Of Companions and Fellowships

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

'Of Companions and Fellowships' is the first part of the tale surrounding the members of the 'Earth and Blade' mercenary guild.
Earth and Blade is a little known collection of fighters and adventurers that live within the walls of The Emerald City. For years they have lived with little money, enjoying only the adventure their work provides. This, however, changes when the mysterious Wood-Elf, Dúframa, joins their ranks. Before he can join, he must complete a trial to reclaim a gem of magical beauty.

The fire cracked under the moonlit sky. The stars shone overhead as if the gods themselves were looking through them, down on those that dwell on the Earth. A Leaf-Kin Wood-Elf from the jungle kingdom of Fÿenél sat peering in to a pestle and mortar grinding a deer's bone into a fine powder. He heard a rustle in the bushes behind him and took up his dagger. A wolf, coated in fur that was piano black, came forth. He put down his dagger and beckoned the wolf towards him. The beast had an aura of fear surrounding her. She felt the fear of the hunt. A fear she was used to creating, not feeling. This night was different, tonight she was the hunted. After a few moments with her new friend she was calmed again. She lay by the fire as the Elf stroked her as one would stroke a family dog. It was another minute or so before her hunters showed themselves.

Kenrémas, a high elf from the city state of Telaras, was tracking the wolf. He wore cloth that was a light grey in colour and was embroidered with silver patterns. His hair was plain, ashen in colour and bore no adornments. He was a sorcerer, and could thus see into the other planes of existence. His eyes glowed blue like brilliant sapphires saw the trail the beast had left in some plane unknown. He was, however, not alone. A huntress, Tayren, from the Imperial states followed him. Her armour was a soft leather littered with steel studs. Her bow curved inwards at the centre. Her hand was over simple cloth wrappings. On her back was a quiver made from hardened leather. It held a number of arrows with steel tips. She was crouched low with an arrow in hand ready to be strung and shot. Her hair was a reddish brown and came only to above her shoulders. Whilst tracking through this forest, they almost lost their druid Pefÿen. Pefÿen was a Dryad from the forests in the south of Náeth Isem. She was clad in a simple white gown with a belt of entwined gold. Her hair bore a circlet made of twigs and flowers bonded with simple magic. It was brown, like autumn leaves, and braided from each side into one long strand that sat above her back. She seemed, almost, to float above the forest floor with no foot wear. She would dance silently here and there, picking whatever flower or herb would help in her craft. It was here she was happiest, in the forests outside the city walls. They came to a halt by a pair of bushes where their branches met. 'String your bow.' Kenrémas instructed, 'Your prey lies beyond these bushes, make it a quick death.'

Tayren pulled back the arrow that lay on her string and peered through the bush. She hesitated. There, beside the wolf, sat a Leaf-Kin. She lifted her bow to aim at the beast.

'Do not waste your arrow.' Pefÿen instructed in a hushed tone, 'I can see that he will only catch it.'

'Then what would you have me do?'

'Put it away.' She walked through the bushes and called out to the Elf who sat by a now dying blaze. 'Kins man!' She called to him. He turned around and stood up.

'Greetings fair lady of the woods. Your foresight has done you well this night.' he called in response, 'Why, do tell, are you with such shy travelling companions who hide in bushes?' The two hunters stepped forth, 'You have nothing to fear here, as long as you mean no harm. Dúframa, is my name.' He introduced himself bowing. He bore a dark green tunic and leather across his torso. On his back was a hood, lowered to reveal his face. His hair, was red like autumn leaves upon the forest floor, and came to below his shoulders ending suddenly. His eyes were a deep brown like the bark of some old tree long forgotten by the races of men. There was about him an air of history, as if he had seen enough to last a hundred lives of men. Kenrémas stepped forward and took the shoulder of Pefÿen. His eyes now a dull brown.

'The city walls are at least an hours walk yet, and the night is no longer young. You will not make it back before it is too dark to see. I ask you to take your rest here, with me, this night.' Dúframa looked Kenrémas in the eye, 'My old friend.'

The fire was relit and a bottle of wine produced from Dúframa's bag. They drank and sung into the dead of the night, recounting old tales of their comings and goings through the world. All were open in their tales, save Dúframa, who with held many of his only telling his part of the stories told by Kenrémas of when they were wandering the jungles south of the mountains.

One by one the hunters fell into a sleep. Dúframa put out the fire and woke the wolf that still lay beside him. 'It's time for you to go now.' He told her. She looked at him and tilted her head to the side. 'Don't look at me like that' he said, 'It's the way of the world. Wolves are feared by those who call themselves “civilised”. I cannot take you too close to the city'

She got up and he stroked her once more behind the ear before sending her on her way.

