A brief mist loomed above the woodland as Legaden perched on an over hanging boulder, an Elmwood bow strapped loosely around his shoulder. His sword, Argain, golden and radiant, forged by the great Elven smiths of Nindarian, high city of the Elven races hung beside him. Given to him by his father, King Etholmar, it had served him well in many battles, though he was still a youth. A slow, steady rain began to fall, dripping off the oak branches and down onto the forest floor several feet below. Dawn was near, a cock crowed in some distant farmyard of the city, giving the dim sunlight warning of the coming day ahead. He had watched the campsite since the moon had taken leave, starting its peaceful decent below the mountains of Silerian, high they climbed, touching the clouds as if large giants, ever casting their fierce glare across the valley below. Beyond lay the Pithmar Valley, green and vast, flowing onward for miles, its lush fields once tainted with the blood of furious battles and fallen lords of ages past. Now only legends and myths, told in tavern inns and great halls of kings to the north and east. Northward, the icy tundra of Mithil Lanon spread to the walled city of Halias Mar, barbarian capital and protector of the upper regions of good, its desolate bridge turning west into the grassy fields of Bookeld Lune and finally to the dark meadows leading to the golden wood of Keliwith. The secret wood, a haven filled with magical, mystical waterfalls such as the fountain of Inarion, who’s silver streams are said to have healing effects to those who bathe in its chilling waters, and Pethilmalian waters of the wood goddess Lithilmar, the ancient wood spirit of the Elven people of Keliwith. Keliwith, Legaden longed to see its dense forests and hear the enchanting, everlasting songs of his people, for several moons had risen and set since his eyes looked upon it. His thoughts drifted as he envisioned the falling, golden leaves, their decent as raindrops settling upon a calm lake, covering the wooded ground with a blanket of color, such as would render a rainbow jealous.
Voices awakened him from his daydream, low grumbling voices almost animal in nature. He gazed across the misty campsite, watching each figure arouse from their tents, armor clad shadows grabbed weapons of iron and steal trying to form into what appeared to be a line or column. These were the goblins who raided his village not more than seven moons ago, since that night, his fury had driven him to track them, now in the dawning hours before sunrise, he had them, before they escaped into the dark cavern tunnels of the mountains. "These dogs murdered my family, my lord and kin. Today my brethren, I avenge thee," Legaden said mumbling in a low tone, his voice trembling.
A large goblin general emerged from his tent, "Alright centurians, line up, we march east before the evil sun rises, into the tunnels of the Silerian mountains," he commanded, his voice loud and scratchy. "A great victory we had in the darkness of the moon, blood of many wood creatures spilled, bones crushed beneath centurian armor, we celebrate beneath, in the hall of our great king Bognar," he continued, slashing his long leather whip, a steel spike at the end for a deeper lash.
Hearing their voices, the tall wood elf’s heart beat with rage, his eyes gray and piercing, glowed with the wrath of ancient kings. The goblin raiding party, turned eastward and marched, armor clad feet moving in time to an evil song, honoring ancient battles and victory, torn from the grasp of some fair race:
"Kill’em, Beat’em, Stomp’em, Slash’em
We are the centurians of Bognar’s Cauldron,
Crush’em, Hack’em, Eat’em, Bash’em
Lord of the deep, lord of the night, Centurians
Legioneers, battles to fight,"
The stealthy wood elf, crept steadily toward their position, hiding behind rocks and trees as he went, ever watchful of a wary goblin sentry or marching centurian. His bow was positioned and a black arrow notched skillfully in place, taking aim on the rear guard, made up of five large orc legioneers, he poised to release the fatal strike. These were the more skilled fighters placed at the rear to prevent an ambush or attack from behind, "one lone elf warrior they will not suspect," said Legaden his bow tightly gripped in his hands. He counted the column, planning his place of attack, as his missile prepared to fly, he halted, a cry, almost familiar, rang out, from where, the Elven warrior could not tell. Resting his bow, down against the large beech tree, Legaden scanned the landscape to discover the lone voice, loud and clear as lightning from a rain cloud.
