Through the Dark Veil: Part One

Through the Dark Veil

By Allen Woods

Royal Arrivals
"The old histories do not give much attention to where Gelvin the Spriteleng's quest began, but we believe it is of the utmost importance. To understand why he took on a quest that would force him to make the ultimate sacrifice and change the world of Illuria, it is first necessary to understand his relationship with the noble Pithian Whiteshield."

From The One History of Illuria
By the Council of Prophecies

Gelvin was a small gray Spriteleng with dark green eyes and a constant smile spread across his face. He was curious by nature and loved to listen to older Spritelengs tell stories. Gelvin was happy living among the trees with his mother and father. Gelvin had no siblings, but he did not mind because Spritelengs had very little precious time to play. Spritelengs spent most of the day working for the benefit of the community.

As long as Gelvin could remember he loved to watch the stars. As a child living in a Spriteleng village, he worked hard in the fields all day, but relaxed under the moonlight sky at night. Almost every evening, well after darkness fell, Gelvin would sneak out of the expansive tree trunk his family lived in, and find a good spot to lie down in the grass.

One evening, Gelvin waited until his mother and father were sound asleep before slipping out of the tree through a large knot hole. His mother scolded him when he went out at night so Gelvin had become very adept at eluding their watching eyes, or in this case their wheezing noses. He heard his parents snoring loudly and knew that they would not catch him going out. They seldom did. Gelvin crept out of his room until he reached the small corner his mother called a cookroom. He stood on a short wooden table made of oak and looked up at the knot hole in the trunk of their tree.

The knot hole was not large enough to be a window, but Gelvin's father had decided not to fill it in because it was unobtrusive. It was high above their heads and he occasionally liked to listen to the singing birds in the morning. Despite how high the hole was though, Gelvin had developed a technique to reach it.

He had performed this aerial feat enough times to be certain that he could pull it off. The hole, a few paces above Gelvin's outstretched arms, glowed white as the soft moonlight seeped through it. Gelvin jumped off the table and snagged the bottom part of the ellipse. He strained as his arms pulled him higher until his eyes and nose barely peeked over the rim of his escape hole. Gelvin pulled harder with his short and stubby arms until his entire head, and soon after, his shoulders, were stuck firmly in the hole. He wiggled his arms out, one at a time, to the outside part of the trunk and then pushed with all his strength. A light sweat broke out on Gelvin's gray forehead as he strained and pushed himself half way out of the tree. As Gelvin felt his weight shifting to the outside of the hole he counted to himself, "One...two...three!"

With one final push on three, Gelvin soared out of the tree trunk and reached out for a thin branch very close to the ground. Gelvin straightened and tightened his body as his hands made contact with the elastic branch. He grabbed hold tightly and the branch bent and swayed with the extra weight. Gelvin's feet swung down and he felt the thick grass penetrate the spaces between his toes.

"Made it," Gelvin said to himself as he released the branch and it reverberated back into place. Gelvin took off running through the crisp night air until he was barely in sight of his village. The village was mostly Spriteleng families living in tree trunks, but there were wooden houses and structures sparsely scattered throughout the area. Those buildings were for storage instead of housing, because Spritelengs preferred the safe warmth of a tree for living in.

Gelvin stopped running once he reached a grass covered hill just above his village. He looked down at his tree and stared at the dark ground around it. Gelvin thought the color of the grass at night was fascinating. During the day, it was bright green, but at night the ground appeared quite black. Gelvin looked at his arm and even his skin looked almost black in the moonlight. He was convinced that all things changed color at night and he found it unendingly interesting. He was ready to watch the stars though, so Gelvin laid down on the ground and rested his head on the sloping hill.

"This is a good night," Gelvin thought because the sky was clear with a full moon. Each night, Gelvin would try to count the stars above him. Usually he would count as high as a few hundred before he either got bored or fell asleep. However, this night he did not count very far because of a very unusual distraction.

The air was moist and damp, but Gelvin hadn't noticed it before he stopped on the hill. He thought the air was growing thicker with each passing minute. He wondered if it had something to do with the river that ran next to the village. Perhaps the water from the ground was filling the air. Gelvin listened intently to the babbling water not far away and that explanation made sense. But then Gelvin realized that he had never before heard the water this far from the river!

