As I walk through the forest, the cool wind lifts my spirits. After a few decades of struggle, I finally have a small sense of freedom.

SPARK

A Tazalon Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by:

E. A. Max & A. S. Enkriptt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All rights reserved by the authors.

As I walk through the forest, the cool wind lifts my spirits.  After a few decades of struggle, I finally have a small sense of freedom.  The sun is rising over the nearby mountains as I enter a field of sunflowers, collapsing into them out of pure joy. 

Autumn has always brought me a measure of reprieve from the vastitudes of my mind.  It is natures way of heralding the coming cold, though it is days like these – warm, breezy, free – that make lying amidst the copse of the sunflowers akin to the onset of summer.  Almost as if Mother Nature woke up and forgot it was supposed to be chilly.  A sigh of pure content escapes my thin lips.

I never really noticed the flow of the seasons while struggling through the recent era.  Times were not always like this…  There was an age when elves were revered as the most respected species on Tazalon.  When the others arrived, however, they flipped the status quo to meet their greedy desires.

I can’t help but wonder why, if selfishly, the realm of the fey had to be invaded by mortal man’s whims.  Why nature included the machinations of the weaker races in her grand scheme.  Tazalon was a place of pure mystery, of pure joy, before the era of man.  Now I chase these fleeting moments in the grottoes between war and peace.

With a sigh of nostalgia, I sit up and dust the seeds off my thick white dress of wool – a human product of destruction.  Having successfully planned and completed my five-year escape, it was time to investigate the rumors that spurred my motivation.  First though, I hear a babbling brook nearby.  The elegance of running water was one of the largest sacrifices I had to make when they destroyed my hometown of Westerton.

“You look lost in thought.”

I quickly jump to my feet, alarmed by the closeness of the voice.  Sentries?  Craning my neck, I confirm with a look my companion’s deduction.

“Tecca, what have I told you about sneaking up on me?”

Tecca, an elf with red skin and blue eyes.  The only reason I stand here today.  It was with her help I was able to escape Dukuros, the prison fortress, and the corrupt humans.  She speaks with an awkward southern twang.

“Saddle up your britches.  We’ve got company from the Plains.”

I stare up at her imposing form, a full three feet above my own of four feet and three inches.  We wood elves are built more for speed and intelligence, rather than the crimson elves strength and resiliency.

“We don’t even get a chance to swim, Tecca?”

“I’m afraid not, Gazzé, the varmint of the past few decades seems to really want your hide.  Let’s move Darlin’!”

Presenting her with a well-deserved scowl, I start trudging forward to the mountains.  Rumors state that just past that range, magic has begun to return, almost to spite the humans and the growing dissention amid their ranks.  When they arrived, they brought something with them that immediately severed the natural races of Tazalon from their unique power source.

Their very existence is like a bog on the surface of the world.  Peering ahead at the horizon, one could almost discern a visible miasma choking the world’s inhabitants from the web of invisible strings in the air known as the Yarn.  The smog is so thick that as Tecca and I resume our steady pace towards the Efrufrél mountains, it seems to sunder the sun with a wicked haze.

“Ain’t nothin’ too nice out here, Princess.  Best keep them pearly white eyes on the road”

I nod, though I don’t hesitate to show my disdain for Tecca’s preference of nicknames for me.  After long, the sunlit, flower road that cuts the Propona Forest on a diagonal pivot pans out to intersect a highway that stretches towards the Efrufrél range, far from the Plains of Disconcordot and the slimy bastards that live there.

“Anything is better than Dukuros dank cells and slaving away building their… abominations, Tecca.  Although, I may be free, I still live in fear until we once again become whole.”

Gazing at the Efrufrél mountains, the twilight sun cresting their peaks, I look off to the side, before speaking in almost a whisper.

“If these rumors end up being a false lead, I fear I will finally give in and write my name in RaVrits Book…”

I thought I had seen the breadth of the crimson elf’s steely stares, but at that moment I was stopped dead in my tracks by her cerulean eyes.

“Don’t even mention that rascals name, Gazzé!  Even before we were severed from the Yarn, His juju grew with every mention of his name…  I can’t even wrap my noggin’ around His presence now.  Let’s kick it into high gear, Princess.”

