By Donald White
Vorim swore under his breath, staring towards the mouth of the cave. Out there, the enemy waited, the fading light of day illuminating slanted green eyes peering back at him. Up until recently, Vorim had never been the prey for such as these: dark elves. They were olive-skinned, but without the regal poise and stature of the larger ones. These were diminutive and scrawny in comparison. But their reduced size lent them nimbleness and their disposition provided a cold determination. Though male, they were almost pretty, like the little nymphs whose form and grace had so enthralled the hearts of men. And there was murder in their eyes.
Yet, Vorim was no meek Westerner, living a life of luxury and indulgence. He was powerful of frame, with solid features, and brown locks to match the color of his eyes. He was born and reared in the cooler, more rugged lands to the North.
“Sir,” a young man whispered.
“What is it, Elam?”
The youth swallowed, looking out into the gathering darkness. “What can we do?”
Vorim sighed, shaking his head. “Seven of us remain. I believe their numbers to be nearly two dozen, of which, a third are the remaining archers. We must wait.”
Elam held a large wooden weapon. “I still have my crossbow.”
“How many bolts are left?”
The youth bowed his head. “Only six, sir. But old Dorn still has his bow.”
“How many arrows?”
The youth glanced over his shoulder. “Dorn?”
A gravelly voice responded, “Eh?”
“How many arrows are left in your quiver?”
“Five, boy. Why?”
Vorim shook his head once more. “That accounts for less than half of them. And that is if all of our shots were not just true, but mortal.”
The mighty warrior Telm stood, brandishing his axe. “Then, let us die like men, rather than rot in this hole.”
Vorim grumbled something under his breath. Then, he turned to face the axe wielder. “Our deaths are not yet sure. We hold the better ground. They must take attack us, putting them at a disadvantage.”
Telm spat to the side. “This ground is not good. We are trapped. And our waterskins are nearly empty. They stalk us patiently, waiting for a chance to strike; or merely waiting for us to perish.”
Vorim replied tersely, “Enough.” He pointed at the mouth of the cave. “We are not dead, because they have not killed us. We must remain calm. If the dark elves sense fear, they will pounce, thinking to drive us against the walls of our prison.”
Another spoke, “What would you have us do, captain?”
Vorim looked at the man, whose golden curls could be seen, sticking out from under his horned helm. “Arno, I would have you listen.” Captain Vorim turned to face them all. “I would have you all listen.” The cave grew silent. He continued. “We’ve fought these elves for a few days now. Determination is their strength, but it is without worth in the absence of numbers. How many of them did we face at the first? A hundred? Maybe more?”
Telm snarled. “You forget, captain. There were more of us, then.”
Vorim stared coldly at him. “They gained the advantage. We were separated from our fellows with the flash of steel and the fiery blasts of the wizard.”
Elam gripped his crossbow in shaky hands. “And the archers, captain. Don’t forget the archers.”
Vorim glared at him, and then turned to address the group once more. “We are not the only ones who seem to lack arrows. Most of these elves threaten us with steel. Their leader is dead.” He nodded at Telm.
The warrior raised his axe, showing his teeth.
Captain Vorim noted a pair of figures sitting silently on a nearby rock. “Glain, Lief, you are new to the battlefield. But you have both fought well and survived. Your swords will be needed. What say you?”
Glain gripped the hilt of his sheathed sword and nodded. “I am ready, captain.”
Lief adjusted his leather bracers. “The battle calls to me, sir. I will heed its voice.”
Vorim smiled slightly, and then grew stoic once more. He raised his war hammer.
Elam held up the crossbow.
Arno crossed axe over shield.
Dorn struggled to his feet, holding the bow in front of him.
Glain unsheathed the sword, holding it up high.
Lief held his sword out, pointing towards the mouth of the cave.
Telm scowled at them all. And then, he raised his axe. “Very well, captain.”
Vorim nodded sullenly at him.
