The story you are about to read contains the following tags -
Action, fantasy, romance (M/F), violence and adult situations (edited for a PG-13 audience)
The world is generic high fantasy, created by me to suit the needs of this single story. I wrote it with the intent for it to only be a one-off, but until now I've never shared it with anyone. Should there be a request for it, I could possibly come up with a few more stories with these characters in this world.
I would appreciate any comments, critiques or reviews - however, it is not necessary. I only request that you please enjoy!
Frantically he ran, hastily wiping his hand over his face. The mixture of sweat and tears made his eyes sting, and he couldn't afford to lose focus now. His ears twitched slightly, causing him to pause his desperate flight. Somewhere to the south his pursuers had gathered together. Quickly the man returned to his former pace, running through the forest as fast as he could without tripping. The innate knowledge of forests and land that his blood gifted him with, did not make him any less prone to clumsiness. A noise from his immediate right caused him to spin around in alarm, raising his hands to ready a spell with which to defend himself.
“You've never been able to keep out of trouble, you know that?” A female voice said in exasperation. The man lowered his hands in relief, having recognized the voice.
“Illiyara, as delighted my heart is to see you, it's taking all my strength to keep it within my chest. Must you always do that?” He replied, his voice soft yet strained. From the shadows of the trees stepped a thin, shapely woman. Her leather breeches and tunic clung to her form like a second skin, and she walked as if it truly was. Her face and hair were hidden by a light green cowl, but her unusually piercing emerald eyes shone brightly through a slit in the cloth. They twinkled with amusement and annoyance as she gazed up at him, having to tilt back her head since she came up to only his shoulder.
“You're one to talk about sneaking around and hiding yourself.” The woman paused, nodding towards the south. “Looks like you've done a poor job though, Darlaenus.” The man grabbed her arm, looking around warily. He began to move again, pulling her along with him.
“Yes, yes... you can scold me later. But right now, I could really use your help.”
The two made their way through the forest, lead by Illiyara and her expert knowledge of the trails, both seen and unseen. Several hours of silence and cautious travel later, they came upon a tiny wooden hut that Darlaenus had sworn was not there when he had gazed at the landscape just a moment before. Very well hidden it was, he noted. He never would have found it without Illiyara. Once inside, the woman closed the door and began the process of disarming herself. The bow and quiver of arrows on her back slid off with ease, as well as the twin set of swords that she twirled out of the sheaths at her sides and stabbed into the wall. She unclasped the belt around her waist and it fell with a heavy thud to the floor. With a sigh, the woman sank into a nearby wicker chair and kicked off her boots to reveal a knife strapped tightly to her right calf.
The man watched this almost ritualistic act with a veiled interest. She had done it many times before, this same exact way, but the increased amount of weapons caused a frown to grow on the man's handsome features. He made his way over to a nearby chair and unbuttoned the side of his once elaborate, now tattered robes. Carelessly, he tossed it over the back of the chair and collapsed into it, his loose silk shirt puffing out from the sudden rush of air.
“Your collection has grown since I last saw you.” He said, pulling twigs out of his shoulder-length blond hair with a frown.
“Since you've last seen me, Darlaenus, time have grown more turbulent for our kind.” She replied, reaching up to her hood and pulling it free of her head. Ringlets of brown hair tumbled down her back as she threw the piece of cloth angrily into the corner. “It is a necessary evil, I suppose. Do you think I like having to carry all of this around, day after day, while having to stuff my ears into that... that... prison!” She gestured to the hood on the floor. “I do what I must. I am bound by my oath.” The woman growled softly, rubbing her aching ears. Darlaenus looked down at the ground, sullen.
“I am sorry to have caused you so much trouble.” He said with a soft tone. The woman pressed her palms into her eyes as she leaned forward in the chair.
“Darlaenus...” She began with a sigh, throwing her hands up into the air, bringing them back down onto her legs with a slap. “We've been over this a million times. Trouble or no, it is my duty as the only living Nae'eth to protect the Elven Prince, no matter what he chooses to do or where he chooses to go. As I am your friend, I just wish you weren't so damn foolish.”
“What would you have me do!” He exclaimed. “Our people are dying, both by the hands of the humans and from the failing Bond. With each tree the humans chop down, our lives shorten and our strength diminishes. Would you truly have had me wait, day by day in the Palace before I, too, finally met my end Illiyara?”
The woman closed her eyes, clenching her fist in an effort to channel her frustration into anything other than her words. She counted to ten.
“I understand and respect your desire to search for something that might aid your people. It's your methods I just can't approve of, Darlaenus. Wanting to learn magic was bad enough, but to try and masquerade yourself as one of them? At least I'll admit that I'm impressed you lasted so long.” She sighed softly, relaxing her hand. “Did you learn anything that might help?”
The man shook his head, turning it away from her gaze.