Reproached, I feel myself retreat inward as we turn onto the wide-open highway, Tecca shifts the weight of the composite bow from shoulder to shoulder, sensing my discomfort.  She’s the warrior of our group and hasn’t always shied away from that particular side of hers when we get into arguments.  It’s part of the reason I keep her so close, though part of me secretly wishes she wasn’t such a brute.  The bigger elf heaves a sigh.

“Look, Gazzé; I don’t like it as much as the next gal ‘round the Bend.”  I groan aloud.  “But that’s exactly why we have to get to Del Santa.”

“Del Santa.”  I echo.  My eyes drift towards the forlorn, metal finger far behind the mountains.  Beyond the Efrufrél’s toothy maw is a colossus stabbing skyward, higher than the tallest mountains, the Del Santa.  A ring of clouds buffets the pinnacle; even from here, it seems as though I could reach out and grab hold of it, despite it being so many miles off.

“Your look like yer thirsty, princess.”  Tecca says, offering me a flask and a sly smile.  I grimace, though I accept the drink gratuitously.  It brings tears to my eyes as it fires up my insides.  I wretch.

“You trying to kill me?”

Tecca emits a gaudy laugh, even as I pitch her flask at her head.  It careens off the side of the road.

“Juzo said you couldn’t hold your liquor.”  She retrieves the flask dutifully.  “He didn’t mention you couldn’t drink.”

I’m about to reply when I suddenly notice that the mirth’s gone from her eyes.  She droops down, and in an instant, her bow is in her meaty, man-killing hands.

“Get down.”

Following Tecca’s lead, I crouch into the nekobush, drawing my dagger from the sash around my waist.  While magic may have been squelched, I have taken the time to adapt and taught myself the ways of toxicology.  I slit the pod of the nekobloom, soaking my star stone blade in the viscous, mulberry colored liquid.  Confident the pores have absorbed a decent amount of the paralyzing chemical, I peer above the nekobush, spotting Tecca just as she loses an arrow into the approaching Chimera.

A screech pierces the twilit skies, one borne in the neck of the dog-headed body.  I feel the press of wind as it sails over my head and hear Tecca curse loudly as the beast courses back, crimson droplets painting the road.

“Tecca!”

“I’m fine, pardner.” She grunts, sidling another arrow.  “You ever goin’ use that there poke?”  When she looks back at me, there’s a smile played out on her face, though I know I have to end this quickly.  Red has begun to ring her cerulean eyes, and the only worse than a pissed off crimson elf…

The Chimera launches forward, talons sharp, horse-head frothing, straight for Tecca’s neck.  She braces herself but, at the last second, ducks away, narrowly escaping the death grip.  The horse-head whines-a stab to my ears.  Its canine-face ducks under the neck of the horse, snapping as it passes by me.  I can feel the hot breath on my cheek a moment after it flies by, the ghost of the dogs’ anger before it circles back again.  My body tenses.

I step up, blade ready.

I throw.

And I miss.

“Curse these damn leeches and their stifling inventions!  I would have been able to nail that with a little help from magic…”

Seemingly out of nowhere, the chameleon head lashes towards me, just as the bulk of the Chimera’s body reaches Tecca, pinned to the ground.  Frantically, I reach for the head of the reptile, wrapping my hands around the base of its neck.  With a whine and a snarl, the remaining heads turn towards me, spittle flying onto my face with a slight burn.  I duck under the heads, running back towards the forest, and pray the crimson elf takes advantage of my gamble before I meet my end.

With an echoing twang, I hear the Chimera fall to the ground with a resonating thud.  I peer over my shoulder and spot my star stone blade nearby, diving to grab it as I dodge the muzzle of the horse-head.

Then the real monster snarls.

My head whips to the sound of a wet snap and I’m instantly rewarded with a hot, fresh, pulpy geyser to the face from the stump that was once a horses’ head.  The beast recoils, the canine head yelping even as the chameleon tail struggles to produce chemicals to change the color of its scales.  It bristles from red to orange to black.

The Chimera shudders as the life escapes it.