Sunset plunged the cave into darkness: an eerie, inky blackness, in which only the hint of form was visible. But, outside, there were eyes: slanted, green and brimming with malevolence. Elam aimed his crossbow, trying to keep his hands from shaking. The youth beheld flitting movements in the scant light beyond the cave’s mouth. He thought, “They’re plotting out there… waiting for an opportunity… gauging our readiness to fight.” Elam exhaled uneasily. “Calm down. They are the enemy. Of course, they’re plotting against us. And they mean to kill us.” But as he stared out into the night, a more terrifying realization came to him. “They’re stalking us…”
A low voice came from somewhere off to the side. “Steady. Steady, Elam.”
The youth glanced over at the captain, and nodded. Slowly, the weapon grew more comfortable in his grip.
Vorim gave a reassuring nod.
Elam looked at Old Dorn, and could not help but smile. The grizzled old veteran was braced against a rock, with his bow in one hand, and an arrow held in the other. The features made out in the scant light were hawkish and determined. His hoary head, seemed to shine somewhat, giving him an almost ghostly appearance. Elam shook his head in disbelief. Dorn was a warrior, a veteran. And though waning in strength of limb, his heart fought on, stronger than ever before. Elam chided himself for his fear. “If he can hold firm, so can I. The enemy may take us… but they will not do so without a fight!”
Nearby, Arno’s features were immobile. The blonde-haired warrior held his axe in a sure grip, remembering the captain’s orders:
“The enemy will look for an opportunity to strike. They will take stock of us. If they see a chance, they will pounce. Do not give them that chance. The darkness is to their advantage. They can hide in it. Our location is known to them. They outnumber us. Take heed. The darkness is to our advantage. Though they know where we are, the dimness obscures our true strength. They are forced to guess at our mood. The risk is theirs if they assail us. We have the better ground. For we are protected, and we will be ready.”
Arno grinned, thinking “The captain has a way with words.” The blond fighter adjusted his horned helm. This is what he was born for: war. To hold the power of life and death! The thrill that only comes when the heart beats like a drum… when there is chaos all around…. feeling that surge of energy like never before. The whole is in balance. All is in focus. Everything is clear…” In the darkened cave, his eyes grew bright.
Glain bowed his head. He could still see the tears in his mother’s eyes as he left the farm that day, armed with his father’s sword. “Please, mom. I must do this.”
His three brothers just stared after him. One of them cried out “Go, then! We’ll do the work, while you chase after glory.”
He could feel the wetness running down his cheeks, as he reached out to his mother. “I don’t want to go, mom. I don’t.”
She hugged him close. “Then stay, son. Stay here. There is much work to be done. Why is this so important to you?”
He gazed into her eyes, “Because it was important to father; because the enemy is real.” He glanced over at his brothers. “And because I cannot stay here safe and sound… and do nothing.” Glain looked into
his mother’s eyes once more. “They will take care of you. And they will take care of the farm. But I must go.”
She wrapped her arms around him, cradling his head against her shoulder. “Then go, son. And do what you must. But always remember… that you are loved.”
Glain lifted his head, staring out into the night. He gripped the hilt of his father’s sword, barely speaking the words, “I will do what I must.”
In the darkness, Lief gripped one of his leather bracers. “Diedra,” he smiled. In the mind’s eye, he could still see her: those beautiful brown eyes, the sun glinting off her long braids, her gentle smile, so warm and sure. Standing by a house, built of the finest Fayumbran timber. She was a beautiful girl. It was a beautiful place. And then, all that he loved was taken away. Lief shook slightly, “Taken by another beauty: a dark beauty.” He chuckled softly. “Perhaps, beauty is not the best way to describe him; for there was no loveliness in what he did.” It was an elf, one of the dark ones, taller than those outside the cave. And he had taken Diedra away…
The mighty warrior Telm… was restless. “We should not cower in here, while the enemy surrounds us. Why is Vorim doing this? If we attack now, we can take them unawares. Their leader is dead. They are too puny and weak to be so great a threat. And they want our blood.” He chuckled under his breath, “My blood. I killed the wizard, while he was distracted. And they went into a frenzy. Bah! Weakness and ferocity do not mix well. Their blades are no match for my powerful axe.” Telm grinned in the darkness. “I chopped them down, then. And I’ll fell even more, like so many saplings. They love the trees, and I see them… as kindling.”