Gelvin sat up and saw an unbelievable sight. A tremendous wall of water had risen out of the middle of the river and was floating towards his village. Gelvin, young and gullible, believed that the river had come to life and was trying to eat his village. He jumped to his bare feet and thought, "I've got to go home!" But before Gelvin even moved, it was too late.

The water was moving as though a giant invisible hand were guiding it, but then released the thousands of pounds of liquid above Gelvin's home. The wall of clear water collapsed from the sky and crushed the village. The impact of the water hitting the ground created a booming splash that deafened Gelvin. The young Spriteleng covered his ears and screamed in fear as the rushing water tore through his home, uprooting trees and flaying the buildings. Gelvin heard screams as the onslaught awakened the other Spritelengs, but very soon they were silenced and replaced by gurgling sounds.

Gelvin was protected from the water by his elevated position, but he wished he had died with the others. A sense of guilt filled him up. The only reason he had survived was because he was disobeying his mother. Gelvin hiked back down to the remnants of his water soaked village and stared at the dead bodies. Gelvin had never seen a dead Spriteleng before and he didn't know how to react. He didn't recognize the first body he encountered. He thought, "Perhaps she's just sleeping." Gelvin nudged her on the shoulder, but the Spriteleng did not move. Her skin was clammy and wet which compelled Gelvin to recoil his hand. The victim did not respond as the face on the body stared up at the night sky, with her mouth open and her heart stopped.

Gelvin quickly found a thin long stick amongst the debris and ran through the village poking every Spriteleng he saw. None of them moved and Gelvin finally realized that they were all dead and he was alone. Gelvin eventually found his mother. It looked as though she had tried to crawl out of their tree, but she did not make it. A large branch laid across her neck as her entire body was slowly sinking into the mud. Gelvin drug her body out of the sinking puddle of earth and clutched her tightly around the chest. "Please come back," he whimpered as he held her crushed limp body. "I don't want to be alone." Gelvin cried as he experienced fear for the first time in his short life.

Two suns passed and a young warrior galloped through the forest on the back of his white stallion. The warrior wore shiny white armor over all his body and his long blond hair whipped back and forth in the wind. He breathed deeply and clean fresh air filled his lungs. He urged his steed forward, faster and faster. The horse's thunderous hoofs scared away the small animals that lived on the ground and the warrior watched as woolly spiders and sparkling pixies scurried away through the dew laden grass of the early morning.

Far off in the distance the warrior heard a faint sound. "Eh, what's that?" he asked his horse. He listened more closely and believed it sounded like a sob. He turned his horse around and galloped up a small hill in the direction of the mysterious cry. As the warrior crossed over the grassy hill he saw Gelvin sitting in the middle of the remnants of his village.

In the daylight, the village looked like a mass of wet splintered wood laden with cold unmoving bodies. The warrior remained calm and quickly realized that a disaster must have destroyed the village. There was no evidence of battle or of any incursions, and the Spriteleng boy was the only creature left alive.

Gelvin sat with his head buried between his bony knees in what used to be the center of his village. He was still holding his stick because it made him feel a little more secure, but not much though. The warrior slowly rode his horse up to Gelvin and he stretched out his hand. Gelvin felt the man's shadow cover him so he looked up and saw the enormous human. He had never seen a human before and did not know what to say. Gelvin clenched his fists together and prayed to himself, "Please don't hurt me."

The warrior recognized that the Spriteleng was in shock so he said, "Come with me now. I will not harm you." A gigantic human on a horse, with a large sword at his side, scared Gelvin even though he was too weak to move. However, the man's voice erased all of those feelings. It was angelic and comforting. Gelvin felt assured and protected as the man looked down upon him. Gelvin looked into his deep blue eyes and somehow he knew that this man was here to save him. Gelvin, for the first time since the disaster, smiled wearily as he felt safe with the stranger.

Gelvin was emaciated and exhausted, so the warrior got off his horse and reached down to pick him up. Gelvin still had a little spunk left though, and as soon as the man firmly gripped him with both hands, Gelvin threw his arms around the warrior's neck. He started to sob again and the warrior picked him up and held Gelvin in a reassuring embrace. "It's okay now," he said as he patted Gelvin's back. "What's your name?"

