Book 1 Chapter 10: Tales and tails.
“Halt in the name of Great Hunter king of the Dark elves.”
Slyfer brings his Salamandraco to a stop and bows down his head lifting up his arms and palms outstretched. What confronts him is about fifty men on wolves. Unlike the scout they look hardened by battle and more experienced the wolves to, are bigger three times the size as Grey Maine! “Almost as big as I am… but not quite.”
He smiles at the wolves challenge in his eyes. The one in the center has the same eyes as Grey Maine and grey fur around his neck. “You must be family of Grey Maine?” Slyfer asks still with the smiling challenge.
“You will speak when spoken to… half breed.” Slyfer looks at the rider on his back he looks like the older version of the flat faced dark elf. Slyfer loses a bit of control, his aura blazes for an instant turning the others around it into mere flickers of light. “Has my aura grown?”
The wolves in the front line of the detachment take an involuntary step back and crouch low. Slyfer battles for control and then manages to bottle it up again returning to what he believes must look normal. He bows his head again. “As you wish.”
Aldowin and the others arrive behind him. The flat nose draws his gaze over everyone and comes to rest on the other flat nosed one. “They are like two pigs! I can almost hear them snorting at each other!“ Brother who is in charge here?” In Slyfers eyes the little runt stands to attention beaming with pride. “I wanted to take command after our squad leader had… fallen but Grey Maine is now in charge.”
The big brother’s face turns into a sneer that turns into a look of disgust. “There is no love lost between these two.”Muses Slyfer .
Big brother turns is face to Grey Maine. “Report.”
“I will report to Pathfinder as is proper procedure. However I will say this. These people are the guests Great Hunter was expecting. They have given me the password and must have clear passage to the camp.”
The big flat nosed brother turns his face into an even worse looking one if that is even possible. And is about to say something when the wolf he rides on interrupts. “They will be given safe passage to the king.”
Aldowin bows down gracefully and says. “We thank you lord wolf.” Afterwards Slyfer looks at big brother pig and gives him his most charming smile.
Vinx comes over abd whispers something in Slyfers ear pointed at the two flat nose brothers and they giggle.
The small one notices and moves the lady wolf next to Slyfer. “What is so funny half breed?”
Slyfer lifts his eyebrows in mock surprise. “You seem to have gained your courage with your big brother here. We were just talking about how… similar you two look.”
“Slyfer!” Aldowin angry at his student storms over. “Now is not the time.”
The big Grey Maine turns around. “Let’s go.”
They move slowly at a walk not in a hurry to reach the army. Slyfer can smell it long before they reach it and by the time they have reached it night has fallen and the tents are being set up everywhere. It smells of dung sweat and other things he does not want to contemplate. He notices even the Salamandraco have stopped tasting the air. To Slyfer’s surprise the first part of the army they reach is not even soldiers but. Normal men and woman beggars and merchants. It is from this group of motley sick looking people that most of the smell comes from luckily they stay away from the group of worriers and wolves scurrying out of the way like rats.
Strange sounds assault Slyfers ears a woman screaming like he has never heard before it raises the hair on his arms and the back of his neck. “Someone is in trouble we must help!” He turns to go towards the red domed row of tents where it is coming from but Aldowin stops him in time. “What! We can’t just leave whoever is in trouble.” His master only shakes his head and says. “They are not in trouble but rather being pleasured or pretending to be.”
All the warriors around him burst out laughing even the wolves make a strange sound. Slyfer starts to get angry. “They are in trouble just listen!” An old warrior with a scar running down the left side of his face ends Slyfer’s misery. “The only trouble they are in is in not being paid, boy. They are ladies of the night selling themselves to anyone willing to pay.” The group of warriors laugh again at Slyfer’s expense. “Selling themselves? What are they slaves?” The old man shrugs.
“Some are. Most are only slaves to their trade.”
Aldowin touches his shoulder. “I will explain later. It is time that you learn.”
The second part of the camp is mostly foot soldiers. The lowest ranking men and woman. They sleep in small black tents barely big enough for them to fit in. Everywhere small fires start to spring up and the smell of cooking begins to drift on the air. Slyfer realizes he is hungry and his stomach growls. “I can smell meat.” He says surprised. Are dark elves not vegetarians like high elves.” The old man answers before Aldowin can he has obviously taken a liking to the innocent youth. “Some are that have been trained in the old ways like the sense you have it is very rare these days among my kind. Only those with magic train in it. We do not live with the same ideals High Elves do.”
