Chapter 20: Elvensong
Hunted down by their old friend now turned to the dark, the two brothers take refuge in Lorianel, the last Elven kingdom. Problem is it is dying and it is up for the Lion and the Dragon to save it by opening its gates to the Otherworld.
A book that I have been working on With my brother and Best friend for almost four years now. Since this my Brother have writen one other book which is going to be published in december.
Chapter 20: Elvensong
Hunted down by their old friend now turned to the dark, the two brothers take refuge in Lorianel, the last Elven kingdom. Problem is it is dying and it is up for the Lion and the Dragon to save it by opening its gates to the Otherworld.
With a great weight on his heart Jed turned back and surveyed the battlefield, still covered with the smoke of a thousand fires. Still covered with the bodies of ten thousand more. “How could you have come to this ?“ He muttered under his breath. He turned once more and saw Troy perched on the top of the cliff with a forlorn stare. “We should seek the elves” he said quietly.
“ Elves , what are you sure ? “ Jed asked in disbelief. “How do you know?”
Troy stood up and quickly unsheathed his razor like blade reflecting light blindingly. The motion made a clear clean ring from the blade which rang out for some seconds before blending in to the wailing of the wind. He sighted down his blade at the Chaos below and closed his eyes. Turning he quickly sheathed his sword again started down the far side of the high hill they had ascended . “ I don’t know” he muttered softly “I don’t know”.
With out another glance behind them, Jed too closed the hill and forced all thought of the past few hours of hell out of his mind. He quietly sang this song to himself as he followed
“The hills are red the dawn has come
The streams over there banks have run
Today that I would see my last
The time of my brother ravens past”
Two weeks of journeying and still they had no clue as to how far it was to the elves. Or for that matter if even the elves existed. All troy would say was ” I know we must go”. At night they would sit around a small fire, just big enough to keep warm and cook whatever scarce game they managed to kill. It became a dark time often not saying a word to one another. Only Troy would sit and play mournful melodies on his tiny ten stringed Mandilar. Eventually adapting Jed’s song into a dirge he darkly called nocturne for a friend.
Jean felt the wind stir his hair as the shadows of night deepened all around him. He looked at his watch and seeing his bare wrist, remembered that it had been stolen from him. He tasted blood in his mouth and winced as he remembered the iron-hard fist that had crashed into it. The highway was empty for miles in either side as he limped alongside it. The moon, bright and full, had risen in the East as the first stars twinkled in the horizon. He looked down at his hand where one of his robbers had trampled underfoot…the middle finger was undoubtedly broken…the ring finger probably so.
“Oh well,” he smiled ruefully as he mumbled to himself, “what use is guitar playing in this world anyway?” He felt the warm summer wind hit his face again and smelled death in it. The faint aftertaste of a multitude of the dead moistened his swollen tongue. As he took another faltering step he realized that he would not be able to walk far…not in his condition. He spied a single tree in the field alongside the deserted highway and thanked a God he no longer believed in for the pitiful shelter it provided. As he stumbled towards it, he looked up. Night reigned all around him now and in the South Scorpio had risen, Antares shining blood-red in its eye. As he collapsed beneath the tree he thought again of how low he had sunken. But he quickly stopped this line of thinking for he knew that no matter how low he believed himself to have sunken, there were still depths of misery he could still reach.
He hugged himself, more for the illusory comfort of human touch than for warmth, and leaned against the rough, solitary tree. He laughed again as he contemplated himself, broken, battered, tired and huddling like a lonely child under the solitary scarecrow of a tree alongside a desolate and lonely stretch of highway. For the hundredth time he wished he was as dead as the 99% of humanity. The cold embrace of the grave seemed more and more seductive to him. Against his wishes, his lids grew heavier and heavier as he felt himself being pulled towards sleep. It was at that singular moment, after wakefulness and before sleep, when all of the shadows of the night seem darker and time slows down, that he saw them. Standing all around him in the distance, lining the horizon and beckoning from the sides of the highway they stood. He saw his mother. His stepfather. Even his sister, looking as serene and placid as the day he buried her in the backyard. They stood looking at him, glowing with a cold, pale light like weakening fireflies in the summer night. He struggled to shake himself awake and escape this terrible vision but he couldn’t. He was completely paralyzed as one by one they looked at him, their faces unsmiling and accusatory, as if to fault him for the fact that he was still alive when they were dead. Finally, he jerked himself completely awake and looked around him. The highway was empty now as was the horizon. The restless dead were gone. He looked up and gasped for the moon glowed with a fierce red light as if covered in blood. There were no stars in the sky now. The sky looked as black as the bottom of a deep hole. Jean knew then that he wasn’t completely awake but he knew he was not asleep either. He had entered the Telaranhio’d, the great divide between your last wakeful yawn and the first peaceful breath of sleep. In this in-between place he saw now, all the doors to all of the worlds stood open, beckoning him. It was in this darkness that he saw the man in black approach him. He stiffened with fear but felt he couldn’t move. The man approached and he saw that he could not see the man’s face: it was covered in shadow and a cowl. But he could hear the man’s laughter. It was deep and rumbling, like the thunder of a rapidly approaching storm.