All was silent and clothed in darkness. The men in the cave strove to stay alert for any sign of enemy
activity. Captain Vorim scowled, searching for movement. Elam held his crossbow at the ready, eyes wide, and ears listening. Across from him, the old man squinted, still holding his bow and arrow. Everyone was focused, knowing their very lives depended on swift action, should the enemy choose to strike. A few days
ago, they had been running to escape. But now, they were trapped, with nowhere to go, and only their wits to save them.
And then, without warning, a voice could be heard. Was it that of a male or female? It was melodious, as if each syllable were sung instead of spoken. Every word was beautiful, but not a one was soothing. “Humans… Humans…” Though not loud, the speaker’s voice carried into the very crevices of the cave. “Are you observing us? You are aware of our presence. Still your troubled hearts, humans. Why fret over the outcome, when it is sure?”
Vorim could feel a prickling sensation at the back of his neck. He dared not answer the dark elf. That voice was calm as a gentle breeze… but cold as ice.
The speaker continued, “Humans, I am Dray, of the Queen’s elves. We fight to reclaim what is ours by right. And in order for her will to succeed… you must die.”
Vorim fought to contain himself, thinking “Your queen is dead. You dark elves were defeated by the elves of the Seelie Court.” But he kept his silence, merely listening to the haunting words. Deep down inside, he still could not believe what manner of enemy they faced. “They speak and act like arrogant youths. But they’re smart. They turned the tide against us, forcing us to flee. And now we are stalked like this is some sort of game. But though determined… they are proud. Could it be their pride will grant us an edge?”
Elam spied movement near the mouth of the cave. He looked questioningly over at the captain.
Vorim held a hand up. He realized, “If we do not respond, they will strike, thinking us to be unprepared.” The Captain cleared his throat and called out, “Dark elf!”
The movement ceased.
Vorim continued, “Dark elf, I see neither of us is confident we can win this fight.”
From outside, Dray replied, “I am confident, human, that you will not survive.”
The captain grinned. “Neither will you. So, why don’t we make a deal?”
Dray scoffed, “With you? Your people have taken up arms against the Queen’s elves.”
The man frowned. “You attacked us. We fought back.”
“Human, Lord Aysa perished at your hands. And we are here to avenge him.”
Vorim shook his head. “If you were going to attack, you would have already done so. But you’re afraid. Afraid we just might beat you! Afraid to suffer the humiliation of losing to a human! Hah! None of you are warriors. You’re just scared little boys.” The captain smiled with satisfaction.
The dark elf answered, “Foolish human. You fled from us. And now, have concealed yourselves in walls of stone. Do you fancy yourself a dwarf, perchance? Though I have no love for their kind, I say to you of a surety, they would never hide in fear…” The dark elf grew silent.
Vorim knew why. Not so long ago, the dwarves had helped drive the dark elves and their monstrous allies, out of Elfland itself. But where the elves of the Seelie court were content to regain their land, the dwarves and their gnomish allies pursued the enemy deep into the southern jungles…
The mighty Telm seethed, drawing near to Vorim. “We must attack now, while he is full of his own words.”
Vorim shook his head. “No. There are too many. Our best chance is to defend.”
Telm snarled. “Our best chance is to fight… captain.” Then, he strode back into the depths of the cave.
Dray called out once more. “Dwarves you are not. You are merely fools, hoping we will depart, and leave you to your brief lives. But that shall not be done, humans. You will perish by the sword for your foul deeds.” Menacing snickers could now be heard outside, their echoes bouncing off the stone walls.
Vorim glanced over at Elam. “Can you get a shot on one of them?”
“Maybe, sir, but I don’t know if it will be fatal.”
“Never mind that; you need only hit one.”
“Yes, sir.” Elam aimed his crossbow out into the night.
The captain turned his attention to Dorn. “Be ready.”
Grinning, the old man nodded.
Vorim shouted, “Enough, elf! If you want us dead, then come and get us!”
Dray replied, with a curious tone, “Human, what has prompted this outburst?”
“You say you’re going to kill us. But all I hear is talk! You like to mock, but I would rather fight! Now, come on!”