"Gelvin," he spat out through the tears of relief and desperation.

"Hello Gelvin. I'm Pithian. You'll come with me now." With that greeting, Pithian placed Gelvin on the back of his horse and the two rode off together, leaving Gelvin's village forever. A lifelong friendship of respect and trust was born.

Long ago, before the ubiquitous age of man, there existed a world simply called Illuria. On this small green world the forces of good and evil did battle for a thousand generations using the unending resources of magic and the strength of mighty warriors. This is the story of a young hero seeking to find his place in this constantly changing landscape. The annals of history call him Gelvin the Spriteleng.

You may ask what a Spriteleng was, for they no longer exist today (their time has come and gone). Spritelengs were woodland creatures who could be recognized by their gray or green skin, their wiry frame, and their large ears. Spritelengs had no hair anywhere on their bodies, but their skin was thick and leathery and could protect them from the elements. They had eyes the same size as a normal man, but they appeared more penetrating. Any man who encountered a Spriteleng felt that the peaceful creature was looking into his soul. Spritelengs walked erect like humans, but they carried themselves with flowing lithe movements that reminded one of a dancer. They had balance and coordination that could only be found in the most remarkable of beings. Most importantly though, Spritelengs were generous and giving by their nature. Their good nature is what most distinguished them from men.

Most people had never laid eyes on a Spriteleng, though, because they shunned the hustling and bustling world outside their forest homes. For that reason, Spritelengs tended to be reclusive and could only be found in deep woods of old oak and dark vales. After living in the forests for so many generations, Spritelengs learned and developed many skills unnatural to men. Their large ears gave them acute hearing, their environment gave them eyes that could see at night, and their rural settings forced them to learn other uncanny talents found very rarely in other creatures. Spritelengs were naturally intelligent, and those who put their minds to it could learn the arts of magic and wizardry.

The Spriteleng of this story, Gelvin, was still young (nineteen years) when his quest began and still had much to learn about what it meant to be a Spriteleng. Especially being a Spriteleng in a world of humans. Men did not fear Spritelengs, as they did orcs and ogres, but they did not understand them either. Most humans simply didn't care about Spritelengs and considered them weak in body and mind. Gelvin was forced to live among those bigoted men because one good man, Pithian, accepted the responsibility of raising the Spriteleng he saved from the forest eleven years ago.

Pithian took Gelvin back to his temple in the city of Caledan where they lived until the day of our story. Caledan was a large city ruled by King Zendon the wise. His polished stone castle gleamed outward from the center of town and many wealthy merchants and hard working craftsmen managed their trades within the thick city walls. A delicate balance of soldiers and civilians teetered back and forth in Caledan. As more civilians came to Caledan, King Zendon conscripted more soldiers to help maintain control.

The soldiers of Caledan were a motley bunch. Most of them were young men who couldn't find work and turned to the army to support themselves. They were given a coat of armor, bearing the blue color of Zendon's flag, and a sword to carry. Most of the soldiers were uneducated and, in Gelvin's opinion, rude. Whenever he traveled through the city, Gelvin tried his best to avoid passing any of the conceited infantrymen, who usually overemphasized their worth to the kingdom.

Gelvin never understood why, but Zendon maintained a large army that had been training for war over many years. War was not a Spriteleng concept. In fact, throughout the annals of time, nobody ever heard of or witnessed a war between Spritelengs. Gelvin simply thought war was kings' methods of venting frustration against each other. Therefore, Gelvin always wondered why the kings never fought a duel against each other to settle their problems. That made much more sense to him, but then again, Gelvin did not understand the nature of war Zendon's soldiers served for little gold but a great deal of respect. Gelvin could not comprehended why a man would join the army (surely they must know that wars are wrong), but then again, he never needed to.

In the years following his rescue, Gelvin learned that Pithian was a powerful and well respected human who, in the opinion of most people, was incredibly wise. Gelvin observed many humans come to Pithian's temple, not only to pray, but to seek advice and help. Pithian was always ready to advise, but, just as frequently, he avoided taking an active role in helping others, even when Gelvin thought it was an immensely good cause. Pithian was sympathetic, for he hated evil and injustice, but he always argued that he was saving himself for something more important. It was many years before Gelvin learned what that was.

