Chapter One: The Human
The elf squeezed her eyes shut.
This was her trying as best as she could to rid her mind of the horrible nightmares that consumed her mind every morning she woke. The terrifying dreams that caused her heart to race like a cheetah going after a gazelle and had her waking up screaming until her throat was sore and she had lost her voice.
The dreams came back every morning, and each time it was harder and harder to push them down. They all just felt so... real to Terawyn. When she woke, images would flood her mind of the fire birds and werefoxes and death that always appeared in her nightmares, and she’d want to sob.
On this particular morning, Terawyn laid not in her bed made of thin cushioning and metallic springs poking, uncomfortably, into her back, but curled up in a tight ball on a large pile of dead yellow and brown leaves, pushed down in between the roots of an old Weeping Willow. It had been a cool, cozy night outside in the forest and full of life, but inside her home had been hot, stuffy, and it hadn’t had the beauty of nature that Tera loved so.
After a minute of just lying curled up, the young elf’s crystal eyes fluttered open, and Terawyn sat up, pressing her back against the tree, the tough bark rubbing against her back uncomfortably. While rubbing her eyes with one of her small hands, Terawyn brushed the thin fingers of her other pale hand through her soft, snow-white hair and did her best to untangle the knots in that rat’s nest of hair.
As Terawyn pulled the small, black rubber band off of her thin wrist, the put her hair into a messy, high ponytail, which despite all the knots that still remained and how she put it up, was still long enough to reach her waist. That made it a hassle to work with, but even so, Terawyn liked her hair the way it was.
Brushing herself off, she stood up on her small, clumsy feet and walked forward, pushing the purple flowers that hung down in a manner of beauty out of her way and began walking home, sauntering through the forest to get a look at everything that she would probably never see again after today.
Ever since the war began between the elves and the humans, no creature of the land was safe, especially in the Kendaia forest, for it was the elves’ favorite place to scour for humans and kill them mercilessly, ‘twas also the humans’ favored place for sneaking up on elves and capturing them, or that’s how Terawyn thought of it, anyways.
The young elf had always wondered what the humans had done for her kind to have to fight them so violently and viciously, even when her race’s numbers were slowly dwindling. Her mother had always said that the humans took something from the elves, something so important, so valuable that the Elven race couldn’t survive without it. But what did they take? How could it be so important? Could it really be so essential that it was worth fighting a war over and possibly killing off your very own race in the process?
Tera hadn’t a clue, and maybe she didn’t want to know.
Looking around, Tera noticed how colorful this place was; bluebirds chirped the most handsome songs and flew with grace through the ever so blue sky. Little animals like squirrels, chipmunks, and even a few foxes scurried around along through the thick, colorful foliage of forest trees and along the damp forest floor to begin searching for and stowing away acorns and other nuts for the long winters ahead. All sorts of trees were cover in the greenest leaves and brightest, most beautiful flowers, which were slowly dying due to the colder weather of fall.
Everything was just so vivid... so happy.
Everything in that forest seemed so natural, so safe, like there hadn’t been a war going on and not everyone was turned against each other, fighting for reasons not even important enough for a farm elf like Tera to know about.
But the elf knew that even on the best, brightest, most beautiful days, somewhere out there would be a battle full of blood and death and pain and tears. There would be dark skies full of ashes and the clanging of metal against metal and absolute, utter death . There would be no knowledge of the existence of peace itself.
So the young elf with her sad, fake smile and glossy eyes like diamonds reflecting sunlight did not let the wonders of the day make her think that this day might be the day for a break in the nameless war.
Quickening her pace, Terawyn briskly walked on. The elf didn’t follow the path, for she knew her way around the forest better than any other elf or human or other species without it, and it was far quicker to not take it than to, even if there was a slight possibility of getting lost.
Of course, a few times she would hit her head on a branch or trip over tree roots, which seemingly popped out of nowhere, but even so, she liked the unpredictable ways of not following the path. Sometimes, Terawyn would even pretend she was going on an adventure, but of course, her mother would tell her to grow up.