“No. They were very suspicious of my interest in nature magic and my ineptness at the more arcane forms. So I was unable to find anyone or anything that would have been of any help. I'm out of options, Illiyara.” He replied, pausing for a moment. “Maybe... maybe I really am doomed to await my inevitable death in the Palace.”
In an instant, the woman was sitting at his knees, looking up at him in shock. She held his hand in hers tightly, shaking him.
“Don't you dare say something like that again! Do you understand me?” She hissed, her eyes glaring at him fiercely. She took a deep breath, calming herself as she softened her voice. “You have done more than all of our kind put together. You have gone out and risked your own life to try and save the lives of thousands. Should we perish, it is no one's fault but those who hunt and kill us for no reason other than their own desires. If we die, then it will be because our time among the trees has come to an end. Not because you didn't try.”
Darlaenus lifted his head slowly, his sapphire blue eyes peering into the woman's intense gaze. In a gesture of tenderness, he raised a free hand to caress her cheek, a rare smile crossing his lips.
“It is truly a pity that our time seems to be drawing to a close.” He replied gently. “You would have made an amazing Queen, Illiyara.” The woman looked away, her emotional walls crumbling at his touch. She trembled slightly as his hand cupped her chin, turning her face back to look into his eyes.
“I am but your Nae'eth, my lord. Duty bids that I am no more to the royal family than a protector. You have my life... and that is all I am allowed to give.” She replied.
“Illiyara... if there was one thing I learned from the humans, it was that life is too short to hide your feelings and desires behind the curtains of duty or tradition. If you let that one, perfect moment pass by... then you may never see another chance again.”
“A chance to do what, my Prince?” Illiyara asked softly, almost hesitantly. He never broke his gaze as he leaned in closer to her. His face was mere inches from her own as he answered,
“The chance to tell you that I love you. Tradition and duty be damned, Illiyara. If our race of people are doomed to fall, then so be it. But I refuse to live out the rest of my days without you by my side.”
The woman's face softened as she looked up at Darlaenus. She opened her mouth to reply, but she was never given the chance.
The walls of the hut were suddenly blown inward in an explosion of smoke and fire, and both elves were flung backwards. The prince toppled over in his chair, and Illiyara was tossed into the far wall. Small fires began to crackle among the splinters of wood, and as Darlaenus struggled to right himself, he noticed the shade of another being standing on the outside. His heart clenched in fear, and he stumbled over to the unmoving form of Illiyara. He shook her, willing her to wake, but received no response. His actions made him flinch, and he turned his gaze to where he felt pain in his left arm. A large gash ran down the upper-arm, and his shirt sleeve hung in bloody tatters around it. In a smooth, fluid motion he ripped off the piece of cloth to use as a haphazard bandage. Despite his best efforts, Darlaenus still could not get Illiyara to wake. The growing pool of blood forming under her head did little to ease his fears. As carefully as he could, the elven prince picked up the woman in his arms, trying his best to support her head on his chest to keep it from moving around. Quickly he escaped from the rapidly burning hut, running outside to a nearby clearing that they had passed when they arrived.
He couldn't help but believe that this was all his fault. He knew what Illiyara said was true, and that he had done a noble thing by risking himself in such a way. But a noble act could still be stupid, and getting the woman he loved most in the world injured was the stupidest thing he'd ever done. Darlaenus panted for breath, not having the strength to carry her very far. Exhaustion began to take a toll on the elf, causing him to sink down under a nearby tree, cradling Illiyara in his arms. He checked her wound with care, relieved to see that the bleeding had stopped. Yet he was unsettled by her continued unconsciousness.
His ears twitched upon hearing a noise, and he turned his head in the direction that it seemed to have come from. In the blink of an eye, Darlaenus found himself surrounded by armor-clad humans, all with their swords drawn and pointed at him. His eyes darted around wildly, searching for a way out.
“There is no escape, elf.” A familiar, rugged voice growled in disgust. A hole opened in the wall of soldiers before him, and a tall man dressed in golden, polished armor emerged. He stood to tower over the slumped figure of Darlaenus, pausing. His gaze settled on him, and then moved to the unconscious woman in his arms. The man pulled off his helm, dropping it to the ground while shaking free a mane of raven-black hair.
“Well, well... Prince Darlaenus. At last we meet.” He said, giving an exaggerated, mocking bow.
“General Rothgarde.” The elf hissed, holding Illiyara closer against him.
“Heard of me then, have you? That makes this little meeting even more fun for me, then.” The human replied sadistically. “And what have we here? The courtesan of our beloved Prince, is it?”
“How dare you!” Darlaenus exclaimed, appalled. The human laughed in reply.
“Pryer – bind our little Prince here, but leave his wench in the dirt that she spawned from.”