A touch of sadness in the man’s words draws Aldowins attention. “This saddens you?” The dark elf nods. “I am older than most here so I remember the old days when we were a far greater and more powerful people. It all changed when the betrayer killed most of our leaders and wise men. That is why we have decided to join this cause.”
“Quiet, old man! I have grown tired of hearing about the old days.” Looking at Slyfer he gestures at Flat-nose who had just screamed at him. “Now we are stuck with youths like him.” Leaning over he spits on the ground which is quite a feat considering the size of the wolf he rides on. Slyfer has to look up to see him sticking out of the fur.
The third part of the camp is made out of officers’ tents ranging from just big enough to stand in to bigger more luxurious tents the deeper they go. To Slyfer the layout of the camp resembles a Spider’s web. Large spaces are left in between the tents running from the center outward and then between these tents are roads running between the spaces going outward making it possible for a large body of men and wolves to move throughout the encampment. “The layout of the camp is impressive but it has a negative side as well. Friendly forces will be able to move fast throughout the camp but so too will enemies.”
The old elf grunts approval. “You noticed did you. But you failed to notice that at every cross section are carts kept on each side so they can be placed in the way of any enemy trying to come in or get out.”
SLyfer inspects the next cross section closely and sees that what the elf has said is true. The tents now bigger than the tree house Aldowin and Slyfer lived in suddenly stops. A circle of around five hundred meters is kept without tents and right in the middle is the biggest tent Slyfer has ever seen. The top part is blood red until it reaches the center of the tent wall. From there it is white until it reaches the ground.
Slyfer’s brow furrows at the tent until he says. “I see now! The walls are white so that sentries on the outside perimeter can easily spot an intruder that is trying to get to the main tent. It is like a spider’s web meant to catch intruders not keep them out!” They reach the tent and the older flat nosed brother tells them to wait and he goes inside. Two gaurds stand at the entrance impassive and unmoving. Slyfer finds himself once again wondering where Shcree could be. It nags at him. “She would not just leave to stay in the forest. Something must have happened.” He paces up and down. Aldowin is the first to notice something is wrong.
“Slyfer stop that you are making me nervous.” Slyfer stops and looks at his master.
“Have you seen Shcree today?” Aldowin thinks for a moment.
“No I don’t believe I have.” Turning to the others Slyfer asks the same question. Only now does he notice the worried gaunt expression on Elyna’s face. Trisha as always only looks curious. The day had gone by quickly and already felt like a distant memory. What had happened felt so long ago Slyfer only wants to know one thing. “Where in the hell gates is Shcree!” Irritated Slyfers starts to pace again. Vinx sitting on his shoulder sits back against his neck as if she has known him her entire life. He feels her small warm body against him and it calms him a little.
Only a LITTLE. “What in hell gates is taking so long! Are we to stand here the whole night looking at our feet?” Everyone stops to look at him even the impassive guards. “Slyfer calm down these people are from the Hell gates.” But Aldowin’s student is having none of it only giving the high elf a sidelong glance he makes for the tent. The two guards cross their halberds in is path. “You must wait to be summoned.” Slyfer getting angry spreads his feet. With a degree of control he releases the anger inside him that is always sleeping there, he feels the power growing and as it does so does his aura. His eyes turn red and he points to at the guard to the left. Simply because he doesn’t like his face. “If you two don’t move right now! I’am going to take your head and shove it up his ass.” The last part he says whilst pointing at the other guard.
He pauses for the words to take affect but the guards only stare at him dumbfounded. Trisha tries to stifle a laugh but can’t help it and starts laughing. Vinx flits from Slyfer’s shoulder not wanting to be in the way of what may happen next. Aldowin walks toward his student anger on his face but Slyfer’s back is turned on him and he simply doesn’t care. “Right then, you won’t move?” Slyfer says rubbing his hands together even though he is sixteen he already towers over the two dark elves. But their eyes don’t show fear only defiance. Slyfer steps forward but the old dark elf having sensed Slyfers aura comes between Slyfer and his intended victims.