The goblins had also heard the cry and were running at the approach of the dawn, finding safety only in the dark catacombs of the Silarian Mountains. The general blew his great horn of bone, calling for retreat amongst his ranks, pushing them onward with his large whip, as he yelled curses in evil tongues heard only in the bowels of some evil dungeons of some forgotten place, hundreds of feet below. As they entered the mountain entrance, many looked back, searching the grassy hillside for a sign of their attackers, none could be found, only the quiet lonely ridges leading out in to the great valley below.
Legaden stood up, disgusted, scanning the ridges for the sound that defeated his purpose, a calm breeze riveted across the hilltops, the morning sun now shining, its face drifting up over the mountains. As he watched from a group of boulders, the wood elf could see the final legioneer, enter the cavern, flying deep into the tunnels of Bognar’s Caulron, and out of his grasp. "I will have my revenge oh filth of the earth!" Legaden spoke, his voice trembling with anger, still searching with no avail, along the tree, covered ridges, his eyes watching each tree and rock formation for signs of movement.
Suddenly he heard the voice of music, low and peaceful, drifting upon the wind, its song spoke of Lothinurian the fair and to the great king Windowin, who drove the goblin hoards from the valley, his Elvin army united with the human armies of Olas Vale, its watch keep at Tower Top, sending the Fratorian Guard, with white armor shining in the sunlight of morning, charging out to aid them. Legends told that by nightfall, many were slain on both sides but the evil forces were vanquished and driven deep into their dark halls, never to return. Now the evil, had regained much of their former strength, and were on the move again, rising up with its shadowy hand to grab hope from the races of light. Messengers had sent word that an army of orcs had formed in the north, rising up to threaten Halias Mar, the great walled city of the north men, its ice covered hills offered little protection against the evil that invaded its borders. Also armies of evil drow from Milaes Forest came to give aid to their dark brethren, leading dark elf battalions to join the orcs.
A feeling of dread fell over Legaden as he listened to the singing, a voice of evil replaced the beautiful lyrics, laughter sprouted from the hill to his left, where voices of blackness gave warning of the drow. "Did you like my song, wood creature? I sung it especially for you," laughed a cold hollow voice from behind him. Legaden turned to see
A hooded figure standing on the hilltop beside a large beech tree, his face covered in darkness, eyes glowing red and gray, tall and slender, its appearance was similar to Legaden, but thinner. "Who are you dark one, and what business have you with me?" asked the wood elf warrior, his silver scimitar Argain unsheathed and gripped tightly in his hands.
"With you? I have much information for you master Legaden of the golden wood, but first I have a message from my master," spoke the dark drow, his voice shrill and low.
"You know me, how? And what say you of this master?" continued Legaden staring at the dark figure, his eyes squinted and focused.
"My master sends greetings from Mileas Forest and upon the sadness for your loss, the massacre although unpreventable, was a tragedy," the stranger said almost mockingly. "The wood people have created many enemies through the ages, causing bitter rivals, the goblins are a most vicious lot, are they not?" he continued prodding the young wood elf with his words.
"Speak you to your death dark fool, I mind you watch your words of deceit, we bother no one, but the greed of the goblin filth cause war and destruction, much like the dark ones to the east, who breed corruption and deception at every turn, I say be gone foul messenger, if hate is all you bring, or let us do battle here and end it all!" screamed the wood elf warrior, his feet positioned in a defensive stance, his arms held low griping the sharp blade tightly.
"Ha, ha! Calm yourself young one, not all of the dark race breathe deceit, for I bring you truth, besides, to battle you would be of little bother to me, and time is a thing I have not much of," spoke the dark stranger pointing at Legaden with a long finger. "Your city was not raided, but a large village within the wood was, and I remember, a dark haired beauty of much youth, let me see, eyes of deep blue, skin perfect, smooth beyond belief, quite a trophy wouldn’t you say wood fool?" mocked the drow his eyes glowing with delight as Legaden walked slowly toward him climbing the grassy hill.
