Chapter 31 House of Thondiair
The ride seemed agonizingly slow to Arthur. He knew the horses were exhausted and didn't' want to push them any faster than a walk. Dawn would soon break and Arthur started to nod in his saddle. "How much farther?" Gwaine asked the question Arthur was thinking.
"We are here."
Everyone looked around in confusion. Arthur didn't see anything that resembled a city. They were still surrounded by trees. Aldaras stood his horse to the right while the other elves stood side by side on the left, in front of two large Oak trees planted evenly of each other. Acting almost like an entrance. Their trunks thick and elegant.
Aldaras went first, followed by the silent elves. Shock overcame Arthur and the knights as the elves disappeared after passing between the two Oaks. A shimmer could be seen as the horses went through. It reminded Arthur of how the surface of water acted if you dropped a pebble and ripples formed afterwards. Quickly coming over their shock, Arthur was the first to follow them. Next Leon, Percival, then Iseldir after. As Arthur passed, he could see the shimmer all around him. It was pitch black, unable to see anything. The vail enveloped them for a second; then that second was gone. Arthur's jaw dropped open in astonishment. They faced a hidden valley. A roaring waterfall came towards them on their right. A river weaving down after it. The horse's hooves echoed off a cobble stone road. A bridge crossed over to the other side at a narrow point. Arthur could feel mist from the falls on his face, refreshing him. Arthur was even more amazed when he laid his eyes on the elven city. It stood on the edge of the cliff side, the stone structure elegant against the water. It looked almost new, as if time had not affected the buildings at all. Coming into a circular courtyard, Arthur saw Thondiair and Asiniell at the bottom of steps, leading up to a large, one level Estate. He had expected there to be a castle like Camelot.
"Greetings King Arthur" Thondiair stated. "I am very pleased you have come."
"Thank you for your hospitality" Arthur responded politely.
"We must waste no time. Emrys is in mortal danger, your horses will be taken care of and well rested while our healers attend to Merlin." The knights, Iseldir, and Arthur quickly dismounted. As Arthur took Merlin down, their exhausted horses were led away. Percival offered to carry Merlin, which was denied. Following Thondiair and Asiniell, the group was brought up the steps, being taken into the Manor. Arthur didn't pay attention to his surroundings, only focusing on one foot in front of the other. Glancing at the man in his arms, Merlin was looking worse. He was starting to pale, with his breathing slowing. Merlin didn't appear relaxed either. He was tense as his face had a hard look of concentration on it. Merlin's eyes were still closed, and the lids were scrunched up a little. Arthur began to worry more now.
They came to a large room. Not as big as Arthur and Gwen's chambers, but close. Inside was a comfortable looking bed, along with a table holding crucibles next to many types of herbs piled on top of each other. A window on the opposite wall brought in fresh air. Four women stood on the outside of the room, waiting for them. They all had similar features; thin figures, tall, and dark hair. "We have everything prepared as you've ordered My Lord." One of them said addressing Thondiair.
Thondiair went in first, quickly followed by Arthur. The rest piling in after. Arthur laid Merlin gently on the wide bed. "I request for this room to be cleared." The same elf that spoke to Thondiair said. "We will need the space to do our work." Arthur had agreed. Of course he wanted to stay and make sure Merlin would be okay. But logic told him that he would be in the way and arguing would waste precious time. Arthur turned, signaling his knights to leave. With a last glance, Arthur last saw the women already grinding herbs, closing the door behind them. "My wife will assist them" Thondiair spoke. "Asiniell is one of the best healers we have. Merlin is in capable, hands."
"I am extremely grateful for your assistance. If there is any way I can repay you, just say the word."
Thondiair shook his head. "We do not seek reward Arthur. Emrys is as important to us as he is to the druids. We will do everything in our power to save him." Arthur smiled, although it did not reach his eyes. "Come, you all must be weary from your travels. Rooms will be prepared for you. Rest for now, once there is news, you will be alerted immediately."
Until now, Arthur didn't realize how tired he felt. Servants led them into opposite directions, Arthur followed the elf leading him sluggishly. Afraid he might fall asleep on his feet. As soon as his eyes began to drop, they came to his temporary quarters. A soft bed, similar to the one Merlin was now, stood against the wall next to a window. Outside, the first light of dawn was seeping through. Quickly changing into night clothes, Arthur was asleep before his head hit the pillow.
It was noon when Arthur woke. Groggily opening his eyes. It was hunger that kept him from his slumber. Looking around the room, Arthur found his clothes lying on a chair. Sighing, Arthur dragged himself from the comfortable mattress. Wishing Gwenevere was with him. Stumbling over to the chair, Arthur managed to dress. Despite what Merlin says, there are some things he can do by himself. Managing to find a servant, Arthur was directed to the kitchens. Arthur sat by himself, eating a bowl of beef stew with some warm bread. After his full, Arthur decided to explore a bit. Wandering around the building with no particular direction, Arthur found himself out on a terrace. He could see the whole valley from this point. Mist from the falls drifted slightly against the bridge they crossed earlier. Arthur smiled as he saw a reflection of a rainbow glistening from the sun's rays in the mist. The sound of the water seemed to calm him. Arthur leaned against the stone railing. Breathing in the sweet air, enjoying the view. He wasn't sure how long he stood there for until a voice made him jump. "Beautiful isn't it?" Turning his head, Arthur saw it was Thondiair. He wasn't sure why he didn't see it before, but the elf suddenly looked older, wisdom shone in his eyes. Arthur nodded at the question. "What is this place exactly?"
"The city's name, is El Paran. It may not look it, but it is century's old."
"How is it that my father's persecutions have not reached here?"
"As you know, when Uther began his reign of terror, we fled to Avalon. Wanting a home to come back to when Albion was promised, we placed a barrier over El Paran. Keeping it hidden from the rest of the world. Only those who know of its location, can it be found."
"If magic is free now, why do you not reveal yourselves?"
Thondiair sighed heavily. "Elves have learnt the secrets of magic long before men. As we taught our knowledge to them, we later learned it was a mistake. Many have used the art for their own selfish reasons. It should only be used to help instead of destroy. I do not want our knowledge to be mistreated again."
"I understand your decision, but what if you teach to the druids? They have always been a peaceful people even after the Great Purge; they do not have vengeful hearts."
Thondiair seemed to ponder what Arthur had said. "Perhaps. They are much more respectful of the magic arts. I will consider your proposal Arthur." He paused before speaking again, "You have grown into a wise king."
Arthur was about to reply when an elf came out onto the terrace. "My Lords," he said bowing before them. "I was sent to find you by the Lady Asiniell. It is not good news."