An Unlikely Friend
by Damien Wells
Kar'Moken, the peaceful Elven city, was shrouded in a cold night; the
very air seemed to reek of malevolence, under the miasma. Not a single
soul, aside from a few guards, was present in the city's streets, for
it was the kind of night that bore one thing: danger.
But there was one who dared to depart from the safety of her home,
Aselia Setimil. She left her house at this hour to retrieve an herb,
which would soothe her mother's affliction. She leapt through the night
as silent and fast as a cat, her silver hair and emerald eyes sparkling
through the darkness. Aselia wasn’t foolish enough to go unarmed; she
expected to face some manner of trouble out in the dead of night. To
protect herself from the predators that dwelled in the forest she wore
a light, but protective, leather garb, and a sheathed sword dangled by
The herb, Vor'Seeil, was named after an elven healer who possessed the
power to cure any illness. The herb itself, however, does not; it’s
gift was an easing of the symptoms, rendering the ill on a fast track
to recovery. Nonetheless, its reputation of a miracle cure impacted its
rarity; it wasn’t widely available. And the elves of Kar’Moken, oddly
enough, kept the existence of the herb a secret to all outside the city.
Desherel Setimil, Aselia’s mother, had been ill for quite some time.
Her family had taken her to the village apothecary earlier that day,
but the news wasn't encouraging. The alchemist said that her mother's
condition had worsened and that she'll need the herb. However, he said
that though this herb wouldn't entirely relieve her of her illness, it
would turn her severe affliction into a miserable but manageable flu.
And, although Vor'Seeil grew in the eastern forest, the alchemist
confessed that he couldn't retrieve it until the next week. Aselia,
however, is an impatient one — a trait from her mother — and she
wouldn't wait for the alchemist to make his little expedition. She left
the house without telling her mother, while her brother and father
tended her in their upstairs bedroom.
Aselia ventured down into the dark forest, her hand resting firmly on
the hilt of her weapon. She was ready to slay any beast that would
mistake her for its next meal. Or she might face a Vara’tul — a
woodland spirit — who doesn’t take kindly to people treading upon
forest grounds, especially during the night.
Aye, the forest is fraught with many perils, but it was nothing Aselia
couldn’t handle unlike her father, Vertul Setimil, and her brother,
Asran. Both of them knew where Aselia had gone off to, yet they said
not a word to Desherel. Vertul, at first, objected to his only daughter
going outside the house at this hour, but he knew well that Desherel
might not make it through the night; she needed that herb as soon as
possible. He would've gone for it himself, but he was the governor of
the city, not a warrior. Asran was studying to be a politician, the
same path his father had taken when he was his age. Neither of them had
ever held a sword, not even the hilt of one. Aselia was the only one
left in her family that knew how to wield a blade.
"I don't like it, Aselia," Vertul told her before she left. "You shouldn't be out this late."
"We can't wait ‘til the morrow, father; mother might not make it. Besides, I can take care of myself."
He offered her a father’s proud smile. "He taught you well." Vertul
hoped it was enough. "But you're to come right back after you’ve found
it," he said sternly. "Is that clear?"
That’s when she’d nodded and ran from the house.
Her uncle, Certhil Setimil, was the warrior in the family, and he was
the one who taught her the art of blade. But her training abruptly
ended when Certhil had to fight the necromancer threat in the west, in
the Arsh'tur conflict. Many elves, men, and orcs died on those
battlefields, and those who lived were never able to forget the horrors
they had witnessed. Some of the soldiers who came back eventually spoke
of having to kill their slain friends, who arose as a new part of the
Necromancer's undead army.
Certhil was a great warrior, probably the best in all of Kar'Moken, but
numbers can overwhelm the greatest, most powerful warriors. For the
first two years, after the war was over, Aselia's uncle had not
returned. During this time, she developed a fear which manifested as a
re-occurring nightmare: she walks through a battlefield, the dead
pilled in mounds that stretch over the horizon. Suddenly, Certhil's
lifeless carcass emerges in front her from out of nowhere, nothing more
than a hollow husk of what he once was. Aselia calls out to him, but
there is no reply, he only looks at her. Then Certhil lunges towards
her like a wild animal, his hand on his sword. That's when she wakes
up, her pillow covered in her sweat. On the third year, she underwent
the denial phase; one time, she even snapped at one of her closet
friends who suggested the possibility that her uncle was dead. On the
fourth year, she had finally accepted that Certhil wasn't coming back.