"You speak of Lothmara, she was killed in the attack, she visited the village to bring supplies, she never should have been there, but I watched her die all the same, felled by a blow from a goblin’s spear," the wood elf said his voice trembling, trying to hold back the mist forming in his gray eyes. "Dark naïve, mock her name no more, or I will slit your throat with ease!" he roared raising Argain in a striking motion.
"Words of haste, I dare say you would not succeed, but that is another matter, no your dear love is by far alive, and well," spoke the tall dark elf, a large smile radiating from his face. "I saw her just this morning, of course she was in chains, such a pretty creature, chains are so unbefitting a jewel such as her," he continued watching Legaden’s reaction.
"Mock you the last time dark fool!" Legaden raised Argain and slashed at the drow, spinning around to counter attack, the drow blocking his blow and moving to strike his own deadly fury, both meeting blade per blade. The drow’s skill was far better than Legaden had anticipated, before he had time to recover and strike again, the dark figure had moved into an offensive position and lunged toward the wood elf, cutting his arm, just beneath the shiny chain mail armor. The wood elf spun around and blocked the second attack, this time slashing the drow under his neck, which seemed to startle the dark stranger. In locked combat they fought till the sun stood high above the green fertile valley, neither wavering nor gaining victory.
"Let us end this conflict, if you kill me, you lose your love, for you will never find her alive," shouted the dark elf warrior.
"I will search Mileas Forest till every drow is dead, then I will find her," yelled Legaden his sword braced for another advance.
"Nay my dear fool, there are tunnels beneath Mileas that are filled with traps and pitfalls, I dare not even speak of the skilled warriors there, perfecting not just arms but black sorcery as well, I say you would not last one level amongst the dark drow of Milaes," mocked the drow sheathing his wide bladed scimitar.
"I will lead you there however, and give you a chance to rescue her if you can," he continued.
"Why would you do that?" asked Legaden sheathing Argain, picking up his bow, and putting it across his shoulder.
"Let us just say I was sent here to kill you and bring back your head, but you show great skill in the arts, knowing even drow tactics of war, therefore you have gained my respect, where did you learn them?" asked the dark one, his interest in Legaden apparent.
"My father, king Etholmar taught me; he fought in the last wars between the dark races and Keliwith, when Nindarian and the high races united under King Windowin to drive the dark races from the valley," Legaden said with a proud voice.
"Yes I remember, I fought beside Nethbizuran, high king of the drow, a good fight your father waged, and the high king as well, those were great days for the Elven races, when honor took the field instead of deceit," the drow replied sadness in his voice.
"I sense little trust in you, my dark adversary, but Lothmara is most precious to me, and her safety must be placed above all else," said Legaden looking out over the lush valley into the dry plains of Kosmath, an eagle soaring on the horizon to the west, its proud wings, gliding on the dry breezes. His eyes gazed far beyond to the river Valen, flowing down the stalking woodland banks of Mileas Forest, where his love imprisoned and alone waited his swift rescue. "Let us be off then, dark one, for the day grows short, and we must reach the river by evening, I will not be found in Mileas after sunset," the tall wood elf said pointing in the direction of the plains.
"Then our journey begins, may it end as pleasant," laughed the drow, walking down the rocky ridge toward the valley, his hood hiding him from the sun’s bright rays. The two unlikely companions made Brithian Mead, a small village located in the valley’s lush farming belt, by dusk, one lone tavern resting against a grassy hillside, offered a brief refreshment and a short rest, before setting off toward the dry plains of Kosmath.
"I fear you are uncomfortable here master drow," mocked Legaden drinking down the last of his ale. "Why not let down the hood, and let them get a rare look at one in the daylight," he continued looking at the hidden dark character, beneath his disguise.
"I fear you mock me once too often tree climber," the drow scoffed, his voice low and rough. "Let us be off, for I fear any delay, may find our arrival too late to save your love," he said returning the gesture.