Pithian labored hard to maintain the appearance of his temple and he worked even harder in teaching Gelvin about the world. For eleven years Pithian regimented Gelvin's daily life. In the morning they would pray together at the altar. Then, Gelvin would read until the afternoon. Pithian had an enormous library that satisfied Gelvin's diverse curiosity. He read about history, magic, adventuring, healing, and even a little bit about Spritelengs (though Gelvin concluded that most of what was written about his people was spurious). After reading, Gelvin would polish the floors and prune the garden. Finally, he would spend the rest of the evening cooking dinner and practicing his swordsmanship. Pithian would not let Gelvin practice with a real blade, but the wooden ones were sufficient. Every night Gelvin and Pithian would spar for hours outside the temple. In eleven years, Gelvin never defeated Pithian. The schedule was always the same and very long, as it kept Gelvin occupied for the entire day. He did not mind though, because the work was much more interesting than the farming he remembered working on all day as a child. Pithian had reasons other than Gelvin's enjoyment for pushing him so hard though.

From the first day he saw Gelvin, Pithian decided that he must raise him as his own child because he somehow knew that the Spriteleng would one day face an incredible challenge from an unspeakable horror that would threaten Illuria. The day before Pithian's fateful journey through the forest, he had a vision that he was going to meet a Spriteleng that would one day play a pivotal role in his battle against evil. Gelvin never understood why Pithian thought he was so important, but he soon learned, as all people who knew Pithian came to realize, not to question his judgment. Pithian seemed to have some knowledge and foresight about the future but not even Gelvin knew where this fountain of information came from. Pithian's suspicions about what the future held is why he tutored Gelvin in all forms of education and skills. The challenge Pithian foresaw was tremendous and even he was mildly surprised that Gelvin's quest would begin early on a spring morning, almost eleven years to the day after he rescued him from the forest.

Early that morning Pithian heard a booming knock at the door to his temple. He knew immediately that only a representative of King Zendon would have the audacity to disturb a sacred temple so early in the day. Pithian had known the king for over twelve years and had come to grudgingly respect him. He met the king in battle and over the years Zendon likened Pithian to a sage. Whenever he needed free advice or assurances, he visited Pithian. Pithian never could understand, though, why the ruler felt the need to disturb him without an appointment. Everyone else who wanted his counseling came during the open hours for prayer. But Zendon was the king after all, so Pithian sent one of his apostates, Grizon, to answer the door.

Grizon was a short, stout man who appeared even smaller next to the large white doors of the temple. He swung the creaking doors open and in marched the biggest man of the kingdom, Thraxus, the leader of the elite guard. The elite guard was the king's special detachment of soldiers who performed important, and usually, secret missions for their ruler. Thraxus was a renowned warrior whose size was only exceeded by his greed. He was loyal to King Zendon beyond all else, but still, the glint of shining gold always seemed to distract him. He stood nearly seven paces tall, almost an entire pace larger than Pithian, and he had arms the width of tree trunks. His curly brown hair matched his thick brown beard. A massive iron sword rested in a loop on his back. Thraxus was well known in these lands because he had won more than a few fights just by roaring at his opponent. His menacing scowls along with the flex of a few muscles were usually enough to scare any enemy into submission.

Behind Thraxus stood a man with a trimmed walnut colored beard and a modest gold crown. He was, of course, King Zendon the Wise, ruler of Caledan, and dispenser of justice and equity (or so he liked to call himself). His crown sparkled in the marble white temple and Gelvin wasn't sure, but he thought the king smelled very much like a flower. Little did Gelvin know, but the king bathed in perfumes every morning. He thought that the fragrances supported his regal demeanor. Gelvin just thought he smelled like a wild patch of honeysuckle.

Pithian and Gelvin rose from the altar at the front of the temple to greet their guests when the Spriteleng asked, "Who are these people Pithian? Why are they here so early in the day?"