The hunters woke from a restful sleep but found no sign of their host. They searched around for him, Pefÿen took to the trees to find him above them. But their search was fruitless.

'He's ran off into the trees.' Kenrémas informed them, 'But what can you expect from a Wood-Elf.'

Pefÿen, now down from the tree tops, glared at him. He smiled at her until her gaze faltered and she hugged him. She noticed over his shoulder the bag that belonged to Dúframa.

'Why, I ask, would he leave and not take his bag?' She asked

'He wouldn't.' Came a voice from the trees. It was Dúframa, 'There is a stream just a little south of here. I thought I could bathe and return before you woke.'

'It seems you could not.' Kenrémas informed him, 'But we must be leaving ourselves. The city is still an hour away yet.'

'Why do you assume my hospitality has run dry? There is still breakfast to be had yet, and who wants to walk on an empty stomach.'

'A valid point!' Exclaimed Pefÿen, 'We shall stay a little longer, and perhaps you would join us back to the city?'

'It would be a pleasure.'

Without argument they broke their fast together and began the walk home. Kenrémas and Pefÿen walked together in quiet conversation ahead of the others.

'I apologise huntress.' Dúframa finally said

'For what?'

'I prevented you from felling your prey.'

'That doesn't matter.' she assured him, 'Not every hunt can be successful. And, truth be told, I would rather it be for this reason than because I missed.'

A few moments passed without conversation.

'Does she live in the city walls?' Dúframa asked

'Who? Pefÿen?' she looked at him with almost surprise at such a question, 'Of course. She lives in our halls.'

'Our halls?'

'We are part of a guild, Earth and Blade is our name. We have some halls in the city. We do some simple hired sword work and the like. Then at the end of the day we eat, drink and recount stories together.'

'Sounds like plenty of adventure.'

'It has its moments. But why do you ask, about Pefÿen?'

'She isn't like the other Dryads I have met. They were much more, traditional.'

'What do you mean by “traditional”?'

'They would live in the forests wearing only the clothes in which they were born.'

'But one is not born in clothes.' Tayren informed him

Dúframa gave, in response, only a knowing look.

They came to the city gates which stood inexpressively tall. They were made of two solid pieces of steel, intended to keep any invading force at bay. As they walked through the stone paved streets of The Emerald City, they could see The Grand Palace, Melthers. Its central tower stood tall, made from a stone of white. It was surrounded by five smaller towers each made of Quartzite. The roofs for each tower was a deep red like the blood that empires are built on. They came to a large stone hall with its own metal reminiscent of the gates to the city. A sign hung above it. The sign depicted a sword with its blade thrust into the earth beneath a tree and read “Earth and Blade Guild”.

'It has been a pleasure joining you this morning, but I must sell this venison before it spoils.' Dúframa told his companions.

'Of course.' Pefÿen told him, 'And when you have finished that you must return we wish to welcome you amongst our companionship.'

'You are most kind, but I have seen my share of fighting in The Fellowship.'

'You were in The Fellowship!' Tayren reminded him, 'Then you must join us!'

'I shall think this over, and when I am done I shall inform you. Until then, farewell and good hunting.'

And so they parted. Dúframa sold his meat and bonemeal before he returned to his home.

It was a small cottage that lay beside the city walls. Inside was many crafts of wood and a small fir place covered by cobbled stones that lead up to a chimney. He lit the fire and sat by it deep in thought. He was ashamed of his time in The Fellowship, but they seemed fascinated by it. After some hours thought he fell asleep. He dreamed of his military days. The death that surrounded him relentlessly, the fear he saw without end. But also, he saw the glory, the adrenaline he felt. He had done and seen much and so that even by Elven standards he was old. He awoke the next morning with a new view of the world. It was grey and dull. He had often wandered, when in The Fellowship, how he would readjust to real life. The only way he found he could do so was by forgetting it, but when he was reminded of it, he could not forget the pain or the glory. He knew that he had to go back, that he had to feel that life again. He took up his bow and quiver but stopped on the threshold of his door. He placed down is hunting bow and opened a lager display case, made of wood and a glass lid, and took out an elven longbow. It was carved with patterns resembling tree branches across it's five foot arch. The handle was wrapped in fine and soft cloth. It's string was tight from one end to the other. It seemed to be made of some form of hair, a dull silver in colour, but it's true material is unknown except to the bower who crafted the weapon. When he finally came to leaving his home along with his tunic and leather, he also bore some light mail around his gut. A sword, only about two feet, hung from his belt. His boots were of hard leather and came high up his calf.