The man in black knelt in front of him and touched his forehead. Jean felt as if a thousand
needles of fire had penetrated every part of his body. He felt pain course through him as his back arched uncontrollably and he went into convulsions. Even through his convulsions he could hear the man in black laughing, murmuring a prayer in a foul language even the dead feared.
The man in black lifted the hood that covered his face and Jean saw his face looking back at him, only many years older. Before confusion could overwhelm his senses, the man pointed at him and spoke:
“…I went to God just to see, and I was looking at me
saw heaven and hell were lies…”
Jean struggled to sit up as he looked at his older reflection, a glint that spoke of destruction and misery in its eyes, and tried to speak to it. He found that he couldn’t. The being, who was his own reflection Jean realized now, smiled, pointed up at the sky and in the same cadence, with an accent that reflected a language not of this world, spoke again:
“..prick your finger it is done
the moon has now eclipsed the sun
the Angel has spread its wings
the time has come for bitter things…”
And with that the apparition hunched down and grunted as two enormous wings, black and sooty, sprouted from his back. He looked up at Jean again and smiled. He now spoke with Jean’s own voice:
“I was once eaten but now I am the eater. I was once the raped, but now I am the raper. I was once a Worm but now I am a Destroyer.”
And with those words he took flight into the starless sky as Jean collapsed in uncontrollable trembling.
It was hours before he came to. The moon, silvery and familiar once more, stood directly above his head. Jean lifted himself up and was surprised to feel his aches were gone. He looked at his fingers and saw they were perfect…not mangled and broken as they had been a few hours before. He stood to his feet and smiled. At that moment a coyote, who must have been waiting for hours in the dark for the right moment to spring, launched himself at Jean’s back. Jean turned around and quicker than lightning grabbed the beast by its throat. He looked into its eyes and smiled. The coyote trembled and urinated himself as he looked into the eyes of a true predator. One twist of his wrist was all it took for Jean to snap its neck. As he dropped the dead carcass on the ground, Jean realized he felt good. He felt powerful. All his tears were done for, he realized. For the first time in his life he felt a purpose, a calling. He looked up at the sky and envisioned himself shaking the stars from heaven. He laughed as the power coursed through him again and he howled at the moon.
Alongside him in a solitary stretch of Highway 55 in an empty quarter of Oklahoma the restless dead trembled and fled towards the safety of the shadows of their world.
The evening breeze was brisk and the leaves were rattling the song of fall and winters come. They had just entered this valley and had decided to take shelter for the night. Inexplicably they both seemed to sense by instinct the coming storm. And a good thing to for it was not twenty minuets latter that they began to see the first edges of the massive storm. And within ten more they were being beaten and blown by the severe wind and monsoon like rain.
Breaking a half hour long silence Jed shouted “ Man I haven’t seen a storm like this since we were at sea, aboard the Pandora.” nearly bent over Troy stopped and turned. Jed could see him smile from under his rain soaked hood “ Ah those were better days , though you could not have told us then.” He chuckled as he turned and continued up the ravine they were following. But is seemed to Jed that after he had smiled he seemed to walk differently, lighter. This had been something that had concerned Jed for several days now. Growing more quiet daily it was obvious Troy was slipping into a depression much the same as Jean had done just days before he went insane and turned on them. Troy’s recent laughter seemed to break some of this dark spell.
Suddenly Troy stopped and appeared to be closely inspecting the side of the ravine. Drawing his sword he carefully prodded a small man sized hole in the embankment. Using the pale light from his glowing blade he peered into the entrance. Jed always being the more reckless of the two also drew his sword but pushed past Troy crawling right into the shaft. He muttered through chattering teeth “I’d rather fight a dragon then stand out there one more minute.” It took only a few seconds to see that this was a long abandoned burrow for some large beast. It continued on for about thirty more feet where it dead ended in a round room nearly fifteen feet in diameter. It had a low ceiling but it was dry and that was all that mattered.