“Human, you try my patience. You will die when I am ready to kill you.”
Vorim spat in disgust, “Coward! Maybe you’re just a bunch of skinny weaklings after all! Your queen would be ashamed!”
Dray’s voice grew colder. “What did you say, human? How dare you, a pathetic doomed creature speak that way about the Queen of elves? Perhaps, I should hasten your demise…”
Movement could be seen near the cave’s mouth: malevolent eyes of green. And a deathly silence filled the air.
A slight whistling sound broke through the stillness! And an undignified yelp of pain was heard. The hapless dark elf stumbled backward, dropping his bow, and clutching at the bolt embedded deep in his shoulder.
Dark elves drew swords, moving towards the cave.
Dray called, “Cease! Return! To fight now, is to give them the advantage.”
Another elf replied, “If the humans sense weakness, they will attack. And we will perish.”
Dray stared at him sternly. “Cease, I said. To attack now, would be to deliver ourselves into their hands. Come. Sarin is wounded. We must tend to him.”
Reluctantly, the dark elves complied.
Dray smirked. “Fret not. They merely cower in their hole, waiting for us to come for them. And we shall, humans. We shall.” The dark elf nodded, and four archers took cover near the mouth of the cave, their green eyes full of malice… and watching.
The dark elf sprite Dray was in repose, but not asleep. He was meditating: remembering. Though his eyes were closed, his mind was alert. And, though he rested in unfamiliar surroundings, he remembered a familiar place: the sights, sounds, smells, tastes… Fayumbra. Though the land of exile for Dray’s people, it
had been transformed by their presence. The Queen’s elves caused the land to flourish. And at night, when the pixies had gone to bed, the lesser fay stayed up to play.
Dray was there again: a party, food, drink, dancing. There was a great deal of merry-making. A lesser
nymph plucked lute strings and the Queen’s elves sang with her, dancing to the lively tune:
Bouncing lightly on the ground,
twirl your body round and round.
Listen to the joyful sound
that calls out to your ears.
Spin around the other way,
until the night gives in to day.
Sing and dance and laugh and play.
And dry up all your tears.
The song is good.
The mood is right.
So dance until
the morning light.
Kiss the air
and taste the night.
Fill your heart
Crouch down low
and touch the ground.
Leap up high
into the sky.
And spin yourself
round and round.
Dray danced and sang. Lesser nymphs were in abundance, silly sprite girls prancing about, kissing one another to the delight of the boys.
In the midst of the revelry, Dray spied the Reverend Sister Serena chatting with a group of her friends. He hastened over. The he-fay took hold of one of her hands and dared kiss it. “Reverend Sister.”
She giggled, placing her hand on his cheek. “Dray, you are a bold one.”
Lady Delshess, the witch, eyed him suspiciously. “Fool, what is your desire?”
“Milady, I merely wish to partake.” He grinned at her, and then inspected the other nymphs gathered all around. “And of what would you partake, Reverend Sister?”
Serena smiled, “Naught but your company, Dray. Any more would be excess.”
He corrected, “It would be delight, Reverend Sister.”
“Mother Cassondra says that to immerse oneself in one’s desires is to walk the path of folly.”
“But, dear Reverend Sister,” Dray smirked, “is it not our desire to serve the Queen?”
“Pure desire does not lead to indulgence. Be sanctified and become a worthy vessel.”
Dray smiled at the nymphs all around him. “Perhaps we should sanctify these proceedings.” He winked at Lady Delshess.
She scowled. “Brazen elf, do you dare disrespect the Reverend Sister?”
“Not at all, milady, I merely wished for her blessing to be imparted to us.” He gestured at the other nymphs.
One of them spoke, “He does not disrespect you, Reverend Sister.”
The priestess glanced at Lady Delshess. “His jests do not seem to be rude. But I am not sure he is deserving of a blessing.”
Dray recoiled as if stung. “Your words do wound me. What have I done to earn your disdain?”
Lady Delshess spoke, “Impudence has made you worthy of scorn, Dray.”
He implored the other nymphs, “I am maligned. It was not my intention to be without humility. I merely asked, or hoped, for a blessing from the Reverend Sister.”