Before Certhil departed to the war which he would never come back from,
he talked to Aselia. He told her that if he did not come back, then the
responsibility of keeping the family safe would fall to her. It was on
the first day, of the fifth year, when Aselia began practicing
everything her uncle had taught her. It made her an adept warrior,
facing any traveler or common thief who made the grave mistake of
threatening her became a simple matter.
Swiftly she crossed the grassy plains outside the city walls, and, in
mere minutes, entered the eastern forest. It was known to the peoples
of Kar'Moken as Dashur, meaning nature, and was famed for its rapid
change. When the sun lay high in the sky, the forest was a lush,
beautiful place filled with both simple and magical creatures living
together in perfect serenity. During the night, however, predators
roamed about, looking for an easy kill, shadows running swiftly through
the trees, death in the darkness.
Due to the size of the forest, it would've taken Aselia days — maybe
even weeks — to find Vor'Seeil. Luckily, she had a map from the
alchemist, who was not so lucky in persuading her out of this course of
action. And with the map to guide her, finding Vor'Seeil took only a
few minutes. Overflowing with joy, Aselia drew a small dagger from her
belt, taking great care when severing the plant from its base. At that
moment, an unearthly shriek pierced through the air as she severed the
last root. The sense of danger had gotten much, much worse.
Jumping back like a lioness, Aselia withdrew her silver sword from her
side. Soon she found out that her blade might not do so well in this
fight, for her opponent was none other than a woodland spirit, a
It stood upright like a man or elf, but that's where the similarity
ceased. Having bark instead of fleshy-skin, coated in moss, a small
mushroom growing on its shoulder. Its head looked like that of dried
ox's skull, with antlers that would belong on the eldest buck. Its
empty, cold, grassy eye-sockets stared Aselia down, a look that
unsettled the poor elf to her very core.
Then, without warning, the spirit was on her with its razor-sharp,
wooden fingers. It tried to claw her with a swift strike, but the
nimble elf was able to dodge the blow.
At first, Aselia was growing afraid and confused, but she remembered her uncle's words: A
Vara'tul is a hard being to fight, Aselia, but it can be defeated. Its
armor is weak to fire. Ignite your sword, and you will be victorious.
Exhaling a calm breath, Aselia saw that the Vara'tul was coming in for
another attack. With feline swiftness, Aselia dodged away from the
woodland spirit, and with a swift, hard slash she cut through the
nearest pine-tree, covering her blade in sap, and taking a sparking
stone out of her pouch — a true warrior is always prepared for anything
— engulfed her blade with fire.
The woodland spirit winced back in fright, Aselia could tell it was
afraid, even though it had no eyes. It screamed another air-piercing
shriek as it lunged towards her once again, but the young warrior
dodged this blow as well. And this time, with her flaming sword, she
slashed the Vara'tul across the chest; its chest was smoking as the
embers burned into it. The spirit staggered back, and, when it was
stunned, Aselia pushed her flaming blade into its chest, piercing its
The spirit hummed; it grew louder and louder. Then its humming grew
into a high pitched wail that seemed to pierce Aselia’s eardrums. And
then, when its cry seemed to reach its max, the thing exploded in a
force of pure energy, knocking Aselia off her feet, and extinguishing
the flame on her sword.
A few moments passed until Aselia regained consciousness. She found
that she still held her sword and that Vor'Seeil was still tucked,
firmly, in her pouch. With a feeling a triumph, she sheathed her sword
and headed out of the forest.