Legaden growled and stood up laying his mug on the wooden table, "Then let us fly, for my company sickens me, the sooner I am rid of you the better!" he said turning to see the drow laughing with content.
"Do I displease you young friend?" the drow said, walking out the tavern door behind the tall wood elf.
A dust devil circled in the windy breeze, as the dry brush of the plains rolled endlessly across the dirt pathway, leading across the barren plains of Kosmath. A place of death, many travelers had found themselves lost amidst the dust storms and waterless fields, only to see the death rider coming for them, too weak to fight back. The two travelers however were accustomed to the plains and knew their directions well, both had keen eyesight and an ability to go without water for extended periods of time. Before the sun retreated behind the mountains of Silerian, both had reached the outskirts of Kosmath, their clothes, dust covered and filled with sand. Legaden’s mail plated chest armor, heavy from the debris, was removed and left on the plains to sink beneath its surface.
"You might regret that decision my friend when we reach my dark palace," remarked the dark one.
"Either way, I cannot bear the weight any longer, and I need the extra speed if I hope to reach Mileas by nightfall," replied the slender wood warrior. A refreshing wind engulfed them, welcoming the cool waters of Valen, its flowing rapids and dark pools bearing boat men up river to Rivertown, port trade center for the northeast, onward to the happy village of Brithian Mead, where ale flows like water falls, and up along the pikes to the white city Olas Vale, its white banners flowing in the summer breeze, watch tower of Tower Top, with battlements encircling the main walls like a giant serpent. This would be the last hope for good, if evil sought to invade the northern or western lands, a strong army of men, bold and tall, their high walls and great gates of Balmera stood as a barrier to all who sought destruction in this fair landscape.
It would be a war soon coming, as dark Elven battalions marched northeast to join with the alliance of orcs and goblins already massing in Inith Mir, dark hall of the Grimgor tribe of goblins to the east, their hidden tunnels covered by stone and iron, only a large iron gate gave resemblance of a fortress.
Now the current came to bear these two strangers down river to a place Legaden feared would find his Lothmara in death’s grasp. "If death be my destiny let it come at her release," spoke Legaden to himself watching a small v-shaped boat come drifting up the current, resting against the muddy bank. Another hooded figure, dark and shadowy tied the ropes to a small sapling, nestled on the edge of the waters. "We start from here, where the boat takes us to Mitzboarran, land of my people, deep within the woodland of Mileas Forest," Instructed the drow warrior, climbing inside the boat and setting against the side. "I fear you will have to be blindfolded from here, can’t take any chances on you escaping and telling others of our location," he continued placing a blindfold around Legaden’s eyes as he stepped into the vessel.
"I fear you do not trust me friend," laughed the sly wood elf trying to see past the cloth.
After unbinding the ropes, the dark boatman, shoved off with his leg, sending the small courier drifting down the river, its current bearing them swiftly to their destination.
Nightfall was soon upon them, bringing darkness to overshadow the dense canopy of vines and brambles, which wrapped tightly around the low hanging willows and cypress trees lining the banks. A strange mist rose from the water, covering a once clear pathway across the wet lands, the boatman aware of each turn and twist, guided the boat slowly through the fog, to a moss covered rock wall. "I feel we have stopped, where are we now?" asked Legaden still trying to see through his blinds.
"You will find out soon enough my friend, we are at the secret entrance of Simil Amin, dark races formed this passage long ago, during the age of Nethbizuran, to guard against enemies," replied the dark drow pointing to the wall, instructing the boatman to proceed. "The rebel dwarves of Selerian paid allegiance to the dark king and helped dig these deep tunnels for our service," he continued watching the secret wall suddenly open, the sound of sliding stone and falling rock, alerting Legaden’s attention.
"Ingenious, a secret door, I heard stories of the secret crafts of the drow and their underground fortresses, deep and impregnable, but I believed them only to be stories, until now," said Legaden, his curiosity now raised. "Much you will see before we are finished my attentive one," said the drow.