Anxiously, I pace around the Chimera’s corpse to the sound of a wet splat, knowing all too well what I’ll find on the other side.

“Tecca…”  But the raging woman crushing the skull of the hound with her bare hands is a 400- pound horror.  Her eyes are misted, run through with veins of mania.  I ready my star stone blade, hoping enough of the nekobush poison stayed in porous channels crafted into the blade.

When she lunges, I’m ready.  Tecca’s always been stronger and more disciplined than me, and if she were in charge of her faculties, she’d see the feint a mile off.

The dagger slides in her side, but I keep the wound shallow.  Her eyes go wide as her rage fails to quell the neuro-toxins of the nekobush.  To anyone else, the short trip to the ground would be their last, but for the crimson elves, it acts as a harsh sleeper.  She’ll be up by morning with nothing more than a headache.

Returning the blade to my sash, I find a seat next to the elf, resting my hand at the base of her elongated skull, my petite fingers gently moving through her dark teal hair.

“My great Backwoods Berserker…  I do hope you will soon be able to control these outbursts, I feel it will be an invaluable asset for our forth coming journey.”

With renewed vigor, I stand and stretch my arms and legs, assessing the safety of our current campsite.  I curiously wander over to the corpse, ensuring the Chimeras demise before seeking a suitable tree for firewood.  As I peer up at the pale violet sky, I cannot help but wish I had a container to gather some of the creature’s blood to sell to a possible buyer near Del Santa.

Fresh firewood in hand, I set a circle of rocks nearby, stacking each of the fallen logs end to end and laying a bed of brush and sticks underneath.  Hitting a few rocks together hard enough for a spark, I cozy up to the growing fire, my lavender covered head resting next to Tecca’s!

I wake with a jolt to the sound of wind rustling through pale, moon lit blades of grass.  The firepit casts a melancholic orange glow on my feet.  The highway yawns beneath a silvery sky, empty as far as the eye can see.

We are not alone.

Tecca’s’ forehead burns through the burden of my poison.  Figuring it’d be better for me to be armed, I take up her surprisingly light composite bow and her quiver of eight arrows.  Nocking the bow brings me back to Juzo’s very first teachings.

“Let the lens of your mind take you to where you need to be.”  His hand steadied mine and allowed for me to see the archery dummy further down the range.  It was my first time at bow before my official training would begin.  Juzo had always seen the soldier in me; he’d always give me pointers on how better to kill.

I let the first arrow go, nearly taking off the head of another initiate.  Juzo chuckled.

It was never enough.

I stealthily prowl the grass, bow at the ready, having been Juzo’s star pupil.  It had been decades since war called me to archery.  So, I practice a shot with the sign labeled “-> Gozor.”  With a snide smirk, I watch the arrow intently, as it falls short.  Always one of the most determined of Juzo’s students, I pull another arrow from the quiver and nock it snuggly into the ring.  Adjusting my stance, I pull back again and release the bowstring, the arrow overshooting the stubborn sign.

I close my eyes and take a deep breath, pulling the string taut, my fingers holding the base of the arrow, and release the tension.  With a satisfying thunk, I hear the arrow fly true and open my eyes ecstatically as I strut towards the sign.  I pull the arrow free, bend down to pick up the one at my feet, and peer around the wood to the shadow cast by the moon.

As I hunt down the final arrow, I notice a small, sleek shape curled around the base of the sign.  Curious, I lean closer to the creature that vaguely reminds me of a river otter, reaching out to tentatively touch the fur.  Sensing no reaction, I carefully lean down and pick the coarse feeling creature up, its mass filling my two cupped hands.  Rearranging my grip, I see a slanted pair of eyes flutter open and a pointed muzzle appear from the mound of fur.  As it yawns, I peer into its’ yellow eyes and wonder aloud:

“What might you be, little one?”

It glares back at me with heavy-lidded contempt, like it was enjoying an invigorating nap before I came along and upset it.

“He would be the youngest of a brood” answers a silky voice from the highway.  As I turn, two hands cup the little furball, drawing a yelp from its chops.  The man holding the creature sets him in the grass by the road where it quickly runs behind my legs, its eyes glowing in the moon light.  I hold the newcomers’ gaze, bow at hand.