"Be quiet Gelvin. It is respectful to bow your head in the company of a King." As King Zendon marched into the temple, past the endless rows of long wooden pews, Pithian knelt down to one knee and forced Gelvin to the floor with his free hand. Gelvin did not know how to act in the company of a king and he instantly felt awkward. Not because he was concerned for himself, but because he did not want to embarrass his master.

Zendon looked admiringly at the ivory stones of the temple. Above him was a small white dome decorated with holy ankhs and ancient runes. The entire temple radiated positive energy and the king observed that bowls of blessed water sat at the end of each pew. He smiled as he reached the bowing Pithian and said, "Rise up my friend. You know I have never required you to kneel before me. We are equals." Or at least near equals the king thought to himself as he reached down and shook Pithian's hand. The king's hand was encrusted with jeweled rings and noble trinkets. Gelvin hoped Zendon would not reach to his hand, for fear he may cut it on the king's armored fingers. Pithian, wearing his thick red silk robe that stood out against the white back drop of the temple, rose and signaled for Gelvin to stand tall as well, saving him from the danger of the jewelry. Gelvin stood up was nearly as tall as Pithian. That made him large for a Spriteleng.

Gelvin could not help but stare into the king's dark green eyes because they were the same color as his own. Zendon smiled and looked back into Gelvin's eyes as well. The king stood there awkwardly, waiting for the Spriteleng to acknowledge him, but Gelvin did not know what to say when greeting a king (Gelvin had never cared to learn much about etiquette). Pithian quickly deflected Zendon's focus away from his speechless ward by saying, "I am honored that you consider me your equal my lord. What service may we offer you. Do you wish to pray at our altar?" Previous experiences with Zendon taught Pithian that the answer would be no.

"Of course not Pithian. I have a land to rule and no time for such things. That is why I leave the prayer to devout men such as yourself and your ward. A king only has time for prayer during weddings and funerals."

"Then why have you honored my temple, Lord?"

"Stop calling me Lord! And send these people away. You and I have much to discuss." Zendon's nose wrinkled in disgust. As king, he expected people to read his mind and know what he wanted. He turned away from Pithian, exhaling loudly, to show his impatience. Pithian anticipated that Zendon had important news or else he would not have come to the temple. Instead he would have ordered Pithian to come to the castle concerning any trivial matters. Therefore, with a nod of Pithian's head, Grizon and the other followers exited the main chamber to the inner recesses of the temple. Gelvin took one step towards the door when he felt Pithian's firm hand again on his shoulder. Gelvin wore a thick brown tunic but even it could not insulate him from the penetrating icy touch of his mentor. Spritelengs neither liked nor disliked the cold, but this sensation was different, and quite unappealing. Gelvin understood that his master had something serious to discuss with the king just by looking in his eyes. Pithian's dark, unmoving face called out to Gelvin and commanded him not to leave. Even if it were not a serious subject, Pithian would still want Gelvin to remain present with him. Pithian believed that experience was the best training and today's lessons would start earlier than usual.

He often said, "You never know when you'll learn something just by keeping your ears open." Gelvin wondered whether that axiom only applied to Spritelengs and their relatively large ears.

"I need to speak with you privately, Pithian," the King said as faint lines of stress began to show on his forehead. Gelvin did not care if he remained or not, but he knew it was important to his master.

"Ah, but you have not asked Thraxus to leave. I merely keep Gelvin here to balance this side of the room," Pithian said. Gelvin silently laughed because he knew he could never balance Thraxus. Even though Gelvin had grown into a strong young gray Spriteleng, he and Pithian together could not match Thraxus' size and weight. "After all, I tell him everything," Pithian continued, "Anything you say to me will eventually reach his ears."

"I wish he'd tell me why I must stay when I'd rather not be near this king," Gelvin thought to himself as he felt uncomfortable. As a Spriteleng in a world of humans, Gelvin stood out, but even more so in the company of Zendon. Gelvin could feel the king and Thraxus watching and examining him. That made him feel conspicuous and uncomfortable.

"Very well then." Zendon had learned long ago that it was no use to argue with Pithian when he had made a decision. Pithian was the most obstinate man Zendon knew and he hated it. It infuriated the king to no end, that a man half his age could have such impudence mixed with wisdom. But Zendon had no real reason to complain because Pithian always remained a loyal servant and a trusted advisor. That day especially, the king knew that he needed his loyalty. "I have good news old friend. My long running feud with Lord Kenyson of Rocwhelm has neared an end. We have reached an agreement which I believe will avert an all out war."