It didn't take her long in approaching the city's walls and, when she
passed them, Aselia's pace changed from a run to a jog and, eventually,
to a walk. She fancied the thought that her mother, upon seeing the
herb her hands, and hearing about Aselia's fight with a Vara'tul, would
finally accept her daughter as the warrior she wanted to be. It wasn't
that her mother disapproved of her being a warrior, she liked to see
that her daughter was passionate about something, but it was that she
didn't want Aselia, her only daughter, to die like Certhil. But, with
this recent victory, however, Aselia hoped her mother's worrying would
cease. Aselia had not understood that a parents will always worry about
Aselia took the herb out of her pouch and clutched it firmly in her
hand. It was a symbol of her victory and the warrior that she knew she
was. It was the proof that she needed to show her mother that she was
ready to take on the world.
“AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH”, a dismayed scream broke through the night's silence; it was her mother's scream.
Out of pure instinct, Aselia broke into a run and with the strength of
a stone golem, she broke through the door of her house. She traveled up
the stairs with a feeling panic she had never experienced before, when
she entered the bedroom, the fear and dread went away as quickly as it
came, replaced by utter bafflement over what she saw. Vertul's body lay
at the foot of the bed, blood pouring from the large opening in his
chest. To the left of the bed was Asran's beheaded corpse, leaking
thick, crimson fluid from his open neck, staining the wood beneath him
red. And, still in bed, lay her mother Desherel, scarlet tears
trickling down her face from the arrow between her eyes.
The herb fell to the floor.
The dark, ominous night had departed, and the sun reigned supreme in
the sky. It shone over the lush meadows of Nieruotil. The deer that now
wandered the fields no longer had any concerns for predators. All
seemed peaceful, except to a lone, orc man, traveling on the dirt path
on horseback. His skin was a dark-green. His eyes were the same shade
of silver as the large, two-headed axe sheathed on his back. It would
take two hands, for an average human, to wield such a weapon properly,
but he was stronger than any mere human, and swung the blade with one.
His ears were as pointy as any elves', and raven black hair was pulled
into one single, long braid, stretching down to the center of his back.
The name that he bore was Tarenthel.
Tarenthel was an orc of Boreshmorah, an infamous tribe of orcs that
dwelled in the southern-most land of Morofel, Garosh'Mar. The newborn
of the Boreshmorah tribe, not even a year old, had a knife placed into
its hands. During their childhood and adolescence, all of the
children's time went towards learning the warrior's code as well as
knowing how to wield a blade.
Unfortunately, he did not have that experience; he didn't have access
to the clan's War-master because there was no War-master. All he had
left of his father was his axe, which had been passed down through the
ages from father to son, from a time long ago. No one knew that it was
the axe created by Karbadul, the founder of the Boreshmorah tribe.
On this morning, Tarenthel was in a very troubled mood. It began when a
crimson sun, a foul omen to his people, appeared in the sky. Its
presence means that one, or many, died in a dishonorable fashion. But
despite his feelings, he continued down the path, slowly approaching
the city. Eventually, Tarenthel rode through the gates of the city's
tall, sandstone walls, and he found himself in the middle of a market.
To his astonishment, the market was deserted. He deemed this quite
unusual as most markets, in the early afternoon, were typically lively.
Most if not all of the shops he came across sold timber and other such
supplies, and food; there were no merchants of weapons, nor armor. He
regarded this as a risky move, primarily due to the size of the city.
Suddenly, from out of the corner of his eye, Tarenthel noticed a young
elf boy running behind a thatch hut. He followed in the boy's
direction, and he found a large crowd of elves gathering around the
busted door of one of the wooden houses. Each elf in the group was
trying to look past the other, while a few talked to those next to
them. And, at the distance he was, Tarenthel overheard what the cause
of the confusion was. Apparently, three elves, one of them the governor
of the city, had been found murdered in their house, during the night,
by unknown interlopers. Tarenthel felt a little nervous, as he
eavesdropped on the conversations. Learning from some of his past
experiences, he knew newcomers typically fell prey to suspicions, if
the perpetrators weren't discovered right away (especially an Orc with
an axe strapped to his back).
Tarenthel began to move away from the crowd and down the way he came,
when he heard the rattling, and clanking, of armor. He leaped into the
cramped, narrow space between two houses. A moment later, he watched as
a group of three guards walked past him. Then, he made his way back to
his horse, cutting through the backyards of three houses. He found his
horse was still next to the water trough in front of the inn, quickly
mounting and galloping past the city walls.