“You’d do yourself a favor not sneaking up on us.  I have a crimson elf friend who could rip your throat out with her bare hands.”

The man shifts, obviously more than a little uncomfortable.  His hair parts around two human ears in neat waves.  Eyes dim, skin pale against the periwinkle light.  An old demon stirs in the deepest depths of my chest.  The flames that consumed Westeros dance in my mind.

My fist tightens around the haft of the bow.

“I promise I mean no harm.  I certainly prefer the solitary life, and am quite happy returning to it.  I just wanted to know where this little guy ended up, and he seems to have taken a liking to you.  If you will allow me, I will slowly be taking my leave.  Take care of him, miss, he’s quite special.”

I narrow my gaze at the stranger and nod my head in the affirmative.  I keep the bow in my hands firmly trained on the departing stranger.  Once he disappears from sight, I breath more calmly and holster the bow, spotting the young creature under a tree.

With a small smirk, I move to pat the triangular head of the creature, its’ flat ears docile as I do so.

“Let’s head home, shall we!”

Excitedly, a practically silent patter of footsteps follows closely as I walk towards the low glow of the fire in the distance.  Placing another log in the pit, I settle down for the rest of the night.  The strange creature snuggles against my waist, wrapping itself with that long, slender body, once again hiding his small head.

It’s only then my body manages to relax.

My mind, on the other hand, burns through the racing memories of the life I left back in Dukuros.  The feeling of chain whips on the pulpy flesh of my back.  The march to Intevrym.  The sound the justicario’s gavel made striking the flint.

They blamed us.  First to go was Juzo, then Elithyara.  I was supposing to be next, but Denetre the Italfa intervened.  The humans writhed with contempt until the traitor Kavrim told them of the Book.  He said he was sorry.

In hindsight, they would’ve found out if they used the Investigator, but there’s a marvel to toughing out certain death until the end and dying nobly.  Then there are the Kavrims of the world who’d betray their species if they saw a way out.  Even the elves can be weak.

It could’ve been me.

It would’ve been me.

I wake with a start, my breath catching in my throat.  Tecca is nowhere to be seen.  The sun has begun its crest at the top of the Efruftel mountains.

“You look a little rough for wear, Princess”.  Tecca says as she comes to view, lugging a bundle of sharpened sticks.  The creature tags behind, nipping at her boots.  “Who’s the critter?”

I can’t help but laugh at the sight before me and the simple feeling of the sun against my earthen skin.  Basking in the memories before their arrival, I almost feel the familiar tingle of the Yarn and gaze into Tecca’s’ bright blue eyes.

“Had a bad dream and a bit of a scare last night, but overall feel fine.  Are you sure you aren’t just projecting your own state on me?”

With a rueful gaze, the morning sun glistening off her teal hair and ruby skin, Tecca playfully tosses one of the sticks against my stomach.

“Now don’t get cocky, Gazzé!  You know my head is a few straws short of a bushel during my spells.  You have yet to best me in a fair rodeo.”

Disdainfully, I intently focus on our small companion, peering into his yellow eyes.

“Since someone feels like they need to throw sticks at me, I’m obligated to find new friends.  I will call you Kyubel, nice to meet you!  Shall we proceed to Gozor?”

“Mighty fine idea, that.”

 

 

 

 

Eve on the road comes quicker than I expected it would.  Tecca, still recovering from the nekobush toxin, calls for rests more frequently.  It’s slow going, but the solemnity in the air hangs between us, making our passage an utter eternity.  Every few miles, Tecca would stop by the road, stabbing her handmade pikes into the ground and stealing breaths she hoped I wouldn’t see.

I do.  I always see.

We’re getting no younger, and part of me wonders why Juzo picked us and not some brash youth of our fey kin.  Approaching my half third century, I feel all the ravages of war and time.  Tecca is no youngling herself, and as she digs up a neat pit, I see the tell-tale signs of blackish time spots dotting the backs of her hands.  She plucks seeds from a leather pouch at her throat and plants them in the soil.  Kyubel’s nose dashes in and deftly snatches the grain from Tecca’s’ hole.