Some of the nymphs seemed dubious, but the others smiled at him. One of them replied, “I do not believe you to be impudent, Dray. It is his right to ask for a blessing if he so wishes.”
The he-fay bowed his head before the priestess. “Forgive me. I did not mean to seem rude, Reverend Sister.”
She giggled into her hand. “You are forgiven, Dray. Perhaps, you are deserving of a blessing.”
Delshess’ eyes went wide. “Reverend Sister!”
Serena smiled, “Lady Delshess, he is obviously in need of all the blessings one can bestow. Mother Cassondra says the most needful are often the most worthy… and the most plentiful.”
Several nymphs giggled.
Lady Delshess scowled and said nothing.
Reverend Sister Serena beckoned for Dray to approach.
He knelt respectfully before her.
The priestess outstretched her hand, placing it on his head. “A blessing on you, Dray: that you have strength, without weakness; that you will be brave, but not reckless; that you have love without lust; and that your loyalty shall be born of your love. Blessed be Nicnivin.”
And all of them repeated, “Blessed be Nicnivin.”
The priestess bade him rise.
Dray stood, with his head still bowed. “Reverend Sister?”
“I would ask for a kiss.”
She looked at him strangely.
Delshess stepped forward, “Insolent commoner.”
Dray smiled, with his head still bowed. “I mean no disrespect. For it was out of love that I gave the Reverend Sister a kiss of my own. I merely ask that the token of my love be not in vain. One kiss and I shall be content.”
Serena stared at him. “Very well, Dray. Give me your hand.”
He glanced up at her. “Reverend Sister, is it your custom to bestow a kiss on the hand?”
Lady Delshess responded, “You bestowed your own kiss on hers.”
He nodded. “It was out of humility and respect, milady. For the real token of my love should be placed upon her lips.”
Lady Delshess was incredulous, “How arrogant! To think the Reverend Sister would grant such a request…”
Reverend Sister Serena bent forward, and kissed him on the lips. “Your request has been granted.”
Lady Delshess stared at her, speechless.
Dray bowed. “Thank you, Reverend Sister.” He smiled at Lady Delshess, and then walked away.
The early morning light shone down on three hidden he-fay archers, who had replaced the other four during the course of the night. Likewise, eight of the sword he-fay had remained on guard, in case the humans might make their move under cover of darkness.
Dray moved softly and quietly over to where the wounded Sarin lay, uncomfortably sleeping. “Awaken, my friend.”
Sarin’s slanted eyes opened, and one hand went instinctively to his shoulder. Wincing, he replied, “Why have you disturbed my slumber?”
“Your wound requires tending.”
The patient turned away. “I would prefer the ministrations of a priestess.”
Dray grinned, shaking his head. “In the absence of a priestess, my skills must suffice.”
Sarin grimaced, and gave a sigh. “If my fate is in your hands, then I am doomed already.”
The attending elf chuckled, removing the cloth strips he had used to bind the wound. He took another piece of cloth and doused it with water. Then, he proceeded to clean the area where the crossbow bolt had
struck. “To wield a bow, would cause you great discomfort.”
“I am a soldier of the Queen, Dray. Whatever I endure, is as nothing next to the fulfilling of my duty.”
Dray continued to cleanse the wound. “Constrain yourself in the battle to come, Sarin. Enter the fray behind the others.”
The wounded elf moaned, inhaling sharply. “Has it come to this? Our failure to protect Lord Aysa has left us in disgrace, Dray. We bear shame, and I am helpless to avenge our fallen leader.”
“Lord Aysa will be avenged, Sarin. And I shall not prevent you. But your aim is not so sure. Withhold yourself, lest your zeal have dire consequences, not just for you but for us all.”
“As you wish. But I fear, for the likelihood of our success has been diminished.”
Dray looked at him, curiously. “Explain.”
Sarin stared forward. “Eight archers remain. And the one whose aim is true… has been impaired.” He smirked.
Dray grinned. “Fret not. We will be victorious. Lord Aysa shall be avenged. And then, we shall return to our people, free from this disgrace. Lord Leonin will account us as true and faithful elves of the Queen.”