Tarenthel slowed down his horse a few paces away from the city.
"Halt!" a voice cried. Tarenthel opened his eyes and saw the figure of
a young elf maiden, her sword stretching out at him. Aselia’s anger
distorted her face. "Get off from your horse, Orc, and speak your name."
Tarenthel slowly got off his horse, keeping his hands at his sides. "My
name is Tarenthel. I'm a fighter, wanderer, and a friend," he said,
addressing her in a pleasant, civil manner.
However, Aselia knew to distrust everyone and her suspicions had fallen onto Tarenthel.
"Why are you leaving us so soon, Tarenthel?" she asked, speaking in a hateful fashion. "Are you afraid of something?”
"I left your city," Tarenthel admitted, "to escape a fate I would undoubtedly have: a wrongful accusation."
"A wrongful accusation!" she snarled, believing that Tarenthel was
trying to insult her intelligence. "You're an Orc. A blood-thirsty,
Tarenthel smiled. "Not all of us," he said, attempting to persuade
Aselia. "Many of us are good company; not all of us are warmongering
savages…” Tarenthel paused, remembering all the orc-raided villages
that happened over the past three winters. “Well, a lot of us are, yes,
but that’s beside the point.”
She cried out in contempt as she bolted at him, the end of her sword
speeding in his direction, something that Tarenthel wanted to happen.
He swiftly moved to the left, his hand clutching the hilt of his axe.
"Do you plan on cutting me with that little knife, before you take me
to the guards?" he taunted; his words sounded the same as he looked,
calm even though in the heat of battle.
"No, Orc, I'm going to kill you where you stand!" Aselia bellowed,
trying to bring her sword down upon his skull. Tarenthel pirouetted to
the right and, as the blade cut through the air, he swung his axe in an
arc, catching her sword in the crevice between one of the axeheads and
the base. With her blade caught, Tarenthel sent it flying out of her
hand and over the meadow; even he admired the great distance the sword
flew, watching it disappear over the horizon with a pleased smile.
“So, you’ll be surrendering now, ye—”
Aselia sucker-punched Tarenthel right on the cheek, and then gave him
another. While he was stunned, she raised her foot up and brought it
down on his chest. Tarenthel hit the ground with a thud, when he opened
his eyes, he saw that she had his axe close to his neck. She held it in
an awkward way, it being too heavy for her to wield, despite using both
hands. "Maybe, Orc, I'll behead you, like you did my brother." She
raised the axe over her head.
"Assumption," Tarenthel said under his breath, "is the root of defeat."
He brought his foot to Aselia's ankle, sending her hovering in the air
until she plummeted towards the ground; the axe landed an inch away
from her head. The victorious Orc calmly got to his feet and retrieved
"Go on, Orc!" Aselia grunted, closing her eyes tightly as she turned
her head away from the looming presence of Tarenthel. "Kill me as you
did my family!" A tear rolled down her cheek when she realized that
Tarenthel wasn't going to do it. "Just kill me, please," she begged;
the facade of the fierce warrior was gone, showing the broken girl that
hid behind it.
Family is the most important thing in this world, Aselia, she thought to herself, the last words of her uncle echoing in her mind, piercing her like a knife. It is our duty, your duty, to protect them. It was her duty, and she had failed. The most important thing in the world to her was gone; she had nothing left.
"I didn't kill your family," he said softly. "And I'm not going to kill you." He strapped the axe onto his back.
"If you did not kill them, then prove it. Help me catch those who did." She looked at him with begging eyes.
For a moment, Tarenthel looked down at her with pity, realizing that
she was like him, in more ways than one. He knew he wouldn't be the
warrior he was if Gortush hadn’t been there. Gortush was the only one
who took him in when his family had met a bloody end, just like
Aselia's had. Where would he be if Gortush had turned his back on him?