“That buggin’ thief!  The critter you done brought home is a cut-purses pet, I’ll bet my leathers on it.”  The huge woman stares at the retreating Kyubel, who seeks the back of my leg as a refuge to safely consume its prize.  Some of the tension leaves my shoulders, and I laugh.

Laugh like I didn’t see a creature of Ravrits.  Like the world isn’t ending.

Wiping mixed tears from my eyes, I gently move my hand along Kyubel’s coarse fur, now resting around my neck.  I take a deep breath before catching up to Tecca, resting my left hand on her muscular forearm.

“Look, I know we had a little more action than we were expecting, but we survived.  That is the most important point:  we survived and are still together.”

When our eyes meet, I see Tecca’s familiar fire mirroring my own feelings, but sense the bitterness in her voice.

“But at what cost, Gazzé?!  We haven’t been in these wide-open plains since the war ravaged our peaceful pastures.  At least I was able to warn my posse when I was about to turn…”  Tecca sighs remorsefully as she breaks our gaze and continues on the highway.  “This is a different time and world, pardner.  Even if it means killin’ one creature and savin’ a cut-purses, we have to do what is necessary, but not at the cost of each other’s lives."

Taken aback by the truth of Teccas statement, I realize how vulnerable all of Tazalons’ natives are because of one invaders avarice.  It makes me both sick and curious to see what the future holds, but for now I swipe one of the sunflower seeds Tecca planted and offer it to our new companion.

Tecca grimaces.  “I see he ought to have learned it from somewhere.”

“Long body for longer trouble.”  I chuckle “he’s going to be our little firestarter.”

The crimson elf thrums at the translation.  “Still a cretin.”

I feign disbelief and cover Kyubel’s ears with my fingers.  “You don’t mean that.”

“Gazzé, I still don’t know what this thing even is.  It could be an agent of Opor.  Or a critter of Ravrits invention.”  I shudder at the mention of the Kings’ name.  “All I’m saying is we’ve got to be careful.”  When I don’t respond right away, she knows I’ve admitted she’s right.  Satisfied, Tecca tilts her chin towards the mountain road and starts walking.  I call after her.

“We’re not stopping for the night?”

“Well Princess, I don’t know about you, but I’ve gone and had my fill of sleep for two full moons.  Besides, I’m hankering for a hot dip in a wash basin, if nothin’ else to clear the last of this toxin freely.”

Pursing my lips slightly and narrowing my eyes towards Tecca, I thoughtfully use a finger to scratch under Kyubels chin.

“I was just trying to pacify you with as little damage as possible, like we discussed after you confided in me before our first maneuver together.”

“I understand Darlin’, but you know less painful ways to do just that.  I worry some about how often you’ve been jumping the gun lately, Gazzé.  There are only so many times gamblin’ with fate will work out for us.”

Choosing my silent acquiescence over further discussion, I set my focus on an invigorating meal and steaming bath, doubling the pace towards Gozor and passing Tecca.

Arriving in town, I nod towards the two-story relatively modest inn.  The wood-burned sign tells me two things:  That this respite is called Opor’s Bane, and that it is human ran.  No Tazalon resident would dream of damaging such a precious material purely for aesthetics.  After a mental debate, I gather a deep breath and decide my desire for normalcy outweighs my past experiences and cross the threshold.

Inside, a dense cloud of smoke whoofs to greet my nostrils.  Eyes, veiled with human arrogance, swivel to meet mine.  Old grudges are hardly ever forgotten.  They are ingrained generation after generation, and hate begets hate begets death.  I can’t help but wonder if some of them recognize me or Tecca as we stride up to the bar, so wrathful are their glares.

I suppress a giddy smile as I take a seat.  A homely woman in a spun dress sneers at me, then up to the crimson elf.

“Ye hooligans, demons, or both?”  When the hostess talks, I notice her teeth-yellowed and cracked.  A foul stench escapes her lips, enough to make Kyubel cover his nose.

“To you?  Both.”  Tecca scowls at the woman, a full head-and-a-half taller than her sitting down.  “Lucky for you, we’re just passing by.”  The air has gone still around us.  Ears lean in to be closer to the unfolding drama.