A darkness, pitch black and quiet rose around them, a feeling of helplessness gripped Legaden as his vision grew dim, his night vision seemed not to work in this place of hidden evils. "Your night vision does you no good here my friend, only the races of the drow can see in this hallowed hall, for long ago the great necromancer Chromalas cast many spells here, one prevented the second sight of good races within the dark elf palace.
"Demons of night! I have never seen such sorcery!" yelled Legaden looking out into the blackness never felt before, his eyes blind and helpless.
"You will see soon enough, we are almost to the lighted tunnels of the city, there you can see as humans do, by the dim light of wall torches," spoke the dark elf looking down the water filled caverns for the dock. A short distance, the musty, damp smells opened up to sweet lilacs and perfumes, never experienced by the wood elf, his nose tasting each scent carefully.
"What smells are these?" asked Legaden his nose up in the air.
"All the smells of perfumes from beyond the seas, jasmine, lilac, tihlathiam, all the finest scents of the world, brought to us by our great merchant ships or captured by Elven pirates ages ago," explained the drow. "Our palace is scented with such wonders, as well as silks and treasures beyond your imagination, come we have reached the dock of Lithsdar, from here I take you to the king and you can meet with your beautiful prize," he continued ordering the boatman to the dock.
After securing the vessel, Legaden was lead out onto the dock, its creaking boards and unsteady nature, told of ageless use. "I can trust you from here I believe," said the dark companion removing the blindfold from Legaden’s eyes. He could see now, though dim, not clear like before, having to adjust his eyes with each step. The drow led him up a curved stairway, stone steps made of great marble and granite, their smooth surface, not unlike the great halls of an ancient kingdom. Up they climbed and around, winding it seemed around itself, till they came to a great doorway, iron in nature with large beams and aggressive bolts, a door found at the gates of many cities. The drow knocked once and its groaning arches moved, opening up to reveal a beautiful palace, two dark Elven guards dressed in full armor, their bright scimitars gleaming in the candle light stood before the doorway, inside revealed a room filled with treasures un believable. Golden statues of ancient kings long forgotten lined the hall, drapery adorned each opening leading to unknown destinations throughout the silver palace. Waterfalls streamed down jeweled fountains, forming dark pools of shimmering light, as music, dark and foreboding, but beautiful in tone echoed from the long corridors welcoming the visitors to the grand quarters of the king.
"Quite impressive I would say!" said Legaden amazed and startled at the finery before him.
"I am glad you approve, my master is quite taken with it himself, soon he will join us, but first you must see your love," said the drow pointing down the corridor at a draped room to the left.
"She is there! But I thought she was in a dungeon!" exclaimed Legaden his heart filled with love and hope.
"One so fair cannot be caged in chains, it dulls the beauty, and as you see my lord has a taste for beauty," said the dark elf, walking to the large room and motioning the wood elf inside. As Legaden entered the doorway, a scene of glories radiance caught his eye, in the corner looking out into a pool of billowing water was his beautiful Lothmara, her golden hair long and flowing about her thin tan shoulders, a thin frame beheld a shapely form, truly a miraculous treasure of the wood.
"Lothmara! I thought you to be dead!" cried Legaden his eyes filling with a mist. He ran to her side as she turned to him, her face pale now and full of despair. "Legaden! Is it really you?" she screamed running to embrace her love, her face filling with joy.
"I do hate these emotional greetings," laughed the dark drow smiling in the doorway.
"I thought you were dead, killed by the goblin with his spear!" cried Legaden his eyes filled with dripping tears.
"I would have been, but this dark elf saved me, killing the goblin with an arrow from behind, the last thing I remember, is him carrying me, and the boat ride, but after that I do not remember much," she explained looking into Legaden’s gray eyes with delight. "We will never escape here, the dark king is cruel and cold, his malice is bent on evil, Dwildorian here has tried to make my stay here pleasant, but he is gone a lot and as he leaves, the king makes sport with me," she continued her eyes filled with tears of terror.