Before the elf had a chance to fight back, his arms were pulled away from Illiyara and bound behind him. He struggled, using all the strength he had left, but was still dragged to his feet and shoved back against the tree. Rope was wound across his chest and legs, securing him to the trunk. On the ground at his feet, Illiyara stirred. Darlaenus eyed Rothgarde in panic. He too, had heard her awaken and returned the prince's gaze with such a smile that made his blood run cold through his veins.
“Our little nymph awakens.” Rothgarde said, kneeling down to grab a fist of hair from the top of her head. She let out a cry of pain and her eyes opened wide, gazing between the human and Darlaenus. It was the first time that the prince had ever seen fear in her eyes.
“Leave her alone, Rothgarde.” He pleaded. The human laughed his reply, backhanding the woman across her face. She collapsed back onto the ground with a cry.
“I said leave her alone!” He yelled again, struggling against the ropes. This only seemed to make Rothgarde laugh harder as he kicked the female elf in the ribs with a plated boot. Illiyara - the woman who Darlaenus had seen take on ten human raiders by herself without fear - now lay in the dirt whimpering in pain and terror. His heart clenched in sorrow and tears ran down his face, knowing he was helpless to do anything. Again. The human assailant knelt next to Illiyara once more, returning his grip to her hair as he turned her face to look at him. His other hand roamed down her leg, removing the dagger he found there.
“She's not all that bad looking for a wench, Darlaenus. Your loins have good taste, at least.” He said with a grin just before he clamped his lips onto hers. Illiyara struggled weakly against him, her fists pounding against his back. Her blows did little against the hard metal of his armor. The elven prince struggled even harder against his bonds once he saw the human’s hand lower itself onto her chest, squeezing painfully. The woman cried out again, continuing her fight as Rothgarde's free hand trailed down her back, holding her closer against him while his tongue violated her mouth. Darlaenus looked away, unable to watch the woman he loved be treated in such a way. A loud gasp escaped Illiyara, making the other elf turn his gaze back to her. What he saw made his vision turn red.
“You monster!” Darlaenus screamed in rage, tears flowing unchecked down his face, his wrists beginning to bleed from struggling so hard against the ropes. Illiyara was slumped against General Rothgarde's chest, and the human was grinning at Darlaenus. He held the woman's dagger in his fist, glistening with fresh blood as it was removed from her back. The human pushed the body away from him, and she collapsed to the ground, limp.
“Did I... strike a nerve?” Rothgarde laughed to the male elf, standing up to walk to the tree where he was bound. With deliberate slowness, Rothgarde trailed his bloody hand down Darlaenus' face, staining it with the last traces of Illiyara's life.
“Stop right there!” A new voice yelled. Everyone looked around to determine the source, but saw nothing. An unknown, sudden force sent Rothgarde and his guards flying backwards to the forest floor. Darlaenus noticed that his bonds seemed somewhat looser. He took a tentative step away from the tree, and the ropes fell into a pool at his feet. From among the trees surrounding the clearing, five more humans emerged. Yet rather than plate armor, these people were cloth robes. Robes almost identical to the ones Darlaenus himself had worn earlier. Four of the five figures began casting spells, and ropes appeared around the guards, binding each individual in armor. The fifth approached Darlaenus with slow, careful steps.
“Was General Rothgarde not efficient enough for you? You had to come finish me off yourself?” The elf growled, his voice dripping with venom. The robed figure gazed down at the body of Illiyara, and shook his head slowly. He reached up, pulling back his hood to meet Darlaenus' eyes. Ghost-white hair framed an elderly face, and his dark eyes spoke of sadness and regret. Hair and eyes that Darlaenus recognized with shock.
“I don't understand...” The elf muttered, rubbing his temples. A gentle hand rested on Darlaenus’ shoulder.
“The prejudice and beliefs of one man are never the beliefs of all. Rothgarde was a charismatic leader, and as consequence, people followed him blindly. But truth and reason soon triumph over people who prey on other’s emotions, and eventually they are brought to justice.”
“You were the most suspicious of all the mages at the Academy, Tylan. It is hard for me to understand this sudden change of heart.” Darlaenus replied.
“Forgive me, my friend. If I had known that all of this would happen... well, I suppose it's too late to have regrets. I pretended to be your enemy, so that you might exercise greater caution while you studied at the Academy.” He replied in a rich, kind voice. “I was not the only one whose curiosity you sparked. I expected you to have been discovered months ago, but you were better at disguising yourself than I first thought. I knew your reason for doing so was dire, and I wished to give you as much time as I could. So by making you more careful around me, it made you be more careful around the others as well.” Darlaenus let out a heavy sigh at the explanation before Tylan continued.
“I am sorry I could not have come to your aid earlier. When I first learned that you had been discovered, I tried to find you and offer my assistance. By then you already fled, and we could do little more than follow Rothgarde to you.”