"War?" Gelvin thought to himself as images of the Caledan soldiers filled his head.

"What agreement is that?" Pithian asked aloud.

"I have agreed to save Kenyson's life. In return he will give back the gold his pirates stole from my villages along the Grandean Lake." For years Zendon and Kenyson, the ruler of Rocwhelm (a city and region separated from Zendon's realm by a barren savanna), argued and battled over small ports along the Grandean Lake. This huge body of water, really more a sea than a lake, swelled over into both Zendon's and Kenyson's kingdoms. For years, Zendon accused Lord Kenyson of sending pirates to plunder important trading villages on his side of the border. Zendon felt confident though that he had finally found a way to resolve the situation without risking a conflict.

Pithian, on the other hand, realized the missing piece of Zendon's diplomatic puzzle, "One element escapes me though, Lord. How are you to save the life of Kenyson?"

"I'm not going to, you and Thraxus are." The King smiled because he thought that under Pithian's stoic expression he had intrigued the paladin. Even though Pithian would never admit it, he was curious as to why Zendon had approached him. "You and Thraxus are going to prevent an assassination attempt on Lord Kenyson."

"I am," Pithian said while trying his best to imitate the sound of surprise. Pithian was astonished and shocked by very little as a result of those special senses of his, but, to conform to human custom, he spent years working on new expressions to convey emotions that were not natural to him. Sometimes it worked, but never in front of Gelvin. He knew his mentor too well to be fooled.

"Let me start from the beginning," Zendon said as he sat down in the first long pew next to Pithian. The wooden bench creaked as Zendon sat down and took a deep breath to tell his story. "Two days ago I met secretly with Lord Kenyson near the border. He told me of a plot against his life by his own people. He discovered that a contract for assassination was sent to Koraz the Mad." Zendon whispered when he said that name for fear that the wind may carry the words far to the south where Koraz might hear them. Koraz the Mad was a legendary, almost mythical, master assassin. Only sparse rumors about his whereabouts existed and no living person had actually ever seen him, but his reputation reached far and wide across many lands.

Gelvin just thought it a strange name. He wondered why a person would be dubbed 'The Mad'.

Quickly comprehending what the king required, Pithian responded, "And Kenyson wants you to eliminate Koraz for him." Zendon was taken aback by Pithian's bold statement. He never imagined that any man would use Koraz's name in such a flippant tone. Pithian, with his reasonable nature, did not fear the name of a man who lived many miles away, assuming he existed at all.

"Yes, yes, that's it exactly," the king said as he rose to his feet, still rubbing his head in shock at Pithian's lack of concern.

"I cannot help you my Lord," Pithian said as he turned away and walked back to his altar. Pithian knew that his abrupt answer would infuriate Zendon but it did not concern him. Gelvin, on the other hand, froze in a state of amazement. He never imagined that his mentor would show such irreverence to a man as important as the king. Zendon had come to expect it from Pithian though.

"But I have not even asked anything of you yet, Pithian," Zendon pleaded as he realized that getting angry would hardly convince him to help.

Pithian turned back to the king and spoke in a rapid and abrasive manner because he hated when Zendon would not give up an argument, "You were going to ask me to join Thraxus in a hunt for Koraz so that we may murder him and fulfill your part of the bargain with Kenyson. My answer is no." Gelvin was impressed that his master had such foresight into Zendon's plan but worried at the same time that Zendon might throw them both in his dungeon.

"You coward!" Thraxus shouted as he finally stepped away from his statuesque position next to the temple doors. Gelvin almost jumped out of his skin at the sound of the booming voice. He was not afraid of Thraxus, but he was surprised by his loudness. "King Zendon says that you are the greatest warrior he has ever seen but yet you are afraid to face even one man!" Gelvin became somewhat fearful for his master because he thought there might be a battle between Pithian and this giant man. Pithian, being far wiser than most men though, avoided a confrontation over something as meaningless as insulting words.