Tera walked with a clumsy gracefulness, and bits of sunlight illuminated her blue skin which showed on her thin, strong arms and the child-like features of her sweet face. Seventeen years old, and she still looked like a little girl in big-kid clothes, trying to act like a mature, young adult.
The bits of light that broke through the leaves also brought out the colors in her pale blue, thin-strapped dress which went down to her ankles, just barely skimming the tops of her bare feet.
The elf began to hum a lullaby, the one her mother would sing to her youngest sister, Emelliara, every night. The hymn reminded her of how beautiful things could be, even in times of great wars and many shed tears and deaths. It’s beautiful lyrics told the young elf that even when everything is going wrong, love is still there. And Tera believed it, too, even if it did seem impossible, and it inspired hope in her.
And that was when she heard a pair of large, heavy footsteps, possibly two or three very large men, heading her way, only a couple feet away from her.
Stomp! Stomp! Stomp!
Looking around for a place to hide, knowing it could be anything, anyone, Tera found a large bush along the side of the path just large enough that she could hide behind it. With blue flowers almost as light and pale as her tinted skin, the elf could easily be kept hidden as long as she kept as quiet as possible and acted as if she were a mouse running across a creaky floorboard or one of the long-extinct Werefoxes, who were amazing spies.
Stomp! Stomp! Stomp!
As the footsteps drew closer to her, the elf had to keep reminding herself not move at all, even a bit, and to not shake for fear of being caught by whatever was causing the loud, frightening footsteps.
The footsteps had stopped, and Tera heard a man with a deep, hellacious voice grunt, “We’ve searched all day for the damned hound! It’s not here! We’d’ve found it by now if it had been!” taking a small peek over the bush, Tera strained to see the man/thing speaking with her small, crystal eyes and tried her hardest to hear what they were saying with her long, pointed ears.
Across the small pathway in the forest were two orcs, both larger than two of the most muscular elves combined; they had the ugliest, most grotesque faces Tera had ever seen with her own two eyes. Their faces were like a hog’s, with two horns curving up and out of their mouths. Tera noted that they were both a dark, hideous green with a ton of muscle and fat. One orc was taller than the other by only a few inches, and the shorter one was bald while the taller one had horrid black hair and had more of a stench than the other one.
And then there was the most handsome of humans standing in between the two. He was tall for a human male with a height of about six feet and a few inches and had the most beautiful icy blue eyes the young elf had ever laid eyes on. His hair was perfect, long, and a mix of gold and brown, and the man’s skin was a sweet, honey gold that look almost as soft as a velvet dress. And he was about the most muscular man Tera could ever recall seeing, besides the orcs, that is.
All three of the men were very muscular and heavily armed with four daggers hooked onto their belts, a sword and shield for each. And two orcs also carried a battle axe made of rusted copper and wood. Shiny silver chainmail the human and thick, brown, dirt-stained cloth covered the orcs in the way you wear a toga. “For the love of the gods, Hogarth! Shut up!” The human said to the taller orc, who apparently had been the first to speak. His beautiful voice made the orc’s sound even more horrid. “We will find the hellhound in due time. We haven’t even been searching that long. It’s only been three days since we set out.”
The bald one snapped at the human, “I am running out of patience, Levi! Three days is too long for me. We better have that hound tonight, or I swear, I’ll-”
The Human snapped his head around to look at the orc that spoke, then pulled out his sword in a graceful but quick manner that made both orcs flinch and pressed the point of it to the orc’s neck. Fear shot through the orc’s eyes, even if he was twice as big as Levi, for he couldn’t defeat the human with a sword already pressed against his neck. The human glared at him and nearly shouted, “Or what, Marticeal? You’ll kick my human ass? I’d like to see you try, you pathetic, sorry son of a-”
Hogarth interrupted him before the human could finish. “Shut up! Someone else is here; My sense feels it.”
Great, Tera thought. An orc with the nonexistent sense. Just what I need. She froze completely and had to force herself to breathe evenly and quietly. The last thing she needed was a sharp intake of breath or for her to collapse to give away her spot. The elf watched as Levi slowly brought the sword down from Marticeal’s neck and let it rest at his side. He turned his head towards the ever-so-ugly Hogarth and gave him a questioning look with his beautiful face, asking the orc to explain what he meant by that.
