Ties that bind
The woods seemed very, very dark, not in an evil way, but in a wild, very alive way. The trees were tall and majestic and he felt as if a thousand eyes were upon him as he stumbled through the forest, following the clear patch of the Ah’ndengin-mat. It seemed to him that he had ran for hours and was beginning to wonder if the tales he had been told about the place were actually true, when suddenly something from above dropped upon him. He tried to brush it off but it closed about him quickly and he swung up in the air, his body firmly bound in an Elven net. He could not move his sword hand and his infravision made out a dozen forms descending from above, cautiously, with weapons ready.
"I do not come to disturb you, I chase the Ah’ndengin-mat who pursuits my horse!" He yelled out in the common tongue, hoping his heavy helm would conceal his eyes from them at least until he was out of the net. But his hope was in vain, for two tall forms rushed up to him and yanked off his helm, gasping in shock at the sight. In a flash a sword tip was pressed firmly against his throat, its point quivering with hatred barely contained. A handsome Faesidhe man pressed in close to his face, his lips curled in almost a snarl as he said in a cold, firm voice, "I will ask only two questions of you, Tel'gothrim and if I do not believe your answers, I will kill you. I may even do so if I do believe you, but I do not like what I hear. So choose your words very, very carefully. Who are you?"
"Eleazar Greyskin, I am a captain in the Order of the Blood Knights."
"Why do you come into this forest?"
"My steed is being chased by an Ah’ndengin-mat and I pursue it to kill it before it takes other lives."
The Faesidhe man turned to his companions and spoke in Faesidhe, assuming Eleazar would not understand them. But he did, for his mother had taught him the tongue of her people. The Elves were debating killing him right then or bringing one of the King’s officials to see him first. Eleazar knew he had to quickly act. Clearing his throat, he spoke to them in Faesidhe, "I understand what you are saying, but before you make a decision on my fate, tell your King that I have information about his sister that he will want to hear before you kill me."
The words had barely left his mouth before the Faesidhe Elf pressed the sword a bit tighter against his throat, drawing a slight trickle of blood, "You dare speak the kingly tongue! How did you learn it?"
"My mother taught it to me." He said, barely able to speak for the sword point pressing against his neck.
The Elf looked over to another Elf off to one side who apparently had some magic device that could determine the truthfulness of the speaker, for after a few moments, the sword point lessened slightly as if his words had been confirmed. Then the net loosened, but he dared not move to pull himself free from it.
"Do not speak another word." the Elf told him, "The King will come to you and speak to you personally. Any tricks by you will be your last. Now sit, for it may be several hours before he arrives."
Eleazar slowly slid down to sit on an exposed root of one of the great trees, the Elf’s sword still held against his neck, but some of his anger gone.
Several hours indeed passed, and he sat very still on the tree root as the Faesidhe Elves took turns guarding him. He stoically sat quietly, working over in his mind what he could say to the Elven King. He had never knowingly met a Faesidhe Elf, though he had of course met many surface Elves, most that were rather hostile toward him, though several grew to respect and even befriend him. Yet the Faesidhe were the ‘pure’ race of Elves, proud, arrogant and aloof. They of all the races of surface Elves, had more hatred for the Drow. He knew that in their mind he was simply a Drow – there were no half-bloods by their way of reckoning. Pure was all that mattered to them, and he had heard that they even shown some distain for other surface Elves. So his chance of having a positive meeting with their King was very slim.
Suddenly a party of tall Elves appeared from out of the forest and by their dress and regal mannerisms, he knew he was looking upon the Faesidhe King and his court. The Elven guards bid him to kneel, head bowed, in the King’s presence. The King had a rather harsh look on his face, his blue eyes icy as he looked Eleazar over for a moment before speaking to him in Faesidhe.
"You are not a pure Tel'gothrim. You speak our language fairly well. You told my guards you knew the fate of a sister of mine. Tell me how this is possible."
Eleazar looked up at the Elf, "My mother was one of your people, captured by the Drow in a raid many years ago. At their hands she was greatly abused and she conceived me by one of her captors, who kept me as one of their slaves. But they allowed me to stay with my mother and she taught me your language. She told me that she was a sister to the King of the Faesidhe. Her name was Sialia Fannithal."
At the utterance of her name, all the Faesidhe Elves gasped. The King’s eyes now were hot with rage – he pointed a finger at Eleazar’s nose.
"You are a liar! But we shall have the truth from you and be warned, Tel'gothrim, if you attempt to lie, it will consume you." The King turned to one of the nobles standing next to him with a nod, and the man held up a large staff, made a quick circle in the air and suddenly Eleazar was encased in a cocoon of white light from his neck to his feet. The energy of the field pressed firm against him.
The King smiled smugly, "Now we will have the truth from you. What is your name?"
"Eleazar called Greyskin."
"What race are you?"
"My father was a Drow noble, my mother was a Faesidhe Elf." All the nobles and the King stared for an instant, as if expecting the cocoon to maybe squeeze him or electrocute him, but when that didn’t happen, the King continued, more concern in his voice.
"What is the name of your mother?"
Again the King and nobles held their breath, watching the blue magic of the spell that pulsed around him. When nothing happened, they all became very pale, looking at each other for a long moment. Then the King turned back to him and in almost a whisper asked, "Is she dead?"
"Yes." he answered and anguish washed over the Faesidhe.