“We don’t serve yer kind.  Be ye gone from here!”

“We aren’t friends of Opor.”  The name is like lead on my tongue.  “Nor are we looking to cause any trouble.  We’re just wanting a warm bath and a cot.”

“Aye, ye damn right yer no friends to that tyrant.  But that doesn’t mean we take in his escapees, neither!”  The woman sets a club atop the bar, though it’s too heavy for her dainty wrists and it thunks the wood top.  Around us, chairs scrape across splintered floors.  Someone makes the mistake of placing a hand on Tecca’s shoulder.

Driven by freedom and years of Juzos’ intense training, my instincts and rage take control.  Quick as lightning, I pull the dagger from my waistband and slice upward, severing the ugly human hostess across the bulging artery in her neck.  A shower of scarlet streams over Tecca as she breaks the hand on her shoulder at the wrist.  Throwing the scum to the ground as she readies her bow, I happily plant the blade into his prone chest.

In an instant, the crimson elf fires three separate arrows that fly true, downing the three largest targets as they advance.  Following Kyubel over the bar, I take a deep breath and hand the club to Tecca.  Two more invaders rush her and are quickly introduced to the raw strength of her pace, splitting their heads as blood covers my dress.  One final challenger rushes towards Tecca’s back, a slight human female a head shorter than me with a steel dagger in hand.  Creeping around the bar, I grab her disgusting blonde hair from behind and press my star stone blade to her neck.

“Now, why don’t you just drop that flimsy blade, human?”

Reminiscent of the smoothest silk under my fingertips, the young human swallows hard and obliges.  As the dagger clangs to the ground, I kick it towards the fellow elf while she speaks, her bow at the ready with an indiscernible tremble in her arms from the last of the poison.

“Anyone else takin’ offense to us passing through for a warm dip and soft bed?

 

 

 

 

The baths are divine enough, considering the dark splotches of mold that paint the tiles an interesting mosaic.  We’re waited on by the knottily haired blonde who tried to sneak up on Tecca.  She’s all sneers and refuses to give us her name.  So, when she sets our linens out, I send her away.

Now fully alone, the crimson elf yanks her leathers off and cannonballs into the warm pool without any semblance of modesty.  It isn’t anything I haven’t seen before, though I make an honest effort to look away.

Tecca is the first to speak up as I dip my bared chest into the water.

“You didn’t have to kill them, you know.”

I meet Tecca’s steely gaze.  “What would’ve happened if I didn’t?”

The brutish woman shrugs her massive shoulders.  “A broken table, a split-lip.” 

“Humans don’t lose gracefully.”

“Neither do you!”  Her glare chills me.  “We can’t go calling attention to ourselves now that we’re out of Dukuros.”

“I didn’t see you holding back when you split those invaders over the head.”

“Now that’s different and you know it, Pardner.”

“Whatever melody puts the children to sleep.”  I sit venomously.  The huge elf growls.  I get out of the tub, too angry to be in her presence.  As I dress in the simple tunic and itchy human breeches the hostess left for me, I hurl words at Tecca.

“Don’t presume to have better morals than me because I made the first move, Tecca you know what would have happened if we hadn’t killed them.”

“Now who’s preaching to the children, Gazzé?”  You keep telling yourself that and we’ll wind up becoming them.  You remember what they did to you.  Or is the memory of wood elves as long as they are short?”

I whip around, curses on my lips.  I get to the edge of the tub, fists curled into balls.  I’m going to kill that big bitch.

“How dare you—” I start, only to recoil as a wave of water washes over me.  I think she’s splashed me as I wipe the water from my eyes.  But as my vision returns and I focus my eyes on her, I realize she’s not alone in the pool.

There, amidst the wreckage of the ceiling, is the form of a boy.

As the splinters and dust settle around me, I watch Tecca move behind a screen as fast as her mass allows, briefly reminding me of our time spent with Juzo; those five grueling years we had to spend finding new ways to combat the human sickness.  Focusing my sight, I am puzzled a few moments when I notice a prominent tuft of red hair, vaguely the shape of a triangle, at the “boys” chin.  Reassessing the situation, I take in the muscular chest and tight arms above the water and catch a glimpse of furred legs below.  A Satyr about three feet, one inch tall has fallen through to our room.  Running a left hand of his ginger locks as he peers intently at me with earthen eyes, the flint sparks passionately.