“Calm down boy, I will speak to the pack leader and on his order will try and find out what is going on.” Slyfer, not moving his eyes from the two guards only nods. “Do it fast….. please.” He hisses between his teeth. The old elf makes for the contingent of wolves and men. They decided to give the visitors a respectful distance of privacy.
He soon returns and tells the guards he has permission from the pack leader to enter and they let him pass. Ten minutes later he ushers them inside. Slyfer now even more irritated has not subdued his aura however only burns with a fraction of what it could be. The tent inside is huge and lighted with torches. They walk down a hallway the walls made out of cloth to offer some sort of privacy to whoever is behind them. Slyfer reaches out with is mind and he can feel and see a lot of dark elves busying themselves making and preparing food while others busy getting dressed. “Why get dressed now?”
The smell of food makes his stomach growl audibly and gets reminded how hungry he truly is. They turn a corner in the hallway and are confronted by another two guards. They stand on either side of an entrance to a great hall.
Stepping through Slyfer is thrown into another world. Lush purple drapes hung from the ceiling criss-crossing each other. Right in front of Slyfer stand a table layered with all kinds of food he has never dreamed of! The table stretched all the way from where they stood in the entrance to a platform set higher than the table. On the platform was another table with five high-backed chairs behind it. People were all in conversation passing around food filled with different kind of meats, fruits and cakes. The smell was overpowering and Slyfer felt like diving into the table an gorging himself but he resisted the urge remembering the manners Aldowin had taught him.
The dark elf turns to the left and starts to walk past the table layered with food Slyfer imagined in his mind’s eye how each would taste. Vinx sat on his shoulder barely containing herself. She muttered the names of all the fruit they passed to herself. “Sssh. You are making me hungrier every time you speak a name.” Dark elves dressed in fancy clothes sat staring at the awkward motley looking group. Slyfer looks down at what he is wearing and realizes the once fancy clothes Aldowin had given him now seems like the clothes of a pauper due to the hard travel and fights they had been in. Raising his chin Slyfer looked in front of him. “I am a sky prince.” He tells himself over and over but it doesn’t work he still feels very inadequate.
At the end of the table sat the flat nosed officer a smirk on his face he looked them up and down as if they were rubbish. Slyfers eyes turn red and he smiles back one so evil the dark elf looks away instantly flushed. The people around the table whisper and bump each other woman giggling and men frowning all with their heads together discussing the new arrivals.
Most eyes were on Slyfer. A tall boy with black hair hanging in a pony some of his fringe frames his face. His powerful lean figure made most women look twice and the men did not like it his eyes burning red scanned the crowd only once and then he continued to walk as if they were beneath him. The men stared openly at Trisha making her blush with all the attention. Her beautiful tanned skin and eyes drew their attention more than anything else.
The strange group of people are led in front of the platform. Where a five dark elves sat. The one in the middle pops a grape into his mouth and looks them over as if bored. But the keen stare and measuring look in his eyes shows is demeanor to be a lie. Slyfer looks him straight in his eyes. The dark elf bends low. My Lord Great Hunter may I present. “Aldowin of the high elves, Slyfer of the… Aldowin’s student. The lady Elyna of the high elves and Trisha her charge.” As he says each name he gestures at the person bowing low. Aldowin, Elyna and Trisha bow but Slyfer remains standing only giving the dark elf leader a nod. The people gasp at is affront and Aldowin shakes his head eyes shooting daggers at the back of Slyfer’s head.
A boy sitting to the left of the king, about Slyfer’s age stands up anger clearly showing on his face. His eyes are grey the same as Grey Maine’s . His skin is n bit darker than the other dark elves’ his hair looks unkempt standing at odd angles but the color of it is the most striking thing about him. Its red like the pelts of the dire wolves’. He is bulkier than Slyfer although shorter. Slyfer can hear whispers ripple through the crowd. The old elf bows low again and announces the name of the red haired youth.
“This is high Lord Pathfinder adopted son of the king and second heir to the throne.” Slyfer moves his red eyed gaze at Pathfinder. To his surprise Pathfinder has a tail shaped like that of a wolf’s. Trisha puts her hand to her mouth. Excitement clearly on her face brought on by the tail. She examines his face. He has high cheekbones thin lips and a strong jaw now set in anger. He is dressed in a fine white shirt and black leather pants more comfortable then fancy but the power under the clothes is clearly visible to her. He stops his face inches from Slyfer’s. “Bow to the king!”