"I am not afraid Thraxus, but I have more important work to attend to. I must prepare myself for a coming battle with an evil you cannot yet conceive. I will pray and prepare for the day when that ultimate confrontation emerges from the cloudy image of an unborn future." Thraxus looked confused because he was not the smartest man and he had no idea what Pithian was talking about. Gelvin understood only too well. Through the years he listened Pithian speak of this inevitable duel against the forces of darkness. Pithian was convinced that an unnatural evil would one day be released into Illuria from the shadows and only he stood between it and the annihilation of all things good and true. Most people would have thought Pithian crazy, but Gelvin believed every word of it.

Pithian recognized that Zendon wanted help though, and he proposed an alternative he had in mind all along. "Instead of myself, King Zendon, I will send Gelvin to assist Thraxus in your search for Koraz." Gelvin's light gray skin almost turned white with surprise.

"The Spriteleng?" Zendon shouted in genuine disbelief. Gelvin felt somewhat embarrassed by the king's dumbfounded tone, but relieved at the same time. He was not ready to venture out into a world he knew very little about, nor was he ready to find a man and murder him. This temple and city were the only world Gelvin knew and it was limited to Pithian, Grizon, and Chauncey, the merchant from whom Gelvin bought the temple's food. Gelvin ventured into Caledan from time to time and he studied many things from the books in Pithian's library, but he had little real experience. He gravely doubted whether reading a thing was the same as knowing a thing.

"Why not Gelvin?" retorted Pithian. "He is ready and is a fine lad with a sword. He will serve you well in battle, Thraxus." Pithian spoke true, and thought back to the many evenings outside the temple where Gelvin practiced with the wooden sword. Gelvin had become quite good and even though Pithian would never say so, Gelvin possessed skills that could match any warrior. Even though Pithian lived in a holy temple and believed in the potential goodness of all creatures, he never hesitated to use a sword to carve the evil out when necessary. He had tried to instill the same philosophy in Gelvin.

Zendon stood up and walked over to Pithian by the altar. He moved slowly, with a purpose, and tried to hide his thoughts. He covered his mouth with his hands to conceal his words. Obviously, King Zendon did not have any knowledge of a Spriteleng's superior hearing. "He is just a boy and a Spriteleng at that. He knows nothing of assassinations and adventures. What good will he be?"

"I have trained him Zendon. He is a master swordsman and being a Spriteleng is not to his disadvantage. You and Thraxus have lived in Caledan most of your lives and have not had much experience with Spritelengs. They shun the worlds of Men, but they are not weak. They have special abilities and instincts that might surprise you my Lord." Gelvin heard what Pithian boasted but he was not sure if it was true of him. He did not feel any different than a man like Pithian and he certainly did not believe that he possessed any abilities unique to his kind.

"I am not sure about this idea old friend," the king said with hesitation but Pithian had heard this before. When Zendon began to hesitate, he always caved in.

"Trust me Zendon, Gelvin can help you in your quest for Koraz. I have foreseen it."

Zendon's eyes widened when Pithian said he had foreseen Gelvin taking part in this quest. After all, as Zendon had witnessed first hand in the past, Pithian was usually right when it came to seeing the future. If Pithian saw Gelvin contributing in this adventure, then it must be so. The decision was made.

"So be it!" shouted the king, using his most regal and commanding voice. He turned away from Pithian and marched towards the door. "Gelvin when the sun moves directly overhead you will join Thraxus and the others outside my castle to begin your trek. Prepare him Pithian."

"It will be done my Lord," Pithian shouted as Zendon and Thraxus exited the temple. Pithian looked at the awkwardly nervous Gelvin and said, "Come, we have much preparation if you are to find Koraz." Gelvin squared his shoulders and felt a lump forming in his throat. He was not sure about this quest.

To be Continued...

Copyright 1997 by Allen Woods

In the writer's own words:

My name is Allen Woods. I am a 22 year old writer from Nashville Tennessee who enjoys writing adjectives, adverbs, the occassional noun, and science fiction. I am an affiliate member of the HWA. I have written two dozen short stories, some of which have been published in "Pablo Lennis", "Art:Mag", "Lost Worlds", and "Pleiades". I am finfishing work on a novel length space opera and I encourage readers to give me feedback via e-mail:

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