“Don’t you feel it, human? No, of course you don’t. You have no Sense. There’s someone watching us, and it’s close,” the orc told him. Tera’s fear spiked upward.
“What’s watching us?” Levi asked him, keeping a stern and steady face that showed no fear. “Could it be a werefox? One from the Elven side? Or a gargoyle?” He held the sword at his side. It’s metal was a golden color, and it’s handle was wood laced with designs of dragons and snakes and things Tera had never seen before. As she sat there, trying not to shake with fear, the elf began to think of a way of escape from the human and orcs.
This time, Marticeal spoke. “Neither. It’s too light out for a gargoyle, and the presence is too strong for a Werefox. It’s an elf. And by the feel of it,” the orc growled out, “She’s as young as you are, prince.”
Levi muttered something under his breath. He was a prince? That didn’t surprise the young elf at all. “Well,” He said, “Don’t tell her everything about me, you stupid pig.”
Tera kept trying to think of ways she could get out of the trouble she was in. Should she just get up and run? Orcs were slow, and humans weren’t nearly as fast as elves were. What about slyly ducking behind trees and moving away? Tera thought she’d be a good spy, with the way she moved and how quiet she could be. Either way, Tera knew she’d have to run, so she slowly started pushing her feet under her in a more steady position and got ready to jump up and speed away, hoping for the best.
“Well, where is she? Can your sense tell you that?”
The Hogarth turned her way and pointed. He stared straight at her and said, “There. She’s over-”
Fear and adrenaline overtook the young elf. Tera jumped up, tearing the bottom of her already dirty silk dress, and turned around on clumsy but nimble feet. And she fled.
Her heart raced as she ran on quick legs, stumbling every minute or so, but regaining her balance just as quickly as she tripped. Having no idea where she was to go, Tera just ran straight, dodging trees as best she could and running as fast as her little feet could take her.
Home probably would have been the safest place to go, but what would her family say to bringing home a human and two vicious orcs with the ‘Sense’?
Thu-thump, thump, thump.
The Elf’s heart was ravage in her chest, beating uncontrollably against her ribs. Tera’s breath come out in sharp, jagged heaps, and as she kept running with her full speed, the elf was beginning to feel dizzy. Sweat trickled down the back of her neck and down her back.
Thu-thu-thump, thump, thump.
Behind her, Tera could hear the cling of chainmail against chainmail and the thump of heavy footsteps against the soil. They were shouting at each other, and hearing the human Prince Levi’s musical voice, Tera muttered to herself, “Why are the bad guys always so beautiful?”
She shook her head at the thought and tried to run faster, but she was beginning to feel weary and tired.
As she kept running, Tera noticed that the bluebirds had all flown away and had taken their musical chirps with them; even the chipmunks had hidden away somewhere, and she wondered if it was because of the orcs or the noise they were making.
Tera turned her head back to see where they were, and what she saw scared her even more than seeing them up close would have; they weren’t there at all.
Stopping, the elf did not dare to feel even the slightest hope that she had lost them. Tera turned around and taking slow but sure steps, the elf craned her head this way and that, trying to spot the three men, but to no avail. They weren’t there.
Had she outrun them? It seemed likely that they would, given her speed. Or did they think of a way to trick her? Where were they now? Could they have realized that Tera was so young, she couldn’t have possibly been more than a miner threat to them? All these questions ran through her mind, and even more came up when Tera thought of their conversation.
Did Werefoxes really still exist? They had supposedly gone extinct years ago, due to a disease that one foxpeople could get. Could it be possible they’re still around, alive and kicking? And gargoyles? They didn’t work for the elven race, did they? Tera had been told they were independent; they had never chosen sides.
And why in the name of the gods was a human, a prince, and two orcs searching for a hellhound? Nothing made sense to Tera, and she wished it would.
Taking a deep breath, the elf turned slowly in a full circle, her eyes gazing everywhere; up, down, left, right. She was just about to confirm that they definitely weren’t anywhere near when Tera felt something pointed and sharp press heavily against the middle of her back.
“Don’t move, Elf.”
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