“You certainly aren’t the pumite that was here a second ago, but that wasn’t the magic you…”  Suddenly confused, he looks around our wash room and his eyes come to rest on Kyubel peering over the tub, showing a light of recognition.“This isn’t Surronika.  Our druids sealed away the Conduits when war broke out, fearing they would tip the balance too much.”

“Conduit?”  I ask as the creature in question crawls into my hands and Tecca emerges from hiding with breeches to match mine and a leather vest over a simple green cloth wrapped around her waist and tied at the neck, seemingly to the Satyrs’ liking.

“Yes.  Conduit, my fine wood elf.  They feed directly from the Yarn, greatly enhancing their trainer’s power.  Strange that one is outside of the seal, but then again that brazen pumite thief did something to me a moment ago so perhaps the time has come.  What do you know of harmony from living amongst nature for your…300? or so years?”

As the crimson elf walks over to the basin and offers her hand to the Satyr, his hooves clanging loudly as he perches on the edge to look down on me, he speaks sternly.  “Do you not think that the humans believed those exact words?  That the whole of Tazalon is unable to right itself in due course?”

I take a step back, my face turning umber as Tecca releases a smug laugh and the olive-skinned stranger steps onto the floor.  After gloating, the fellow elf speaks.  “Ya know, I was just spinning the same spool.  I’m Tecca and this is Gazzé.  What about you?”

“I’m Tadeous, but you beauties can call me Tad.  Nice to meet you both.”

As the crimson elf sits on the edge of the basin and offers her hand to the Satyr, I turn around in disgust before his pale lips meet the back of her hand and retire to my room for the night, Kyubel close by.

 

 

 

 

I can’t help but grimace in pain as my back connects solidly with the ground.  Dazed, I open my eyes and meet Denetre’s green ones, training staff at my throat.

“No, no, no Gazzé!  You need to focus.  Watch his movements.  You are faster than Denetre, but he is more fluid.  Again!”  I hear Juzos unmistakable gravelly voice but ignore his advice, rising up from the ground to aggressively exchange blows.  Feigning a headshot towards the retreating Halfa, I swipe under his legs.  Moving to block my ploy, Denetre is caught off guard as I gleefully push the training staff over his head, knocking him off-balance.  Seizing the opportunity, I pin my training weapon against the Halfas’ throat as soon as he hits the ground.  In an instant, I feel the bite of pain from a warmed obsidian blade against my shoulder.

“What the hell?!  You son of a…”  Before I can counter, I collapse and see Juzos stoic red eyes as he swiftly slices my back.  A tear of leather followed by the shallow pooling of blood along my skin.

“Enough Gazzé.  I don’t know how many times I have to tell you to control your emotions.  Since you seem to only learn through action, there is someone I would like to meet.”

I awake with warm tears welling my eyes and their rivulets along my cheeks.  Resting both hands on the coarse white fur of the slumbering Kyubel, I quietly let the tears of the past few days finally fall to my pillow as I peer into the dawn light filtering through the open shutters.

“That bastard.  Why’d he have to go and introduce me to Tecca.”

There’s a rap at my door that sends jolts through me.  In walks Tecca and the Satyr, their faces dark.  The Crimson elf has her bow unslung and Kyubel yips loudly, leaping from my hands to the sill of the window.  I’m on my feet and dressing in a heartbeat.

“We got company.”  Tecca says as the Conduit that is Kyubel barks again.

“What happened?”  I tuck the dagger I took from the young human the night before in my belt.

“You pissed off quite a few humans, my little elf friends,” the goatman says, a glint in his eyes.  “Lucky for you, I know a path out and through the mountains.”

“Why should we trust you?  You literally fell from the sky.  We barely know you.”

The floor boards thrum with the pounding of feet.  Kyubel’s paws scrape against the window, assailing my ears.  Tecca strings an arrow and stands vigil at the door.

“Gazzé, now’s not the time to chit-chat!  We have to go!”