The mention of the human’s name caused Darlaenus to turn his head towards the magically bound man. Before Tylan could stop him, the elf strode towards the other man and punched him with a right hook. Rothgarde's head snapped back and his eyes blazed hatred at Darlaenus.
“Tell me why.” The prince growled. It was not a request. With arrogant defiance, the knight grinned up at the elf, saying nothing. The elderly mage stood by Darlaenus' side, glowering down at the other human. Rothgarde flinched involuntarily, and Tylan made his move. The robed human thrust his hands out of his sleeves and in an instant, Rothgarde was rolling around on the ground screaming in pain from the mage’s spell.
“Stop! I'll... I'll tell you, for goodness sake! Stop!” He pleaded in the midst of his screams. The mage lowered his hands and Rothgarde stopped his screaming. The knight gasped for breath and struggled to sit upright again. The knight eyed Tylan, and then Darlaenus. Finally his eyes rested on the unmoving form of Illiyara and he lowered his head in shame.
“I met her along a path in the forest, ten years ago." He began, gesturing to Illiyara. "She was a beautiful and exotic being to me, because I'd never truly seen an elf before. I was instantly smitten. And so like the young fool I was, I trotted my horse right up to her and told her that I must have her or I would die. Not only did she turn me down, but she laughed at me, too.” The knight paused, hesitating. It was the sight of Tylan's hands that made him continue, and Rothgarde confessed the whole truth.
“I was furious. Both at having been rejected, and being made to look an idiot. I... I forced myself upon her – but she was superior in strength and skill. Bleeding, battered and broken she left me before disappearing into the forest once more... I knew I couldn't let the truth of what happened get around... so I made up a new one. One that turned the elvish race into a band of savages hungry for human blood. I slaughtered my own men for their silence, and blamed their deaths on the elves. If I couldn't have her, then no one would. Not even her own kind, not even the flowing history of time. Eventually, my search for her became futile and bloody. And so it was too late to turn back. I had to continue the war.”
“You murdered hundreds of my people just because you couldn't satisfy your lust? Not to mention the thousands more murdered by your kind, in your name!” Darlaenus screamed, enraged at the tale he was hearing. “You hunted, slaughtered and tortured my people because one woman refused your rape!” The elf attempted to strangle Rothgarde, but Tylan held back his hands. Darlaenus struggled for a few moments, but soon calmed.
“He will be brought to justice, my friend. You have my word on that.” The mage said in a gentle tone, but his eyes glared daggers at Rothgarde. He waved a hand at the other robed humans standing near their prisoners, and they each teleported an armored man away. Rothgarde's eyes widened in fear, and he began shaking his head back and forth, not wanting to go where the others went. Tylan merely grinned while waving his hand again, and this time the armor-clad General vanished. Darlaenus sighed wearily, left in the clearing with the mages and their leader.
“I appreciate your help, and your eagerness to avenge the wrong your people have so long enacted upon mine. I only wish that it did not have to come at the cost of so many lives. Or... Illiyara's...” His voice cracked with the weight of his emotion at the thought of her murder.
“I'm... not dead yet...” A faint female voice grumbled. With great effort, the elven woman rolled onto her back, looking up weakly at Darlaenus. “Though I'll admit that I hurt like hell.” Both men turned and gazed at her in shock and awe. The prince knelt at her side, brushing strands of hair out of her face with trembling fingers. Tylan knelt beside Darlaenus and pushed up the sleeves of his robes, laying his hands on her shoulders. They glowed a faint yellow for several moments before subsiding again as he pulled them away. Illiyara sat up with care, cracking her neck and flinching at its soreness. Curiously, she pressed a hand to her back. She blinked as she brought her hand back up to her face, finding it free of blood. She smiled up at the human mage in thanks for the healing spell he just performed.
“How did you survive that... Illiyara, you were stabbed! I saw it!” Darlaenus whispered, still in shock. Illiyara lifted up her tunic a bit to show an embroidered leather chest piece hidden underneath. There was a vertical slit in the back with some dried blood on it, but it looked as if the armor prevented Rothgarde from inflicting a life-ending wound. Darlaenus helped her to stand, not letting go of her hand even after she got to her feet.
“Rothgarde is about to learn the true meaning of justice.” The human said to the elves. “Your kind will be hunted by us no longer, you have my word.” The robed human paused for a moment, gazing at Darlaenus in thoughtful reflection. “Once things have settled down, I will come visit you in the forest. Your natural aptitude for magic intrigues me, and I wonder if it is a trait inherent of all your kind. It is a mystery I wish to solve very soon.” With a wink and the blink of an eye, Tylan vanished with his mages, leaving Darlaenus and Illiyara alone. The woman gazed up at him from her place at his side, smiling.
“By the way, Darlaenus.” She said.
“I love you too.”
Creation Date: 6/7/2007