarf explained, "My name is Xanderick, I come from the north."
The elf looked smug listening to the dwarf, "Yet you enter my home from the south."
"Aye, um," the dwarf stammered somewhat embarrassed, "I accidentally got lost, my compass, uh, not working exactly too well led me too far southeast and then back around here. You see my navigational skills haven't been too… up-to-date."
"I see," the elf smile, stepping closer to the dwarf, "Which parts do you hail from then?"
"Traitputt… uh I mean Zalerm," the dwarf amended, "I stopped in Traitputt for a long while to get provisions and some money, and those dust covered mountains of ash weren't too good for my throat," the dwarf forced a cough making an excuse for his husky un-elvish voice.
"Well then Xanderick, welcome to my domain: The Edledhron Forest. I will be happy to serve you as my guest here for it has been long since I have heard the voice of someone living. I am grateful to you for that already, so no thanks or debt is necessary."
Xanderick at first extended his hand in a friendly manner then withdrew it again, remembering he was feigning being an elf and his stubby hands were nowhere close to being Elven. The dwarf just nodded with a slight smile, "You are most gracious… friend. I didn't catch your name…"
"Haedring," the elf declared himself, "Haedring Olan'elthi. I am a Dark Elf."
Xanderick gasped at this revelation, he did not expect the man to be an elf of darkness. He had never met one for a fact and he never thought one could be so… normal. He had always pictured dark elves to be cruel people that slaughtered others as a game and practices dark arts. This elf appeared to be accustomed to meditation and hospitality, his grey eyes themselves told him this. His eyes burned with sorrow and failure, the elf's emotions clearly being expressed through his unseeing eyes.
"Thank you," was the only thing the dwarf could say, so rapt up in his thoughts he could not think properly, "You are very hospitable for a… a dark elf."
Haedring nodded solemnly, "Are you shocked to know that I am a dark elf? Yes, I have turned away from light and now I walk in darkness. But it was good that drove me to where I am today and my own pain that enslaved me to black. I still hold respect for Jayden however; the God of light looks over me always. But such is life; such is the destiny the Gods weave for us."
"I understand, forgive me for sounding so shocked. I have never met a dark elf before and I did not expect one to be like you," the dwarf apologized, "My grandfather once told me stories of the Gods when I was younger…"
Haedring interrupted him with a cough and the elf headed towards his hut, "Please come inside. I will hear more of your stories when we're more comfortable and at rest, it is a bother for me to stand for a long time… and quite chilly. If you please," the elf motioned for the dwarf to go in first. Xanderick happily accepted his proposal and stumbled inside.
Haedring's hut was quite small, the interior being filled with nothing but rows and more rows of books, a bed, cupboard and table coupled together with two chairs. A fireplace was also built onto the back wall, now the pot of rabbit soup the dwarf saw earlier sat on it and he was busily at work preparing it for dinner. The fireplace gave out heat, which warmed the two from the night air that even in summer was as cold as winter.
The elf sat on one of the chairs his arms folded, head bowed. Blindness was never easy, not even for an elf as old as him; the never-ending darkness that could not be penetrated by any light that he had to live in was almost unbearable. Not being able to gaze upon the brilliance of all God's creations and not being able to admire the beauty of it took away all meaning of life for the elf, yet he kept living.
"Friend," the elf called, "How goes the soup? Will it be ready soon, I have grown hungry."
A loud slam of clay on the table gave the elf the answer he needed, the smell of rabbit enhanced by the aroma of potatoes and herbs filled the hut, "Ready! And smells good too, might be the best meal I've ever had for a long time," Xanderick laughed to the pleasure of the elf who smiled back for a moment but then went back to his serious expression.
Xanderick hurried to the cupboard and retrieved two bowls together with a pair of spoons for the two of them, which he placed on the table with lightning speed careful not to let his drool fall on any of the cutlery.
Finally settling down to eat, the dwarf could now comfortably talk, "The soup is amazing, where did you learn to cook like that and-and how? I mean with your blindness and all."
Haedring's face turned bitter, it was obvious he did not like to be asked such questions and for a moment the dwarf didn't think he would receive an answer, "Before I turned blind I spent a lot of time studying - reading, writing - and doing basically anything I could relax my mind with and forgetting all my worries. I studied herbs and spices at one point and experimented with them, the soup being the final result," the elf grinned with pride, "Quite good a result it turned out to be. As to how I cooked it… it is quite confusing, I don't suppose you would grasp such a concept. My other senses are still with me, and I can use them to create most of the food. I rarely cook meat, hard for me to hunt and all… I was in luck that I happened to stumble upon this rabbit. Usually I just eat vegetarian foods, even the leaves from trees."