He came to the metal door where he had departed his companions the night before and knocked on it. It opened revealing a Lauräs. She was short, perhaps only five foot six. Her hair was black, as if no light had ever touched it. It came to curls and twist as it flowed to an end. Her eyes were rings of brown amidst a pool of snow. Dull and quiet, yet unmistakably vivid. She spoke with a hushed tone, soft yet filled with grace.

'You're expected.' She told him, 'This way.'

she led him into the feasting hall. The walls were made from a dark stone brick. And in the centre was a rectangular fire pit. Around that was a table covered in red and gold banners. At the table sat his companions from the night before alongside a Dwarf. His rich and bellowing accent alerted anyone listening that he was from the Dwarven kingdom of Zudark. There also was a Normad from Valtakuna, she was the closest company to Pefÿen with whom she laughed. There was at last, a Grey-Blood High-Elf who sat with a Dwarven companion who came from Iron-Skin's Halls. Pefÿen looked up to see Dúframa had came and so rose to greet him.

'I thought you would come back.' She said

'How could I not.'

'I see you've met Kaunis.'

'Not formally.' He said turning to the Lauräs who stood beside him and bowing his head slightly.

'I would introduce you to the others but you must first complete a trial.'

'A trial?'

'We all must.' Kaunis told him.

'I know your past, Kenrémas used it to convince me to let you join, but this is the way we must do things.' Pefÿen told him, 'Would it be fair if I allowed you to join without a fight, but not the others.'

'I suppose not.'

'In that case, do you know of the old fort about three leagues from the gate?'

'Yes. I tried to make camp there once, but got attacked by bandits.

'Well, the leader of those bandits has a jewel that belongs to us. It was crafted by Nore, our dwarf over there, and the Grey-Blood Teleroth.' She pointed out the Elf of whom she spoke.

'I suppose you would like it back?'

'Yes, it is valuable beyond measure.'

'It will be done.'

Dúframa moved towards the door throwing his hood up..

'Good hunting.' Kaunis said as he took hold of the door. He smiled back to her and left. The two elf-maidens returned to the feast.

The sun was high in the sky, but blocked by thick trees, when the ranger came to the fort where the bandits stayed. It was built on a hill that created a natural clearing in the forest. It was built from a cheap yet strong stone held together by cement. It consisted of a large outer wall and a keep that came forth from the back wall into the courtyard. Men with bows walked along the wall and men with swords and axes could be seen in the courtyard through the open gate. A small tower rose from the keep and on it sat a man in thick steel armour, their chief. Dúframa sat amidst the bushes under the shade of the trees where he could not be seen. He strung an arrow in his bow and loosened it. It flew and found its mark in the back of the archer. He fell into the courtyard and panic spread amongst the warriors. They left the fort and came into the forest. Dúframa climbed the trees and was able to move around the bandits silently. The ranger chose his target with care. A man split from the rest who wore a soft leather armour stood beneath Dúframa. He dropped down with a dagger in his hand from the trees. The dagger found its way into the man's throat killing him instantly. All the bandits saw was a shape land on him.

'He's there!' shouted one pointing at a dark figure in the trees. But as quick as it came, it left, leaving only the body of his victim. An archer, however, was able to fire an arrow at the figure.

'What are you lot doing!?' came a voice from fort, 'Get back in here!'

They followed the order of their chief believing their archer to have dealt with the murderous figure. As he returned, the archer found an arrow that impaled a tree. He pulled it out and saw that it was his.

An hour passed before Dúframa made his next move. He had only narrowly avoided an arrow in his last attempt. This time he must be a thief. The guard was changing in the fort as he moved in. He came to the gate and pressed himself against the wall. He looked into the courtyard and saw that they stood around a fire against the far wall. Another sat alone at a table by the door to the keep. Dúframa crept into the fort and slowly walked behind the guard at the keep. He placed his hand round the man's mouth and slit his throat. He took the keys that hung on the dead man's belt and opened the keep.

'Poor sod.' Came a voice from the next room. Dúframa hid behind some barrels in the corner.

'I mean he wasn't that bad a bloke really.' The voice said again

'He was a thief and a cut throat.' A second said.

'And your not.'

'But I'm not a decent bloke.'

'You forget though, he had a family. He was trying to get enough money to get back to them after being abandoned by the Imperial Forces that dragged him here.'

The two men came into the room and passed the barrels that Dúframa hid behind. They passed into the corridor at the end of the room. Dúframa sneaked into a circular room with a ladder on the wall. After climbing the ladder he found himself atop the tower that the chief sat on. He looked out into to forest, not trusting the trees and whatever they hid. His fear was misplaced. A steel blade found its way into his back. He let out only an asphyxiated gasp, his eyes grew wide and blood came from the wound covering Dúframa's dagger. As the blade was pulled from him, Dúframa laid the chief down.