Sarin shifted uncomfortably. “Perhaps. Lord Aysa highly prized your confidence, Dray. That is why we follow you.”
The leader grew silent, taking fresh strips of cloth and starting to bind the wound. “The humans will require water, soon. It is also likely their provisions are few. They have found no means of escape. So, they must emerge to face us, or expire within walls of stone.”
Sarin smiled contentedly, through his pain. “Soon, we will be free of this disgrace.”
Dray gave a look of dismay. “We cannot return until we have avenged the death of our lord. I cannot help but think that the humans are not the only ones who have been trapped…”
Sarin bowed his head, “Soon, my friend.”
Dray finished tending to the wound. “How many arrows are left?”
The wounded elf replied, “Twelve remain.”
“Give those you have to the others. They will make better use of them. When the battle comes, draw your sword and remain at my side.”
“It is the weaker of my weapons.”
Dray gathered the old dressing “My friend, the wielding of a bow requires the use of two arms.” He grinned. “The sword will be your weapon of vengeance.”
Sarin scowled, and nodded, “As you wish.”
Dray urged “Come, let us join the others.”
Three dark elf archers lay hidden near the mouth of the cave. Their green eyes studied the aperture closely, attempting to discern movement within. They listened carefully with pointed ears, their bows at the ready. As the sun rose high into the sky, a sound could be heard: a yell, fueled by the lungs of seven men. And then, the humans charged.
Captain Vorim was on one side, with the mighty Telm on the other. Arno was between them, raising his axe high, with his horned helm covering his golden locks. Glain followed the captain, his sword held high. Lief was at his side, pointing his sword at the line of trees ahead.
A few of the concealed elves smirked, and one whistled a call to the rest of their number.
Vorim grinned as archers appeared, aiming right at them. The dark elves loosed into the midst of the onrushing men.
Suddenly, an archer grimaced and dropped. Another one ducked behind a tree, as a crossbow bolt zipped past him. His slanted eyes were wide, and he shook slightly.
Telm laughed, rushing into the woods. “We are free, elves! Free to destroy you! Ha, ha, ha, ha!”
He-fay bearing swords moved to intercept him. One assured, “Foolish human. If it is death you desire, you have but to ask!”
Arno knocked a sword thrust to the side with his shield. Then, he swung his axe, splitting the elf’s head.
Glain happened to glance to the side. “Lief?” He turned just enough to see a human form slumped on the ground. Then, he jerked back, as an arrow sunk deep into his chest. “Ghaa!” Glain staggered forward, searching feverishly for the enemy. “Where are you?!”
Elves approached from all sides, having been alerted to the fight. Dray held his sword with both hands, glancing at Sarin.
The wounded he-fay wielded a blade with his good arm. He nodded back at his friend.
Arno hacked furiously into a sprite, who fell sprawling, still gripping his sword. “Die, elf.”
Glain held up his shield, deflecting a blow. “No! Not today.” He slashed quickly, and the enemy fell back, clutching his belly.
Captain Vorim was surrounded by leering olive faces. He moved to the side, dodging one blade, only to have another glance off his armor. “Come and get me!” The man ducked behind a tree, only to feel a sharp, fiery pain in his side.
The dark elf stared coldly, gripping his sword in both hands, and struggling to shove the blade further in.
Vorim groaned in pain, and swung clumsily with his warhammer. A sickening crunch was heard, and the embedded metal was torn free, as a skinny form fell sprawling.
The man felt something spin past him, and a dark elf cried out, sinking quickly to the ground.
Just within the mouth of the cave, old Dorn lowered his bow and glanced over at Elam. The youth grinned, aiming his crossbow. Another of the captain’s attackers gave an agonized cry and dropped.
Dorn frowned. “Don’t get cocky, boy.”
Elam struggled not to laugh.
Telm smirked down at his three small opponents. He gave a war cry, charging forward and swinging his large axe.
As the one dark elf fell, the other two attacked from both sides.
Telm snarled, feeling a sharp sting in his armpit. He dove forward through the trees, and the elves gave chase.