"Tell me how she died, every detail, EVERYTHING you remember!" the King said his emotion falling between anger and grief.
Eleazar hesitated, not wanting to share the account of her death or his possession by the demon of rage. When he had not answered for a moment, the blue of the cocoon began to spread upward, toward his chin, then his mouth, cutting off his breath. He gasped and suddenly found his voice, telling everything about the horrible story to the wide-eyed Elven nobles, as the cocoon slowly receded back to its original position.
The King stood there speechless, dumbstruck by the tale, too engrossed to even be angry, and Eleazar told everything he had experienced, including his escape. When he had told them the story, there was a very long pause – tears filled most of the Elves’ eyes, including the King. He stared at Eleazar for a long moment, then turned to a servant standing nearby, "Fetch me the Wine of Silia."
The servant’s mouth fell open at the mention of the wine, but he bowed and rushed off into the forest.
Without an explanation, the King turned back to Eleazar, his face still stern, but no longer furious in anger, "Now you will tell me what your mother taught you."
There followed an intense question and answer session where the King asked him about everything imaginable that his mother had ever said to him. He had no idea how it was that many of the questions were important to the Elven monarch, but he answered all them truthfully until after several hours the servant reappeared, carrying a large glass vial with a liquid inside that seemed to shine as if light were reflecting upon it. He brought the vial to the King with a reverent bow, and the King held it up, glancing at it for a few seconds.
There was a gleam in his eyes as he turned to Eleazar with a slight smile, "This is the Wine of Silia, it was created by the one you claim is your mother nearly 3,000 years ago."
Eleazar’s puzzled expression made the King smile a bit more broadly, "You are surprised – rightfully so. For you see Silia Fannithal was indeed the sister of the King… but it is not this King. Celathon Fannithal was her brother – he was the first king of my people and my great, great, great grandfather."
"But my mother was not that old!" Eleazar protested.
"I doubt your claim for that same reason. Silia Fannithal was the High Bard of the Great Tree, the singer of legends and the keeper of the fruit. She was the first to partake of the white fruit and the first to gain its blessings. She was our most revered lady and she disappeared from our knowledge when a caravan with which she was travelling to visit some of our people in the southern lands was attacked by your people. Now you claim that she was your mother. I doubt this, dark elf, for you see, those who partake of the white fruit have never bore children… except for the Tel'gothrim witches that violated the sanctity of the Clearing of the Ages. We know, dark elf, that you have met with the humanized Tel'gothrim girl in Westmark. That makes your story suspect, though you have seemed to pass the test of our spell. The Wine of Silia comes from juice extracted from the core of the eaten white fruit of the Faesidhe Tree. Only those who have eaten of the white fruit may drink from this wine and live. If you are the son of Silia Fannithal, you should be able to drink of this wine, for her blood would flow in your veins. If you lied – or if she that was your mother lied to you about whom she was— then you will find this wine as the most bitter and deadly of poisons. Either way, we shall have our answer, and if you refuse to drink of it, we shall pour it down your throat, but willingly or not, you will partake of this wine so all may know."
"I will do it willingly." Eleazar said and the King nodded, bringing the vial up to the Paladin’s lips.
Eleazar took a deep breath and then swallowed the clear fluid that did not taste anything like wine or even juice. His throat burned a bit and he gave a slight cough, to the great interest of the nobles and the King. He felt a fire seem to fill him, and all at once his skin began to shine like the sun reflecting off clear ice. The nobles and King, all squinted from the brilliant glow and after a moment the King and his court went a short distance away, gathered in a circle and began to whisper very animatedly amongst themselves. They were having a heated discussion as he stood there, still wrapped in the cocoon from neck to feet, his exposed face still giving off bright white light, though as the warmth began to dissipate, the glow began to fade. It was almost gone by the time the Faesidhe returned to him.
None were smiling, but neither did they seem angry and Eleazar took that for a good sign.
"The wine of Silia never lies in its verdict… you are her son. Never has this happened among my people." The king seemed very uncertain of what he was to do next. For a short time he pondered this, then looked up at the half-Drow knight, "Your life shall be spared, for you have provided us with the fate of our beloved Bard after many years of wondering. Moreover, your slaying of those who killed her –even guided by a demon— also served our purpose. As you are her son, you will not be killed, though you have no idea how narrow your escape from death has been. You will leave my kingdom and shall never set foot in this forest again, for the next time you do so, your live will not be spared."
"What of the Ah’ndengin-mat?" Eleazar asked, noticing that the blue cocoon he was encased in was slowly beginning to fade.
The King snorted, "Do not think we need your protection, half-blood. The creature has already been dealt with by our wizards and eliminated. Your horse has been rounded up, fed and groomed – it is a magnificent animal, I am told. It awaits you at the beginning of the path you took into the forest. I bid you to go and to try your best to live a life that would bring glory to the great and noble blood that flows tainted through your veins. Do not think that your relationship to your mother gives you any security in this forest, for you are in mortal danger as long as you stay within its borders. Do not think of exploring it or returning later to visit. You are banished from this forest forever after you have left its confines. Make a straight path back to your horse and make haste. Farewell, Eleazar Greyskin, we shall not meet again."
Without awaiting his reply, the King spun on his toes and quickly disappeared into the forest, his court in tow.
For a few minutes there was silence, with only the faint chirping of the earliest of birds waiting for the dawn. Finally the cocoon faded away like mist and he could once again move.