Taking another mouthful of soup, the dwarf grimaced at the last sentence, "Tough life you must have. I can't imagine life without a good piece of meat, but say, why don't you ever leave this forest and travel to some city, I'm sure you would be taken care of there."
Haedring shook his head, "Have you ever been to a human city? Thieves and cutthroats live everywhere, a blind elf would be their most favoured target; I wouldn't last two days in the city. Zalerm isn't any better, plus the high elves wouldn't take me back in. The forest has been my home for many long years and I have grown accustomed to it and the life that exists in it, I know where each leaf lies now and to travel would be quite impossible for someone with my disability."
The dwarf agreed, he had never been to a human city but he knew that they were filled with thieves and rogues who tried to pounce on anyone they could to even get a few coppers. The base of the thieving communities set up in Kichi'al the borderline city between the two kingdoms had grown quite vast in power and number. The Assassin Order being the most feared group in the whole land, their underground tunnels and passages dug throughout the whole continent, led to every city and place possible, their secrets so many that not even the great mages could identify where each tunnel was.
During the Dwarven Exile war, the dwarves were defeated with great losses and sent into exile to the mines in Traitputt where the community known as the Mine Dwarves was set up. Xanderick had in fact spent the last several years in the mines earning a living, but the pay became scarce and he knew it was time to move on. After the exile, the elves and humans split the continent creating the two kingdoms. The first leaders of the humans were in fact legendary mercenaries of Kichi'al, their reputation became pure but their morals had stayed the same. Secretly, they built underground passages and expanded the thieving community until this operation was uncovered and the leaders slain - a little too late.
In present day thievery and assassinations were grand in number, the amount of hired men and women in the guilds surpassing even the numbers of the knights and guards. Neither attacked each other; attacking thieves in their own home would be suicide, and the thieves would never wage open warfare for they were not skilled in military procedures, just quick silent deaths.
The elf had nowhere to go, the forest being his only solace in the entire world. Xanderick however had places he could go and though he would not be always welcomed with open hands, he could at least feel safe.
"Xanderick, you have not told me how you stumbled on here. This place is quite out of the way of civilization," Haedring asked, interested in how it was possible for someone to stumble on his domain when no other had in so many years.
"Well, I didn't bring a compass or a map. So naturally I got kind of lost, see I started following a road but then it got cut off and I led myself to this forest. I'm eh, a little clumsy," the dwarf chuckled, his cheeks turning a ruby colour.
"Perhaps it was fate." The elf's voice sounded distant, a mellow voice as soft as a feather touching the skin. There was something about the elf Xanderick could not place; he seemed to be in a serene state of tranquillity and sorrow, a strange mixture of the two.
It was only later that day that Xanderick began to understand the elf a little more. Lying on the bed the elf had prepared for him that evening he lay in silence staring at the ceiling. He thought about the events that had transpired, but mostly about the elf. The elf had kept his history a secret; he did not uncover even the slightest detail about himself. All Xanderick knew was that the elf was not a normal elf but a dark elf, an elf turned to the dark side of the world, one that walks in shadow and welcomes it gladly… one that has committed wrong deeds. Yet here was an elf that was filled with sorrow and despair, and elf with no sight nor life, his life being slowly consumed by his loneliness.
A sudden thought struck the dwarf… the shelves of books and journals that filled up most of the space on the walls…the dozens of bookcases standing about the little hut. With a little makeup, the hut could look like an actual library. He examined the books sitting on a shelf above his head. Thin books with red bindings, many pieces of paper both folded and straight were inserted in the midst of pages to either keep as bookmarks or just stuffed inside because there was nowhere to put them.
The book the dwarf took up was slightly dusty, but in general was in a perfectly good condition. There was no title on the book, just some strange carvings and runes painted on the cover and the bindings. Randomly he opened the book to a page and started to skim read through it, his literacy skills being good enough at least for that. The books seemed to be accounts of some sort. They told of old wars and events that were puzzling to the dwarf who had not studied history too thoroughly.
He flipped through the pages to try and find something else. He looked through historical records, old myths and the like. This book seemed to be more generalized, the notes stuffed in between the pages appeared to be the elf's thoughts on the subject, and these too were puzzling.