Soaked to the bone and bitterly cold both Troy and Jed appreciated the dry hole. Jed lit a small fire since there was plenty of draw from the wind outside. Troy produced his Mandilar and started composing a ballad for the rain. Jed dug through his pack and withdrew the small skinned drum that Lieleth of the Amazons had given him just before she was slain at Gobra. Sitting Indian style by the fire he began to play along. Before long the beat had quickened and they were both shouting verses as fast as they could think of them. Suddenly Troy stopped. Jed laughed “come on I don’t sound that bad do I ?” he stopped laughing when troy still didn’t answer.
“Jed, does it look to you that the wall is watching us?” Troy was staring strait over the fire at the opposite wall which had many tangled roots protruding from its surface.
At first glance he saw nothing out of the ordinary, a wall of earth and some stone arranged in no particular shape or pattern . He was about to speak when he saw them staring back intently. He caught his breath and just kept his gaze fixed.
In the corner of his eye he saw Troy slowly reaching for his sword. But before he could reach it the far wall moved and they were face to face with a wall of living earth. Roughly human in shape but taller and more stout than any man they had ever seen it had jagged stone protruding form its back and its eyes were to stones black as coal it stepped over the fire with amazing speed and stood over them. Surprisingly it spoke, though with a voice like a Mill wheel crushing bone. “Good evening my lords” he said bowing with as much grace as an earth quake. “At last I have found thee, The Dragon, and The Lion.”
Standing up Jed braced his sword “ who are you and more important how do you know who we are?
For a moment the creature was silent and seem perplexed then he spoke again. “ I have no name as I am only an extension of my masters will.” He paused but continued “But if it makes easier then you may call me Petra”
Troy was still sitting now his sword lay across his lap. “ Ok Petra I don’t believe you are here to hurt us. So why are you here and who is your master?” The stone behemoth took a step back and bowed again. “Twelve moons ago I was summoned from the earth by a High Elf called Damuer‘dwelsh, A seer of elves.”
Petra seemed to grow momentarily “ for my people have always been helpful to the elves. And have many times served in war and peace“
Sensing no hostility jed lay his sword down and began to examine there guest more carefully. “And what exactly are your people?” he asked genuinely interested.
The stone man once again seemed to swell with pride. “We are elementals known to most men of this plane only as Crags.” he growled with a low rumble “ We are distant cousins of the Craig ‘sven who serve only the dark one. But even though they may be more powerful and cunning, they are a disgrace to our noble line”
Troy stood up and stretched “ please continue, why did your master summon you and what does he want with us?”
The golem looked back at him unblinkingly “ The good Elf Damuer’dwelsh bade me search with great speed and diligence for two he called The dragon and The Lion. And now I have found you. So we must be off without delay I feel the dark moving as we speak.” Petra turned and stood by the shaft leading out. “ I will wait while you pack your things. I am sorry for the rush but you will have rest in Lorianel the last stronghold fortress of the Elves.
Both Troy and Jed looked at each other and nodded. Both began to gather his clothes and personal items. Thankfully most of there gear had dried already. As he finished packing the last few items Troy looked up thoughtfully “ Petra tell me some thing, how did you find us, And how did you know for sure it was us?”
Petra gave what could have passed for a smile “That is simple my master told me to search for the only two people in all the land that had the seed of joy in there hearts. “ all three of them started to crawl out the tunnel back into the torrential rain. “ It is strange.” he said pausing at the opening. “ For nearly two weeks I have spent all my time searching for that light of joy and hope. And I must admit I was beginning to think I had failed. But then I saw it burning through the earth before me like a great fire building” he shook his great stone shoulders sending a shower of tiny pebbles to the ground. “I guess it was there all along and I just wasn’t at the right place within my self to see it” he stepped out into the pouring rain and disappeared like through a veil. Both Troy and Jed looked at each other and nodded solemnly, “I guess so.”
They had been following Petra for hours through the downpour which only seemed to intensify as they walked. Petra just kept walking and it seemed they had no choice. Troy looked over at Jed as they trudged up a slope which seemed ready to collapse from the force of the rain. “ Hey is it me or is it raining harder now, much harder?”