'Rest now.' He said, 'Find peace and your gods.'

He looked into the bandits eyes and found that they were empty, pale and glazed over, like misted glass. He looked over at a table and saw the gem he searched for. Beside it sat a bow and a hand full of arrows. He felt that something was not right so took up the bow and strung an arrow on it. An arrow landed in his leg. Dúframa's arrow was released towards his assailant and found its mark. He broke the arrow from his leg, placed the gem in a pocket and staggered out of the fort so quiet as to not alert the bandits to his presence.

Night had fallen by the time he returned to the guild building. Outside the door, beneath the new born stars, stood a dwarf, only about four foot high with thick hair, dark yellow in colour.

'Nore, I presume!' Dúframa called out to him

'Aye! That's me' The dwarf answered, 'And you are the new Elf Pefÿen mentioned.'

'That I am. Dúframa at your service.'

They bowed to each other.

'Have you completed your trial?'

'Yes, your gem is safe.' He reviled the crystal to Nore.

'Do you know what that gem is? It's a star. Teleroth, by whatever magic she uses, liquefied pure star light and I forged it into that crystal.'

'So it is a dwarf-star!?'

'In a manner of speaking. Its glow comes from the stars themselves and only glows beneath them. It is more akin to the stars of the gods, and thus more beautiful.'

“I have long desired to see the dwarf-stars of Zudark for I hear they hold the beauty of the stars, they are no cheap imitation.'

'Perhaps not, but they still do not compare. And that, is why I stand out here during the night.'

'Perhaps not. But I must bid you farewell, I do not wish to keep Pefÿen waiting longer than I must.'

'You might want to get her to check that bleeder on your leg while your at it. Well met, I look forward to hearing your tales at tomorrows feast.'

Dúframa knocked on the door.

'Just go in lad, they won't mind.' Nore told him

He chuckled at himself and walked into the building.

He came to the feast hall. It was dark, the fire glowed only with embers, and Pefÿen sat alone.

'I expected to see you sooner, ranger of The Fellowship.' She came closer to him, 'Your bleeding! Let me see it.'

'Its fine.' he insisted

'Let me look at it! Sit there, on that table.'

Reluctantly, Dúframa did as he was told. She took the bandage he had made from spare cloth and leaves.

'Look I'm fine, I found some teres leaves to numb the pain.'

'I can see that, but you didn't grind them up, the numbing agent is in the sap.'

'You see, I didn't have my mortar and pestle with me.'

'And look what you've done!'

'What this time?'

'You left the arrow head in!'

'I was in a rush. People wanted to kill me!'

'Give me a minute, I need to find some supplies, I don't want you to get an infection.'

She got up and left. Dúframa tried to get up. When his leg reached to floor he felt the pain of the arrow and realised the numbing effect of the leaves had worn off. He sat back on the table and waited. Pefÿen came back with a small bowl containing a green paste. She knelt back down, pulled out the arrow head and applied the paste to his wound.

'Did you find it?' She asked him as she stood up.

'Yes. Here it is.' he took out the gem from his pocket. It was no larger than an egg but it shone as if it belonged in the sky with the other stars. Pefÿen took it from him and placed it in a display case beneath a large banner that hung from one end of the room. She gave to Dúframa a key.

'Up the stairs by the entrance, third door on your right. Decorate it as you wish.'

'Thank you, but, I already have a home.'
'Well now you have a new home, or a home away from home. Stay tonight, breakfast is at sunrise, you will be officially given your place then.'

He took the key from her. 'Very well, good night.'

'Sleep well, friend.'

They walked up the stairs and Dúframa parted at his room. Pefÿen continued to the door at the end of the corridor. It was open and Kenrémas stood in its place.

'So he passed his trial then.' He asked

'Did you doubt him?'

'Of course not. I know what he is like.'

They smiled at each other and entered the room. Dúframa found himself in a barren room. There was but a small bed that sat under a window and a wooden chair facing a fire that had not been lit for years. He found the bed to be comfortable enough, but changes would have to be made if this was to be a permanent abode.

Pefÿen was woken, when the sun began to rise, to find an empty space beside her in the bed. Kenrémas stood by the window.

'Shoo!' he yelled at some fowl bird that sat at the window.

'All night.' He said turning to Pefÿen, 'All night that awful thing tapped at the window.'

'Well he's gone now.'

'I would rather he left earlier, or better still never come at all.'