The book told of the Gods and magic, and the events of what was known as the Dwarven Exile and the War of the Magi, two wars that had long been passed. But some of the records seemed to be personal journal entries…
Back then all I cared about was the fighting… the exhilarating feeling of adrenalin pumping through your veins as you ride on horseback towards victory… as you dodge each blow, as you spill blood with each strike. But what were we really doing? Taking power into our own hands just because we saw the dwarves as unfit to rule the world… we wanted that power, that dark lust to be immensely powerful. I remember the battlefield, my clothes drenched in red blood, both my own and my enemy's. My sword was no longer mine, it was different… like my face, now it was stained with darkness and it rot before my eyes. Hundreds we killed for no cause, because we obeyed our leaders. But I will no longer obey these kinds of orders; I will make a stand and show them the error of their ways. Yes, that's what I'll do… oh how I was excited then… if only I knew…
An entry, which appeared to be about the war the elves fought against the dwarves. But, was it possible for Haedring to have written this? This war was centuries ago, predating even his grandfather's grandfather. Someone else, perhaps Haedring's ancestor or maybe a person's journal Haedring happened to find on his travels a long time ago, must've made the entry.
Xanderick suddenly began to feel dizzy. Grasping his head he tried to make the pain stop, but it started to become excruciating. He dared to scream but did not want to alarm Haedring and so he grit his teeth trying to wear out the pain. The darkened room spun around in his mind, the vivid picture painted in his mind by the entry seemed to pop out of nowhere, and then the dwarf's sight blackened and he could feel nothing anymore. His mind had left consciousness.
Last thing the dwarf remembered was a disappointed sigh and the book being quietly plucked out of his grasp. After that he just drifted off into a peaceful sleep, his dreams cured from the dark images inside his head.
|15 Aug 2004|| Larry N. Morris|
Just some suggestions -- take 'em or leave 'em. You tell a good story but if feels rushed. Take you time and give more tetails. In the first paragraph we meet a dwarf. Tell more about his appearance so the reader can form a picture in his mind. Also (in haste, I think) the dwarf scattered his belongings (including his food) all over the ground then he saw a path and ran to it. Would it not be a good idea if he picked up those things (especially food) to take with him? Most inportant; the first sentence says "said the dwarf". Why not just give us the name as in "said Fred"? These are just generalizaations but it looks like all you need to do is take your time and give details to have a great story here.
|10 Sep 2004|| Banshee|
Oh! I almost forgot! Larry's advice was good, but I'm afraid I disagree about starting out with his name. While that does work, I think I like "the dwarf" a little better in your case.
And just from one writer to another: You do NOT have to take every piece of advice given to you. This is your story, not ours. Even though I hope our advice is good, if you like something just the way it is, ignore what everyone else is saying! YOU have to like your story too. If a certain change (for instance my suggestion under, I believe, Chapter 2 to alter the dwarf's accent some) just doesn't feel right to you, don't do it! If you don't keep it personal, keep it a part of you, then it's not yours anymore. Michael Rapoport
replies: "Yea the idea of writing "the elf" and "the dwarf" is to show how I'm seperating people into different categories as this has a big role in the plot.And thanx for all your advice, it was really helpful Sometimes I tend to take everyone's advice in, but yea I usually dont change things if I feel it should be there. I mean, every writer thinks differently."
|10 Sep 2004|| Banshee|
Details are always good. Lots and lots of details. Appearances, smells, sounds... it's all good and very much needed for an excellent story. Yours, my friend, is very close. All it needs is a bit more of a description of the dwarf and perhaps a little about where he hails from. Most dwarves care nothing for books and it is rare to see a dwarf with any sort of literacy at all. Tell me then, what makes this dwarf special? Or perhaps you're saving that for another time?
You had some excellent humor in here as well. Being the fantasy lover I am, I could not help but laugh when the dwarf saw those pointed ears. And him pretending to be an elf was so comical; I could just picture him stumbling over his words and pulling at his beard.
Just make sure that in the rest of your story, until the elf finds out the truth, you don't have them touch at all. A dwarf's skin is very rough and the elf would instantly know the difference.
Well done!! Michael Rapoport
replies: "I always like to make things seem confusing and unknown to the reader for the first few chapters. It's part of the way I develop my characters, as the plot goes along more and more about each character's past is revealed. I reckon it keeps the suspense/surprise in the reading."