Jed wiped the water from his eyes and looked at the terrible night sky which by now was being nearly constantly illuminated by great jagged rifts if lightning.
“It looks like the end of the world to me” came his dark reply.
Petra was standing at the top of the hill waiting for them. He turned his two coal black eyes down to gaze at them once more “It is, Don’t you see? The world is dying, being given over to him who I will not name.”
“Lashier” both Troy and Jed spoke the name under there breath and it was emphasized by a loud crack of lightning striking a nearby tree. The golem turned to continue over the hill. ”Come now quickly, THEY are coming. We will be there in just a few more hours”
“A few more hours!” shouted Jed.
“Cant we just rest until morning? We are very tired.” Troy shouted over the roar of the wind and rain.
They saw him stop but not turn. He seemed almost surprised but saddened. “ There will be…no morning after this night. Only everlasting Oblivion.” With out another word he started lurching back down the hill. And again seemed to disappear in the dark veil that now to them seemed to be the tears of the world weeping at the end. “
Finally Thought Troy. Though he had not seen it yet he knew they were getting close now. He could feel it in the earth, in the air around them, Resistance, denial of fate. He was just about to say some thing when Jed leaned close. “Do you feel that? It feels like fighting back. I don’t even know what that means, but that’s what it feels like to me.”
Troy nodded and strained to see ahead in the darkness. Just then they heard Petras Grating voice carried back to then on the wind.
“ At last we have reached the home of my master Damuer’dwelsh. He will be anxious to take you to the elders at the council.”
Both Jed and Troy were still stumbling blindly through the torrential downpour when they stepped through what almost looked like a wall of water. It reminded them of a force field or a shield. It was completely dry inside. They looked up to see the rain running off in great sheets as if by some unseen hand. “Is this elf magic?” asked Jed.
“ Oh yes my lords, it is but one of the many wonders possessed by the noble people of Lorianel. It was they who kept much of this world in harmony as it was….. But now they are diminished. And I fear they are doomed.” The golem hesitated and continued “I think it wiser to let Damuer’dwelsh explain, it is not my place to say.”
Up ahead though the gloom half light that filled the area inside the shield they could just barely make out the shape of a huge tree. And as they got closer they realized a great house, in the tree. It was beautiful but some how tragic. No words were spoken while they walked toward the grate sunken gate way at the base of the trunk. They were in aw of the sheer size and complexity of the structure. The boughs of the upper limbs reached far above and they could not see at what heights they stopped. The inner gate was an immense Bronze disc sunk into the roots of the great tree. On it were thousands of tiny engravings radiating out from the center. Troy noted what appeared to be a blank spot in the pattern and wondered what it was. Petra Beat on the door with the sound of a great gong. The sound though was swallowed up by the unnatural stillness in this shield. To Jed it almost felt like being in a vacuum. They stood waiting for several seconds before they heard even the faintest sounds from inside. And then still it was another two or three minutes before there knock was answered. In the distance they could just faintly hear what sounded like a tiny silver bell. They did not know what it signaled but befor they could ask the massive doors began to swing open. And they were ushered in by servants and given rooms. Petra came to there room after a while to tell them goodbye.
“I am off to the council to bring word of your arrival. And to complete any business they might bade me.” he sighed” I am proud to have met two people so legendary as you and I want you to know I am at your service if ever you should have need. I want you to have this” He pulled a stone from his chest. It was somewhat smooth and looked to have some very vague rune letters carved on its surface. “ If ever you should need me you have but to rub that stone and I will be summoned to you”
Jed took it and put it in his satchel.
“Thank you Petra I don’t know what to say we will miss your sober countenance” both he and troy Wished him luck. And he was off.
They had been told they would have audience in a while so they both decided to get some rest. And a good thing to for it was to be there last for a long, long time.
Damuer’dwelsh was much smaller than you would expect an elf to be and surprisingly nearly bald. But what he lacked in stature he more than made up for in presence. Latter they would joke of him as the most authoritative midget they ever met. But only a complete fool would make such a comment while in his company.
“Welcome To my humble home. I am honored to have two such guests as you, Do please sit down I Have many things to tell you before you go before the council .“ He gestured toward two overstuffed leather chairs opposite an imposing throne like recliner. They both sat down and marveled at the fire burning merrily on the great hearth. It looked so cheery one could not help but smile in satisfaction. Damuer’dwelsh Went to a large cupboard against the wall and took out a large flask. Raising it to his nose he took a deep breath and sighed in approval.