Dray and Sarin approached as a man in a horned helmet stumbled into view.
Arno grinned, threatening them with his bloody axe. “Hello, elves. Come join the fun!” He laughed maniacally, holding his shield up and drawing closer.
Sarin heard a rustling and spun around, as a larger man approached, wielding a heavier axe. But it was not the towering human, but the distracted dark elf in his path, that put Sarin into motion. “Take heed!” He
stabbed, but the huge man twisted out of the way.
Dray cried out, staggering backward, one arm clutching a grievous cleft in his side. “No… I shall not perish at the hands of a horned beast.”
Arno laughed derisively. “This beast just painted you red.”
Not far away, elfin bones splintered and cracked. Vorim stood panting, gesturing towards the rest of his attackers. “Who dies next?”
A dark elf darted in from the side.
Vorim swung his hammer, caving in the enemy’s skull.
Dorn, the veteran archer moved out of the cave, nocked an arrow and loosed. A dark elf yelped, grasping at the shaft protruding from his eye.
Telm chuckled, hewing one of his diminutive attackers. “You’re pathetic.”
Sarin doubled over, coughing up blood. He still held up the sword, but his strength was waning.
Dray fell back against a tree, as a crossbow bolt zipped past him.
Arno, seizing the opportunity, rushed forward, but halted suddenly. He choked and gurgled, staring down at the metal embedded in him.
Dray glanced over at his fellow, whose sword had deeply pierced the human.
The he-fay looked at his leader, and, gripping his sword hilt tightly in both hands, shoved the blade further in.
Dray turned, and darted forward, putting himself between Sarin and the large human.
Dark elves attacked Telm from all sides, and the massive man roared angrily. “Come on, elves. Fight me, with your puny weapons!”
Glain slashed and an enemy dropped. The young man’s breath came in labored rasps. His strength was ebbing. He stumbled forward, and a blade sunk into him. The youth dropped his shield and fell to his knees. “Mother… I love you, mother…” With one more gasp, he slumped forward and grew still.
Nearby, Captain Vorim snarled at his adversaries. “You may kill us, elves. But not if we kill you first.” He raised his warhammer high.
A sword he-fay dashed forward.
Captain Vorim gave a cry and staggered back.
The dark elf smirked, and then his eyes went blank. Instinctively, one hand clutched at the bolt embedded in his neck.
Captain Vorim swung, and a crumpled form fell at his feet.
Telm swiped and hacked, growling as dark elf blades pierced him repeatedly. He grunted, nearly decapitating an elf with one mighty swing. “Arrgh… weaklings. Aaa… all of you… No match…”
A sword he-fay, having seen a crossbow bolt kill his fellow, moved quickly towards a gray-haired man standing near the cave’s entrance. “Human, for his death, I shall claim your life.”
Dorn, having run out of arrows, dropped his bow, and drew a short sword. “Bold words, elf.” The old man ducked to the side and stabbed.
The furious elf ignored the wound, and attempted to run the man through. Something heavy and metallic collided with the elfin features, and he dropped to the ground.
Vorim smiled at Dorn through his pain.
Elam approached, having dropped his empty crossbow. He held a sword, chuckling as the old man smiled back at the captain.
Dorn frowned. “Pay attention, boy.”
Elam nodded and the three of them moved into the trees.
Telm howled angrily, swinging at his adversaries as his strength abated. He spun around, falling heavily on the ground.
Dray turned, watching as the last three men came into view. “You are too late, humans, to save your fellow. It seems his might could not prevail against elfin steel.”
Vorim scowled. “Why, elf? Why all this death?”
Dray replied “Lord Aysa must be avenged, human.” The dark elf advanced.
Captain Vorim spat a gob of reddish liquid. “Fine. If this is what you want…” The man raised his hammer.
Dray ducked the powerful swing and jabbed.
Vorim cried out, falling backward.
Sarin stabbed at the grey-haired man.
“No!” Elam leaped forward, slashing into the elf’s good arm.
Sarin grimaced and staggered backward.
Vorim, sensing danger from behind twisted to the side, missing the enemy’s jab. Then, he grumbled furiously, charging towards the hapless dark elf.