"His fun is over now, for I will put an end to this reign!" shouted Legaden reaching for Argain, but finding an empty belt.
"Sorry my friend safety precaution, I had to remove your weapon, until I saw you safely inside, couldn’t let you use it on me," laughed the drow handing Argain back to Legaden.
"So your name is Dwildorian, I am deeply in your debt for had you not been there, she would surely have perished," said the wood elf looking into the drow’s gray eyes. "Your reputation precedes you, for no slave are you, but the king’s air and great warrior of the east," said Legaden looking into the face of the pale dark elf, his hood now removed, displaying the ghostly white hair flowing about his shoulders. "You are known by my folk as the betrayer, one who seeks goodness and aids the helpless, what are you doing here, if the king finds out, you will be put to the sword," Legaden continued.
"The king already knows of my trickery and why I brought you here, my friend lead her out, for I shall not be following you, he has challenged me here before the sun rises," explained Dwildorian unsheathing his long broad scimitar, its edge sharp and gleaming.
"Come with us you can be hid amongst the forest, join our noble cause and ally yourself with me, we would make a great force, more than enough for the dark alliance to the east," requested Legaden reaching for the drows hand in friendship.
"I have met many in my journey across the land, seen riches beyond compare, but true friendship only finds you once in a lifetime, yours I will take to the after world, for I fear my time is short, go now young warrior, and meet your destiny, for you have a long prosperous life ahead, and treat your jewel well for a true treasure like her is a rare gift, now off with you both, I guard your exit, guard of the king’s royal brigade are slowly approaching," warned the drow grabbing Legaden’s hand and shaking it firmly.
"No! Dwildorian, come with us, it doesn’t have to end here," Lothmara cried.
"Too late the guard are upon us, now go! The boatman has my instructions and is loyal to me, these two guards are also, they will serve you well, leading you both to the western banks before dawn," ordered Dwildorian turning to meet the approaching dark guard.
Legaden and Lothmara followed the two guards back down the winding stairwell, Legaden looked back, hearing the sound of clanging steel and a fierce struggle from above, he thought to himself of the bravery and devotion of his once evil enemy and his heart was full. Dwildorian turned to hack one guard down, spinning around, he parried a fateful blow and returned the attack, his skilled blade finding its mark along the guards throat. Another came from behind as many more filled the hall, fighting bravely, guard after guard fell to his deadly blade, his skill unmatched. Suddenly his eyes widened, his blood slowed and a pain rose from his side, he looked down to see the black missile piercing his ribcage, from the darkness a mist filled his eyes, as another slashed through his armor entering his backbone. A sudden weakness entered his legs, but an inner strength rose from inside him and he arched forward taking another guard by surprise, his scimitar, bloodstained and sharp ripped through the guard’s plate mail, sending him to the floor. Dwildorian looked up to see king Nothrinian charging him, scimitar raised to strike, his strength returned for an instance and he parried the attack, but two guards from behind slashed his armor with their spears, taking him to the floor, his last breath came sudden as he looked out into a dream, a cloud to the afterlife where race was no consequence no longer was he shunned or distrusted, for here he was the golden warrior of his legacy. A last arrow fatal and sure ended the battle.
Dawn came quickly, as the boat reached the shores of Brithian Mead, the people watching curiously as the two strangers and their unusual guard stepped from the vessel.
"What caused him to do such a thing Legaden?" Lothmara asked walking toward the path back to their homeland.
"A desire to feel needed and to overthrow what we all fear the most: the differences of our cultures and the distrust his people share among the good races. In the end Dwildorian wanted to throw off the deceit and evil his race is known for and to replace it with the honor and loyalty of his inner self, a race known not for trickery but for bravery and honor," Legaden conclued his arm wrapped around Lothmara. "Let’s go home my love, it’s been quite a night," he said walking down the trail to Keliwith.
Joseph Mullins is a 28 year old banker from Sparta, Tennessee.
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