He would be dead, and he knew it. And he had the feeling that, if he
rejected her, she would try the same with some other warrior, who would
not be as understanding. "Okay," he agreed. "But, you're going to need
Seeing that her old sword was probably lost, which was mostly his
doing, Tarenthel was able to purchase another from the armorer, which
he found with the help of Aselia. Once they were outside of the shop,
Aselia had formally introduced herself to him. The two didn't meet
under the best of circumstances, but they found each other to be good
company. And as they walked down the streets of Kar'Moken, Aselia had
filled Tarenthel in on everything that the crowds did not know. He
learned that the only possible point of entry, in the governor’s house,
was the top window next to the terrace, which was in the backyard of
the house. To him, it meant that the infiltrators were light-footed and
adept climbers. But then, there was the most peculiar fact: the jewelry
wasn’t touched. He deduced that, if they weren't there to steal
anything, they were there to kill, which made them assassins.
“Assassins!” said Aselia, confounded by Tarenthel’s theory. She didn’t
think—didn’t want to think—that people purposefully entered her home to
end her family’s lives. “Why would assassins want to kill my family?”
"I don't think they planned to kill all of them, just one: your father.
Although, an assassin doesn't merely want to kill anyone," he
corrected. Tarenthel, at this point, had taken the role of Aselia's
mentor, just like Gortush had all those years ago; something he had
once and was better off because of it. "Why does an assassin kill,
She was silent for a moment, deep in her thoughts. “Because someone paid them to.”
Tarenthel nodded in agreement, a smile formed on his lips. “What we
need to find out is who would have your father murdered.” He stroked
his chin while he walked. “Did anyone have an issue with your father
before he died? Did he have any enemies?”
“Of course he did,” she answered as if it was obvious, but she
remembered that he was the outsider who knew nothing of the workings of
Kar’Moken. “He was the governor of the city for three years. You don’t
go through three years as governor, and not have a list of enemies.”
“Well, there was a bandit attack that the guards repelled. The leader sent him a death threat the day after.”
“Where is this bandit clan?” Tarenthel asked, thinking that this was a
lead he should follow. He didn’t know how to explain it, but he felt
that the answers to this mystery lay with that bandit clan.
"I wouldn't know." Aselia looked to the ground. Then her eyes widened,
acting as if a fire had gone off in her mind. "Father's second in
command would know. They were planning a final attack on the clan
before he died."
“Then let’s away!” Tarenthel exclaimed, and the two ran to the governor’s building.
The governor's building was booming like a business that had everything
on sale. A lone elf woman ran from one desk to the other, collecting
papers off each one, adding to the growing stack in her hands.
Tarenthel and Aselia didn't know what the documents were nor had they
the desire to find out. They weren't politicians — they didn't want to
be — they were warriors and warriors didn't trouble themselves with
matters of politics. The only thing they concerned themselves with was
justice. Trying to walk past the elf, however, proved to be more
difficult than he’d formerly presumed. The way she moved about made her
next direction unpredictable, and they had a few close encounters with
Once past the first floor of offices, they traveled up to the second
and final floor. The room contained five rows of desks, each one
occupied. A door was at the far end of the office, a door which Aselia
said was the governor's office—her father's office. The two walked
passed this group of elves as well, but they weren't bothered in the
slightest. They entered the governor's office, with no objections.
The governor's desk, the two saw, was occupied by an elf man with raven
hair. He was seated, gazing at the ledgers and the stacks upon stacks
of letters that filled the entire desk. The elf looked up, peering at
them with piercing blue eyes as Tarenthel shut the door. His skin was
the same pale, creamy color that most elves possessed. "Lady Setimil!"
he said, bolting out of his seat upon noticing her. "My lady, I'm so
sorry for your loss." He knelt down in front of Aselia, taking her hand
and placing a firm kiss on it. Tarenthel was surprised to see that the
people treated her family like royalty, but thought it best not to
bring it up; it was something that Aselia had failed to mention.
“Thank you, Telthel,” she said, somewhat embarrassed by the entire thing. “You can get up now.”
Telthel got up and bowed to her before he looked back at Tarenthel.
“What is this, my lady,” he sneered at him. Elves didn’t have much love
“This is Tarenthel,” she gestured to her companion. “He’s helping me find the people who killed my father.”
“Is that so?” He looked at Tarenthel for a moment, and there was the
slightest bit of tension, which he shrugged off when he turned back to
Aselia. “Why are you here, my lady?”