“I bow to no one.”
“You imagine yourself his equal dressed in rags as you are?” He says it aloud and the crowd chuckles at Slyfer’s expense.
Slyfer calmly raises is voice as well. “If the measure of a man is the clothes he wears we are all doomed.”
The crowed stops abruptly. “Now get out of my face, it seems like you want to kiss me standing this close and I don’t carry affection for men in that way.”
Pathfinder’s cheeks go as red as his hair. “I challen….” “That’s enough, brother.” Says a silky voice behind him making him turn in anger. “He disrespects father and you wish me to stand aside and watch.” Slyfer spots a beautiful creature behind Pathfinder. She too has red hair and the resemblance between the two luckily stops there.
She looks at Slyfer amusement in her eyes at his obvious surprise behind her is a tail same as her apparent brothers. Only shining brighter than his as if it has been carefully washed and combed out like her hair it is red. She has a green and black corset on that turns into a voluptuous dress just under her navel . It brings out the green in her eyes. Making them stand out like stars.
Her lips are as red as her hair curved in a smile that gives Slyfer the impression of a wolf eyeing its prey. Its all the more beautiful, because of her pearl white skin. Where her brother is dark she is light.
They stare at each other a while. She then turns to the old dark elf expectantly. He suddenly finds himself standing to attention. “I present the Princess Fira adopted daughter of the king and twin sister of the Prince Pathfinder.”
She walks over and puts her hand on her brother’s shoulder. “Lets go sit down brother our father can handle his own battles.” Slyfer smirks at the chastised Pathfinder but she turns to him. “You had better learn manners.”
Aldowin’s hand closes on his shoulder squeezing painfully hard. “I fully agree my Lady.” She nods at him. The king suddenly stands up amusement on his face. “Now that the children are done introducing themselves let us feast!” The crowed bursts into laughter the tension suddenly expelled. They start talking and eating excitedly. The king turns to the group in front of him. I “have set aside a tent for your people”. Slyfer says “Thank you we will only need them till tomorrow my carriages await us on the road.”
Everyone turns to him surprised. Slyfer looks at Aldowin and winks. “Finally some good news.” Pathfinder comes to a halt next to Trisha. He bows low taking her hand in his and kissing it. Surprised she blushes at the gesture. “Will you come sit with me if it is okay with your charge?” They look at Elyna and she shrugs. The two of them make for the table on the platform. Slyfer watches them go not sure what to make of what he is feeling.
Vinx flits into the air drawing more mutters from the people sitting at the tables. He turns to the old elf. “Will you please show me to my tent?” The old elf nods yes. “Don’t you want to eat?” Taking a plate Slyfer collects heaps of food and follows the old dark elf out of the tent. In truth Slyfer was more afraid than anyone. The sheer number of people makes him feel uncomfortable. Aldowin watches the student go understanding this. Fira hooks an arm into his and asks him to join them. “Where is your student going she asks once they have taken their seats.”
Aldowin swallows the fruit he had just been eating and replies. “He is not used to crowds given where he grew up. This is the most people he has seen in his entire life except maybe the ones that tried to kill us.” Her eyes grow wide and the whole table turns to Aldowin. The king speaks first, “You were attacked?”
Aldowin nods. “Yes, an army of orcs and humans attacked us a little less then two months ago.”
The king nods. “I Have received reports from my scouts of bands of men and orcs but they keep away from us.”
Fira putting down her fork asks. “How many were they in number.”
Aldowin shrugs. “Little more over one hundred.”
“And how many were you?” Asks Pathfinder, becoming more interested in the conversation than staring at Trisha’s bosom.
“We were elven.” Aldowin withholds the fact of who was with them on purpose the king notices but does not comment on it. “He is a shrewd and dangerous man.” Aldowin thinks to imself. Fira puts a hand on his arm. “I am so sorry for your loss.”
“None of us died the others just went their own way.” Surprise shows on everyone’s faces.
Fira smiles at Aldowin. “I am happy you and your student escaped unscathed then.”