I growl and turn my attention to Tadeous, who beams back at me.  “You mentioned something about Kyubel and the Yarn.  Will you teach me how to access it?”

“For you?  Anything my olive-blessed goddess.”  I scowl at the Satyr, my displeasure obvious.  I want nothing more than to say no, to try the path to Rozog on our own.  But as the footfalls get nearer, I realize Tad is my best chance at finding the key of Del Santa.

“Get us out of here.”

With a slight bow and a point towards the door, the Satyr removes three small vials of a smoky gray powder with flecks of sparkling white throughout.  Bright powder, one tool we would have used to escape Dukuros if the plants grew in the plains.  As Tecca catches sight of the vials as well, she slings her bow and takes point, breaking a large piece of wood from a chair to use as a makeshift shield just as Tadeous closes his satchel.

“As soon as they break through the door, I’ll blind them with this and we are heading through the back of the inn.”

Nodding our agreement, Tecca and I close our eyes just as the door shatters.  After we hear the glass break and a slew of groans, the crimson elf pushes the welcoming committee to the ground.  We run down the stairs and towards the kitchen, avoiding the sounds of the mob to be greeted by screams as we interrupt the preparation of breakfast.  Bursting into the alley and closely sticking to Tad as we move behind a few more buildings, we carefully emerge near the west entrance to town.

Faced with another small group of humans brandishing spears and halberds, the Satyr returns one vial of bright powder to his satchel and palms another as he raises three fingers skyward.

After a breath to calm myself, I meet Teccas’ gaze and nod my head towards a human on the left holding a spear, thumbing towards a halberd holding invader as Tadeous drops a finger.  On one, I rush towards my quarry as I move my right arm over my eyes, sweeping the female off her feet and grabbing the spear just as Tecca relieves the male of his halberd.  Leaving the confusion behind us, we fleetly follow the Satyr along nearly hidden trails towards the mountains.

Only stopping to catch my breath at a crossroad pointing towards the base of the Efrufrél range and labeled Lurfe Cave, I relax against a tree, offering Kyubel an ekryn pod from the ground.  As he nibbles away, Tecca offers me a piece of fruit.

“Doin’ all right, Darlin’?”

 

“Much better than yesterday.”  I give a weak smile as I take a refreshing bite and stand, our critter friend climbing on top of the signpost, almost curious.  “Look, Tecca.  It’s been a rough time the past thirty years, but I seem to have forgotten the times before prison.”

Almost nonchalantly, Tecca takes a piece from her own fruit, looking away because she knows exactly what I’m working up to.  Damn her.

“Have you now, Princess?  Well, I know you had quite a life before I joined your rodeo.  How could ya go and forget sumthin’ like that…”

“Ha, ha very funny Tecca. You know I meant that we have been dealing with the humans and even trained together.”  With a sigh of defeat, I walk around and look into the crimson elf’s bright blue eyes.“You were right.  I messed up and was acting no better than the invaders.  I’m sorry and hope we can continue to help each other better control our emotions.”

Tecca stares back at me, offering her hand for me to gladly take.  After a few moments shaking hands, I burst out laughing along with the fellow elf as we embrace.  Until I find another way, Tecca is all I have left and we have to take Opor down, no matter what.

I lock my rose-colored eyes with Kyubels’ yellow as he finishes his snack, but am drawn back to reality by Tadeous.

“While I’m all for these gestures of camaraderie…” I roll my eyes and offer my hand towards the bundle of white fur atop the crossroad sign.  “…we should head into Lurfe Cave.  I have business in Rozog and the mountain Lords can help both of us, gorgeous Gazzé.”

As the conduits’ familiar coarse fur nestles against my neck, I raise both hands towards the range.  “Please, lead the way Tad.”

“Happy to oblige, but unfortunately the way in isn’t that easy.”


Submitted: February 25, 2022

© Copyright 2022 E.A.Max. All rights reserved.

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Damon Nomad

I rarely read fantasy work like this, but I admire the work when it is done well as it is here. It takes creative imagination and skillful writing, to create such a vivid story.

Sat, February 26th, 2022 6:15am

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Thank you so much!

Mon, February 28th, 2022 4:34pm

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