“I was hoping you could give me the location of the bandit clan that
planned the attack on our city. I know you and my father had plans to
return the favor.”
“But, my lady,” Telthel protested, “I fear it would be too dangerous for you.”
"Don't worry about me, Telthel. Both of us can more than handle ourselves." She glanced at her companion, and she smiled.
"They're down in Berjel'Mort."
Aselia winced, her skin going pale and her hairs stood up on end.
Tarenthel determined that the place wasn't known for being kind and
friendly. In fact, Berjel'Mort was a vast cavernous dungeon. It was the
center of a long war, two centuries ago, where elves and men fought the
vile, undead scourge. "That cavern was abandoned long ago."
She wouldn't have admitted it, but she was scared; it was not the place
that frightened her, it's what happened there. Berjel'Mort was a
graveyard of men and elves, and even some of the townsfolk had started
rumors that the dead still wandered in the caverns. Someone turning
into a lifeless, undead animal was a touchy subject for her; she never
fully recovered from that nightmare.
“Yes, well, it seems that it is no longer.”
“Thank you, Telthel.” Though her words were polite, her expression told
that she didn’t like hearing this news, despite that it was the
location of her lead. Nevertheless, her desire for vengeance surpassed
"I'm glad to be of service, my lady." Telthel bowed to her, casting a
disapproving glance at Tarenthel as he did so. Elves did not approve of
their kind traveling with orcs. And even though it wasn't something
that had been new to elven communities, it was still a rare occurrence.
Without another word, the two left Telthel to the business that seemed
to be piling, not showing any sign of stopping. Heading for the cavern
of Berjel'Mort — a title that seemed to terrify Aselia, and Tarenthel
had the feeling that he would soon learn why.
Much to Tarenthel's surprise, he discovered the entrance to
Berjel'Mort, was not what he expected it to look like: a blood-stained,
rotting door embedded in a hill comprised of dead soil, the surrounding
area engulfed by a graveyard of bones. What he got instead, was a vast,
green forest with a countless number of maple trees, their thick
bunches of leaves allowing only a few, thin rays of light to pass
through. In front of them was a mound that looked, almost, like a small
hill, except for a rotting, shabby door embedded in the middle.
They stepped in front of the door to the cavern. Aselia outstretched
her hand to it, her fingers barely touching the handle. Tarenthel
understood what her problem was; he knew she was afraid of this place.
He thought it was probably one of those old-wives’ tales—told to scare
children and keep them away—and this one was ingrained in her memory
and shocked her to her very core. He took her hand gently and put it on
the door's handle, and let go as Aselia opened the door herself. She
drew her sword out of its leather sheath; Tarenthel took his axe into
his hands before he stepped into the dark vastness alongside Aselia.
There wasn't any torchlight in the long, twisting cavern, but there
didn't seem to be a need for it at all. When the door closed, the path
illuminated with a blue light, emitting from the fungi that grew
through the moist, rocky walls that surrounded them. There were bones
on the ground, but the skulls were placed on the fungi, casting
unnerving shadows on the walls.
As they ventured further through the long, twisting path, things had
changed. The light from the fungi was dwindling when, ahead of them,
they saw what seemed to be a flicker of a flame. Tarenthel tightened
his grip on the axe and stepped forward to the light. The narrow path
they were following gave way to a seemingly vast cave. It looked,
almost, like another world underneath the one they had always known—an
underworld (literally). But, bandits and other undesirable characters
were the only ones who occupied the vast, open spaces. For Aselia, it
was a place of horror, a place where demons and unimaginable creatures
roamed the depths, and Tarenthel didn't doubt that possibility.
Within the seemingly infinite space, there was something that caught
the duo's eyes: a flicker of several torches off in the distance. They
didn't need to say anything to each other before they headed off in the
direction of the flames, their weapons not making a single glimmer as
they ran in complete darkness. They took cover behind a support beam of
stone, which held up the weight of the surface, once they were a few
yards away from the torchlight. Peering from behind cover, Tarenthel
and Aselia detected a group of five rough-looking men. They wore
leather garbs studded with steel bolts, their weapons dangled by their
waistlines. This particular group of bandits was staring down a group
of four figures who looked completely different from them. Their bodies
were concealed by identical black garments.