'Come on,' She said as she rose from the bed, 'We'd better get downstairs. They'll be waiting for us soon.'

When they came into the main hall the others had already broken their fast.

'We couldn't wait any longer.' Nore called to them.

'My dear master dwarf! I do suppose it was your idea to start without us.' Pefÿen told as she sat down.

'Well aye. But we were hungry and feared you would not be joining us again this morn.'

'Not today Nore, we wish to hear the stories of our newest companion'

'As do we all.' Tayren exclaimed, 'Enlighten us on your exploits Dúframa.'

the wood-elf put down his goblet of water, lifted his head and looked into the eyes of all those before him.

'If you want tales of brave warriors, rescuing some helpless princess from the tallest tower guarded by some evil dragon, then I must disappoint you. My life is no fairy-tale.'

'You were a member of The Fellowship, you must have some tales to tell?' Asked Kenrémas asked

'I still am. Many years ago I swore an oath, that holds me to this day, and will do until I die.'

'And what is that oath?' Tayren asked

'It is the oath that we all must swear, The Oath of Elvendom:

'I shall take no wife, for I love the wild

I will hold no land, for all the world is free

I shall take up no Lordship, for my brothers are my equal

I will seek no glory, for no honour lies in death

I am The Fellowship, and The Fellowship is I

Until my dying breath, I pledge before the endless night

To give my life to the beauty of the Elven lands

Lest my captain free me.''

He sat in silence for a moment.

'Is there no story you could tell us, or are you so humble that your long and full life is too boring for us?' asked Teleroth with dislike for the Wood-Elf's manner.

'I do suppose that there is one I am happy to share. It must have been nigh on fifty three winters past. I was escorting a party of merchants south through the Northshade valley. We were attacked by a group of goblins. They were hundreds in number and only a few of us able to fight. We backed the merchants into a cave and set up a formation to defend them as best we could. More than half my brothers died there. Those of us left made our peace with the world and did what we could to keep the merchants calm. We were ready for death.'

Teleroth laughed, 'But it is clear that you survived, or you would not be here.'

'Of course I survived. But it's how I did, that this story concerns itself with. You see we heard what we thought was thunder. What we didn't understand was why the goblins were so afraid. We learnt why when they were engulfed in flames from the sky. After only a few brief seconds they were dead or routed. The dragon that killed them landed by the mouth of our cave and then he spoke. “What fowl creatures these goblins are.” He said, “I would burn them all should they dare to show their awful form again. Come forth Men and Elves, for to thee I mean no harm.” I stepped forth from the mouth of our cave and saw all his splendour. He was a Brass Dragon from the south, his scales were gold and his teeth ivory. Then lights in the sky began to dance above us, green and pink. My heart could not decide what was more splendid, this beast that filled the valley, or the dancing sky. Then he looked into my eye. “Would thou wish to join the light of the gods this night?” I could not answer, I never thought such a thing possible. Yet somehow he knew my heart. “Climb upon my back, and I will show you sights your kind has never seen before.” So I did.

'There are no words in any tongue that I could speak to describe that flight. Only a dragon could describe it in their tongue of thought and ideas. But when we landed he kept watch over the merchants and I in case the goblins returned in greater numbers. And while the Men slept, the dragon and I spoke at length. He told me his name, but I shall not speak it, for there is a covenant of friendship between us.'

'How does one befriend a dragon? It is not possible' Teleroth asked.

'By not being afraid.' Dúframa answered, 'He could tell I did not fear him and so he grew fond of me, and I of him. And so we agreed should one call out the others name we would help, but only in the most dire of situations. It has been almost a decade since I last saw him, and I doubt I will do again soon, for he does not fly close to the dwellings of Men.'

'Why? Does he think we smell?' Joked the Normad

'No, Gracil, he does not. He fears you.' Responded Dúframa to her question, 'Men, as a group, fear Dragons, he does not want to take an arrow to his gut.'

Stories were shared all that day admits food, drink, and cheer. Non who gathered there took any work or ran any errands. As the night drew on Pefÿen rose,

'Well, I think there is no objection in saying that Dúframa is now among our ranks.'

'Hear hear!' Came a voice in the room

'Now,' Continued Pefÿen, 'A toast, to our new ranger!'

Glasses of wine, and tankards of ale were raised with cheering voices.

'If you will all excuse me,' Teleroth said when the cheers had died down, 'But I have some tasks to attend to.'

She rose, along with her Dwarven companion and left without another word.

Thus ends the first part of 'The Earth and Blade Saga'.

Submitted: February 27, 2015

© Copyright 2021 soupcoop. All rights reserved.

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