“Would either of you care for a drink?”
“Yes but it isn’t to strong is it?” Replied Jed who was known to not hold his liquor very well. Thinking back to guardian troll incident he shuddered. Troy licked his lips.
“Sure I need some thing to wake up after that nap. I cant believe how well rested I feel after only such a short time asleep.”
The squat little elf produced to silver chalices from a drawer and poured both to the very top.
“Here you go it is the finest we have to offer, reserved only for our most important guests.” Jed took an apprehensive sip and made a face. Troy laughed at the site.
“Is it that bad Jed?” Jed looked puzzled for a second then shrugged and chugged the whole thing.
“Golly man what are you doing? You know you can’t hold down anything stronger than water “ Jed looked at the elf.
“As far as I can tell it is water.” Damuer arched his eyebrows questioningly.
“Well of course it is. What else would it be.” He cried indignantly.
Jed looked at Troy who looked at the floor
“Never mind.” He said trying to switch subjects “So please tell us why you have brought us here?” at this there host seemed to stiffen and sat back abruptly.
“well for you to understand, I mean really understand you must understand the origins and history of Elvin kind.” He paused to withdraw a very long pipe from some where within a fold of his luxuriant robe. He tamped it firmly with the air of one who had much experience. Then with out even bothering to take a match to it he began to puff and draw on it thoughtfully. Almost as an afterthought he snapped his finger and the pipe started billowing a plume of thick aromatic white smoke. Exhaling he blew a smoke ring.
“where to begin” He mumbled quietly. “Well you must know the nature of our existence we are not of the same order as you or any rootworlder, And by that I mean any one home world or originating plane of existence. We were at the beginning and we are to be there at the end.” He looked at them with a gleam in his eye” You do know there will be an end don’t you? Most mortals these days seem to have some vague concept of an endless time stream, an Eternity if you will” he chuckled at this as though at some inside joke.
“That is preposterous as I’m sure you can see every thing has a beginning and every thing that has a beginning also must have an end. Its that simple really you cant have one with out the other. Good Evil, Yin Yang, Positive and negative. Even God and the Devil.” Chuckling he exhaled slowly
“I know you have seen many things and you have seen wonders must mortals will never even dream of. You have met many powerful beings some gods in there own right. But remember The reality of finality. In the end there is Ultimate Good and Ultimate evil. Neutrality is a myth devised by the dark one himself. We all make the choice at some point and there are consequences to both. And neither is an easy road. “ Jed looked at Troy again who in turn looked back at the floor. They knew they had all chosen there roads. But where now would they end?
As if to lighten the mood the elf stood and laughed
“Sober faces we wear at the end, is it though not fitting?” looking back and forth from one to the other he continued “ We elves are a weight on the scales of existence and whether or not we are cast upon the scale is completely up to man.” he cast a questioning look at the brothers looking for recognition. He saw none. “Ironically they do not even know there own power and thus often do not use it.”
Troy usually cool and collected looked bewildered.
“Sir I don’t think I am following you please put it in lay terms.” Exhaling slowly as if to capture a stay thought.
“ Was there a point where you said “I believe in elves?” Before they could answer he continued. I know there was because I sent that thought to you. To call you here.” I am sorry it isn’t the custom of the elves to force thoughts on others. But I felt I had no choice.”
“you made me believe in elves?” Troy sounded dubious.
Jed leaned forward “why would you do that?” Troy echoed in.
“ How can you do that?” The old figure shifted in his chair. He looked like some one not accustomed to being questioned like this.
The look in his eyes was pained.
“As I said I am deeply sorry to have forced your thoughts but I had to make sure.”
“Make sure of what?” Troy asked, still slightly frustrated.
“Ask yourself, before that day did you believe in elves?” he squinted questioningly.
“Well I don’t know.
Troy couldn’t sleep. He didn’t know why, this was the most comfortable he’d been in weeks. And even though the greatest storm in the history of all words raged outside. Inside the protection of the massive tree fortress he heard only the breeze playing in the upper bows. “I should be at peace at least I’m safe here.” But that’s what upset him the most. For weeks he’d hung all his hopes on the elves. Whom he had assumed would be able to help. But now it seemed he had found yet another people, maybe even another world that needed him. And that weight was beginning to crush him to oblivion. He felt himself slipping into that old feeling of depression.
He was jolted out of his thoughts by a soft knock at his door. “Come in he whispered” half heartedly.