“We did as you commanded,” one of the suspected assassins hissed, his
voice piercing the air as easily as a knife piercing through linen.
A bandit, whom Tarenthel suspected to be the leader, smiled. "I don't
know," he said in a rough, gravelly voice; his lips almost invisible
through his thick, bushy beard. "You proved to be reliable in a tricky
“You gave us your word!” the assassin hissed angrily.
"Words can be broken."
The assassin readied himself for combat, his palm on the hilt of the
silver dagger. The brigand, however, proved quicker; with his sword in
hand, he leaped toward the hooded figure. But assassin dodged the
brigand's attack and knocked him off his feet. Before he could regain
them, the killer had a dagger to his throat. "Your weapons cannot harm
The bandit looked at the glimmering blade at his throat through his
terror-filled eyes. “ALL RIGHT! ALL RIGHT! I release you from your
service!” the bandit screamed, seeing no other choice but to comply
with the spirit.
The killer in black stepped away from the bandit and rejoined his
group, and they vanished into nothingness. "Gods!" Aselia cursed in a
mutter, leaning against the thick, stone pillar. However, she put her
weight on a loose part of the post, and a piece of the foundation broke
away; it made several noises as it hit the ground and rolled into the
The bandit group turned to their direction. “It looks like we have some
company, lads!” the leader cried, and all of them took their weapons in
And, as if on cue, Aselia and Tarenthel stepped away from the cover,
their weapons in their hands. The small group of outlaws charged
towards them; Tarenthel stood his ground. Aselia looked uncertain, but
she followed his example. One of the bandits was a foot away from
Tarenthel when he dodged the rushing man, his axe removing one of the
raider's legs from his body as he leaped to the side. The man screamed
as he flew up in the air, but this too stopped when Tarenthel beheaded
him in mid-flight.
On Aselia's side, a highwayman raised his sword over his head and tried
to bring it down on her. She blocked the blow with her blade before it
could reach its mark. Almost like an instinct, she brought her foot
down on the man's kneecap in a furious kick, stunning him. The outlaw's
sword faltered and Aselia, with tremendous force, drove past the blade
and brought her sword down on the bandit's neck, blood spewing from his
mouth; his scream came out as a muffled gargle, which ceased when she
wrenched the blade out.
Tarenthel encountered another bandit who tried to strike him with a
swift, slanted slash. But the mighty orc dodged the attack, swung his
axe into the man's chest; the brigand bent, sharply forward when the
blade crashed into his ribcage. Tarenthel wrenched the axe out and,
twirling his weapon over his head, swinging a horizontal slash that hit
the raider square in the back. The bandit lay on the ground bleeding
from both sides. And when he looked over to Aselia, he saw her finish
off the last of the oncoming bandits.
The fight wasn't over, however, as the bandit leader, seeing that the
fight wasn't going the way he wanted, fled from the field like the
coward he was, but Aselia wouldn’t let him go. She took a small
throwing dagger, hidden under her cloak, and hurled it at the bandit;
the blade sailed through the air like a bolt of lightning until it
reached its mark. The leader tumbled to the ground, howling in pain as
he curled up on the damp dirt.
Aselia approached the leader, and, with much fury, kicked him until he
was flat on his back; her sword pressed against his neck, fear in his
eyes. "Why did you kill my family!" she bellowed, tears streaming down
"I… I…" the bandit stuttered in fear. "I was contracted."
"Who?" she cried, her contempt growing with every word the brigand spoke.
"By an elf… Telthel! His name was Telthel."
Aselia stood dumbfounded, shocked to her very being that someone she
considered a friend would be responsible for the tragedy. "Well, then
he'll die. So will you!" she screamed, sword raised her head, but
Tarenthel held her arm back before the sword reached its target.
"Don't," he said, calmly. "Never kill in anger."