“We did not escape.” Trisha blurts out before she can stop herself.
The king raises an eyebrow at Aldowin and Elyna who had suddenly stopped eating.
When they don’t answer the king voices his question audibly somewhat irritated. “So what happened to the army?”
Everyone around the table now quiet looks at them. Aldowin sighs and gives Trisha a withering stare as he answers. “They are all dead, down to the last man and orc.” Fira gasps and the others all look surprised. Pathfinder is the first to speak. “You mean to tell us eleven of you defeated a hundred of them! Bah lies!” Trisha jumps up. “We would not lie.” The king holds out his hand asking them to be calm.
Then he simply asks. “What happened.” Before Aldowin can answer Trisha once again blurts out. “The Beast happened?” She is rewarded with a kick under the table from Elyna.
The king ignores the theatrics focusing his eyes on Aldowin. “The beast?”
“She refers to him that way much to my irritation.” The king raising his voice with irritation, clearly used to getting straight answers asks. “Who is the beast. Stop talking in circles!” Aldowin takes another bite of his food than says. “My student.”
Fira’s interest at this is clear in her face but she soon brings it under control. Pathfinder asks what is on everyone’s mind. “What did your ….student do.” Stopping himself from insulting Slyfer. Everyone at the table waits while Aldowin eats painstakingly slow. He finally looks up looking at each of the dark elves in turn. “He killed them all.”
Slyfer in a plush tent with four rooms, divided by hanging drapes of veering color. Chooses the one in red. Putting his pack on the bed he returns to what he recognizes as the living room. He had made sure the Salamandraco had been cared for before heading to the tent talking to the stable hand and giving him instructions. All the while Vinx was talking his ear off excited about the night’s events but his thoughts were only on Shcree. Irritation mounting he utters a barely audible. “I am going to bathe.”
A young dark elf girl had awaited him in the tent she proclaimed that she was to be their maid. He had at first told her, she could go but she would not listen only murmuring that she was given orders.
Giving in he had sent her for water so that he could bathe to which she lighted up and scampered of to, who knows where. Taking of is clothes and putting them aside he eased into the bath. The hot water made him relax almost instantly.
A moment later his relaxation was spoiled by Vinx sitting on the side of the tub. “You look tired.” He got such a fright he nearly toppled the bath over. “Its not proper for a girl to see a boy naked. She rolls her eyes at him. “But I am not a girl I am a fairy.”
“Yes, a female fairy! That’s like me saying I am not a high elf and getting in the bath with Elyna.” The fairy looks at him and spins in the air. “So?”
“So it’s not proper!” Seeing he is not going win he sinks deeper into the water and closes his eyes. “I think the red head likes you.” His eyes still closed. “Can I just relax for one minute?”
“Sure you can… So what do you think about the red head?” Slyfer takes his shirt and puts it over his head to try and drown out the sound of her voice but too late he realizes she speaks into one’s mind. Dropping the sweaty shirt he looks at her, contemplating throwing her with it. “The red head is a boy I have no idea why he came up so close to me but I doubt that it is because he likes me.” Slapping her forehead she falls backwards over the edge of the bath only to appear a second later. “I am talking about the girl, Fira.”
Slyfer thinks for a while. “Oh, her.”
“Yes her. The way she looked at you…” The fairy starts ranting of about her friend who likes a boy and then gave him that look but he was with someone else or something or other Slyfer lost her in the first sentence. Starting to drown in his, own thoughts. He soon falls asleep, right there in the bath the fairy’s voice rattling on in his mind.
He gets rudely awakened by a bright green flash in front of his eyes along with the irritating feeling of something pulling on his eyelids.
“Wake up Slyfer my people are here.”
Scrounging up his nose and yawning he says. “What people?” She spins in the air. “The other fairies! And they have brought a flying monkey with them!” This catches his attention and he jumps out immediately but stops looking at is dirty clothes not keen on putting it on again. The fairy sees this and starts flying around them her light shining brighter as she does. Time seems to turn back and the clothes turn good as new. When Vinx is finished she lands on Slyfer’s shoulder gasping for breath.