Dray saw Sarin leaning back against a tree to retain his balance. And the gray-haired man slashed at him. “Sarin…” But before he could aid his friend, he felt something heavy make impact. The dark elf twisted, wincing as he tumbled to the ground.
Vorim stood over him. “Now, elf, let’s finish this.”
The remaining dark elves swarmed the humans, jabbing menacingly. The three men attacked ferociously, swinging and slashing.
The dark elf Dray… stirred. Silence had descended on the battlefield. He struggled to a sitting position. Blood streamed from his wounded side. One hip was bruised and broken. Gripping his sword tightly, and bracing himself against a tree, he pulled himself to a standing position. The dark elf looked at the bodies scattered all around. Sarin lay motionless nearby.
Dray limped around, inspecting the dead: the grey-haired man and the fresh-faced one. He found the third, whose large hammer was still clutched in a death grip. Elfin corpses lay all around. The man’s body was covered in wounds. Dray remembered the voice. “I presume you to be the leader. Your assault was brash and reckless. A foolish attempt… and yet… you nearly succeeded.”
Dray heard something behind him: a low, menacing chuckle. The lesser fay turned to face his lone remaining adversary.
Telm was covered in blood, much of it his own. His armor had been pierced repeatedly. He gripped his bloody axe with both hands. “Little elf, all alone. Should I kill you like I killed your lord?” The towering figure laughed. “You remember me. Don’t you?”
Dray recalled another battlefield: he and his fellows fighting bravely against the advancing humans.
Lord Aysa leading his forces and casting spells. And then, Dray watched as a large, muscular human came into view swinging a heavy axe. The weapon had been covered in blood then, as well. Many of Dray’s fellows were falling victim. He held his sword with both hands, and dashed towards the deadly foe.
The man laughed. “Come here, little elf. Ha, ha, ha, ha!”
Another human attacked from the side and Dray ducked and jabbed. But the attacker nearly struck him with a second blow. The dark elf darted forward swiftly, running the man through. The large man with the bloody axe was coming closer. The sprite attempted to free his blade… but it was stuck in the man’s body. The laughing man came towards him. The little dark elf frantically tugged at his sword. From over his shoulder he could hear the voice of Lord Aysa. “Hasten, Dray. Your enemy is nearly upon you.”
“Yes, milord.” He yanked at the embedded blade.
The laughing grew louder.
Lord Aysa called again. “Dray!”
“Do not concern yourself with me, milord.”
“Hasten Dray, or you will perish.”
“I am a soldier of the Queen, milord. I shall not fail.” He pulled with all his might, watching as the man raised his bloody axe.
Suddenly, Lord Aysa was between them, and the axe fell…
Now, on a final battlefield, Dray stood battered and bleeding, facing the man with the bloody axe. “Lord Aysa perished at your hands, human.”
Telm laughed. “He was weak. Just like you. And now he’s dead, elf.” The man grinned, showing his teeth. “Just like you…” Growling, the man swung his axe.
Dray ducked instinctively, and his hip gave out. The dark elf fell.
Telm roared with laughter. “You’re weak! And pathetic!”
Dray struggled to his knees, wincing and groaning. “No, human, the Queen’s elves do not fail.”
“Ha, ha, ha! Your Queen is dead, elf! And now, it’s your turn…” He raised the bloody axe…
Dray planted one foot and shoved upward with all his might.
Telm gave an agonized grunt.
His elfin adversary forced the blade deeper.
The bloody axe slipped from the man’s fingers, dropping on the ground.
Dray gripped the handle and shoved once more.
Telm coughed and sputtered, with blood streaming from his lips. He smirked down at Dray. “Little… weakling…” The man’s eyes rolled back, and he slumped forward.
The dark elf managed to roll to the side as the dead man fell.
Dray lay there, staring at the large corpse. “Lord Aysa… you have been avenged… The Queen’s Elves… no longer bear shame…Take heed, Sarin… we did not fail…” The dark elf lay back on the ground and closed his eyes, softly singing:
until the night… gives in to day…
Sing and dance… and laugh and play…
And dry up all… your…No tags for this post.