Vengeance, as Tarenthel knew, was a slippery slope that is best not to
travel down. When he finished his training, Gortush had taken him to
the exiled tribe that killed his father and mother. But, when Gortush's
desire affected the women and children — innocents — Tarenthel had
taken action. He had killed his mentor. That was a day he would never
"He had my family killed!" she roared. Aselia looked over to the bodies
of those they killed and pointed to them with her free hand. "I slew as
many as you! How is that any different?"
"Because you protected yourself," he explained, trying to convince her
of what he could not convince to Gortush. "You stood your ground and
defended your life. What a warrior does.”
"Are you suggesting that I let him live?" Aselia growled, her sword shaking violently.
"No." Tarenthel looked down at the bandit. "He deserves death." He
looked back at Aselia. "But justice through anger breeds suffering. You
asked me to help you. So, allow me to."
She looked at him and back to the bandit, tears still streaming down
her cheeks. She removed her sword and turned away from the raider.
"Then do it."
Tarenthel stepped closer to the leader, axe in his hands.
The raider raised his arm up. "Please," he begged in a whimper. "Don't."
The orc looked down at the man with disgust. "Die with some honor,
cur," he growled before he removed the man's head. He put up his weapon
and walked next to Aselia. "Now, let's visit your friend."
She snorted. “No, not my friend,” she growled. “My enemy.”
Nightfall descended once more upon the elven city. Inside his office,
Telthel, now governor of Kar'Moken, laughed as he danced around in
secret celebration. He had convinced himself that Aselia and her orc
companion had come to a gruesome end, by the hands of the human
marauders. Something that was proven wrong when he saw them outside of
the open, office door.
"My lady!" he shrieked in fear. "You're alive… I mean, you won against those vile perpetrators?"
"Yes, Telthel," she said plainly, but no one could deny the fury that
blazed behind her eyes. "And they told me some interesting things.”
"They told me you had my father killed.”
Telthel tried to mask his fear, but he wasn't doing a good job of it.
"Lady Setimil, would you trust the words of filth like that?" he
questioned. "What reason would I have for getting your father killed?"
"Power," Tarenthel answered, his words further shattering the mask that
was already falling apart on Telthel's face. "It is the only reason.”
"And what would an orc know of such matters?" he sneered, desperate for something.
“This orc has done more for me than most elves have in my entire life,"
she said, standing by her companion. "He has no reason to lie to me.
But you have all the reasons in the world."
Telthel's lips parted in a scowl. "Your father would've been the ruin
of this city. He would have our guards deal with those outlaws when he
didn't have the numbers. But you don't care about that, do you?" he
sneered, but he didn't want an answer. "You here to murder me?"
"No," Aselia said calmly. "I'm here for justice. But I'm not going to
kill you; a true warrior never kills in anger." She nodded to Tarenthel
before she walked out of the office, although it was clear that a part
of her wanted to remain.
The wise orc took his axe in his hands, approaching Telthel like the
Reaper incarnate. The late governor screamed like a coward before the
steel made a bloody gash in his forehead.
When he emerged from the building, he and Aselia got on their horses and galloped out of the city.
They continued to ride in silence even though they were far from the city. Neither of them felt like talking.
But without warning, Aselia abruptly stopped her horse in the middle of
the road. A sudden realization had finally sunk in, and she looked,
gloomily, at the ground. "I can't believe they're gone," Aselia
quivered, tears beginning to form in her eyes. Before she was too
driven by vengeance to find time to mourn their deaths, and now she had
it, all the feelings hit her like a tidal wave.
Tarenthel trotted closer to her horse. "During our lives," he offered,
"there comes a time when those we love—our friends and family—depart
from us, or we from them. But then, we are given a choice: to stand
around, wanting things to go back to as they were, letting our lives
pass us by; or, we keep going."
"Where?" Aselia asked.
"On." Tarenthel looked at her with kind eyes, a friendly smile forming on his lips. "Would you like to come with me?”
Aselia smiled back. "I think I would like that very much."
© 2017 Damien Wells
Bio: Damien L. Wells, a full-time student, writes
science-fiction, horror, and fantasy tales in the spare time he has.
His interests include playing guitar, listening to Primus (but he
doesn't know why), and wearing a black-leather trench-coat and fedora
that makes him look a cliche version of a private detective.
E-mail: Damien Wells
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