Looking up she smiles at Slyfer’s expression. “Told you we fairies have our secrets.” Putting the clothes on he says thank you. The smell of the valley is fresh on the clothes as if he had just taken them from Aldowin. Putting his wet hair back in a pony he storms out of the tent only to stop a second later. “Where are they coming from?” “The way we came in. But you must have Aldowin with you the bargain was struck with the both of you so they will expect him as well.” Slyfer turns to the big tent reluctantly moving at a brisk walk.
Entering the big tent he moves through the hallway and into the dining hall. Once again everyone stops and looks at him although this time differently. He ignores the people and walks straight to the main table. Only to be stopped short by two guards. “You were not invited to the table.”
“Can you please give the high elf Aldowin a message for me?” The guard looks at him menacingly and then says “No”. Just then Fira stands up from the table. “Let him pass.” Slyfer pushes past the guard. Aldowin frowns in surprise at Slyfer’s clothes but doesn’t say anything. Slyfer excuses himself for interrupting. “I must speak to my master urgently.” The king nods approval and carries on eating his desert. Vinx lands in front of Fira and Aldowin bowing deeply. Slyfer bends down between Aldowin and Fira to whisper something in is master’s ear. Fira gets a strong smell of forest,sweet grass and a smell she can’t quite figure out along with the musky smell of Slyfer himself. She bites her lip and tries to overhear. Slyfer unaware of the hearing that the twins poses does not expect a reply from her.
“I will escort you to the outer perimeter where you can meet the rest of the fairies.” Slyfer turns to her and he is caught in her green eyes. “Thank you.” Is all he can get out and the green eyes sparkle with emotion he does not know what to make of. As Aldowin and Fira excuse themselves from the table Trisha makes to do the same. Only to be pulled down by the adopted prince. “Please stay a while longer?” She nods absently watching the others go.
Elyna and Trisha now the only ones at the table get the full scrutiny of the king. “Is what the high elf said true?”
They look at each other and then nod. Elyna looks the king in his eyes. “Slyfer and me hunted their leader after he escaped. The boy then… persuaded the man to divulge who he is working for and it turned out he had been sent by an agent of the black dragon already on the council in Atlantia. Slyfer took the letter and the human’s armor that was painted with the black dragon’s insignia.” The king swears and pushes away the desert. “So the situation is a lot worse than we thought. The boy was smart for taking the letter.”
Elyna is not sure if she must continue with a feeling almost as if she is betraying her princess continues.
“There is more the man had a strange weapon that he shot Slyfer with.” The king listens closely to her description. “I have heard of these weapons. They are very rare and only recently have they started being made. I believe it is called a gun.”
Elyna looks at him surprised. He only smiles a fox’s smile. “I am a king it is my business to know. Where is the weapon now?”
Elyna looks at Trisha and sees the dirty look and shrugs. “Slyfer carries it with him I have seen him inspecting it at night.”
Pathfinder snorts. “He wishes to use the enemy’s weapons. How, cowardly.”
The king ignores the boy. “I would like to have my weapon smiths look at it. Maybe they can make something of its design. Will you ask Slyfer for me?”
Elyna nods. “I will bring up the subject tonight in the tent.”
“Thank you.” The king nods ending the subject. Now I have to speak to my people and convince one of them to adopt him. It will be difficult but judging on what you said about his fighting prowess he will be easily accepted.”
At the kings words Pathfinder nearly chokes on is mouthful of food and looks at his father. “You want to adopt him?” The king shakes his head. “Not me one of the Royal families must.”
Pathfinder nearly jumps out of his seat and raises his voice causing almost everyone to look at the king’s table. “Why! What possible need could we have of a half-breed?”
Great Hunter’s face goes red with anger. “It is not for you to question my motives. Know your place or I will put you in it! Now sit down and stop acting like a jealous child.”
Pathfinder sits down. “If that is the case then I will fight him in in the acceptance ceremony.” The king raises an eyebrow. “You can stand to be chosen but that does not mean you will be picked. And if you lose…” “I will not lose.” “If you lose you must abide by any request he makes or face death. Will you be able to live with that?”
Pathfinder looks at his adoptive father steel in his eyes. “I will not lose and if he invokes the right. I get to choose the weapons for our duel.” This brings a smile to Pathfinders face. The king, smiles. “You will choose fists?”
Trisha suddenly looks at Elyna worry on her face. The last person Slyfer had dueled without any weapon was turned into ash!