The heart of the eternal

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The devil you know

Ahravan had sent a lot of riders out to warn the tribes of the new danger, he was rather worried and couldn’t help but miss Rhawan, he felt alone. Oh he had been the Ath’ir long before he even met Rhawan but that was a long time ago and he had grown accustomed to Rhawan’s presence and support. Standing alone now felt strange and almost unnatural. He had his officers and brave warriors but it would have felt so much better if Rhawan had been there. He wondered when his Si’ish would return, and how things would become afterwards. He just prayed that the woman Rhawan had been sent to fetch was a decent person, he had had enough of dramatic womenfolk and if she was anything like his previous wife he would try to get rid of her somehow. The oracle said that great joy would come from this but he had his doubts still.

The fact that these small monsters had been sighted again was a cause for concern, he had thought that they were extinct and long gone but apparently some had survived the passage of time. Had that poor little village been an exception or would they have to prepare for more cases like this? He was feeling weary as he walked to the hut where the lead shaman lived, she was an elderly human with a somewhat dark attitude and a sarcastic view upon life but she was good at what she was doing and her connection with the world of spirits was undeniable. She was skinning a rabbit as he entered the hut and she gave him a swift glance and spat into the flames of her oven. “So, our great leader does honour this poor wretch with his presence, what do I owe the joy of this visit?”

Her voice was sharp and if you didn’t know her you would think that she was trying to insult him, Ahravan did know her though and it was all just a way of testing people, of seeing how they would react. “I have come to seek your advice wise one”

She scoffed. “Advice, ha, advice is like crabs these days, freely shared and not at all welcome.”

Ahravan had to grin, the eternal didn’t have that problem, only the humans who didn’t shave. “I wouldn’t say that, I would welcome your knowledge”

She laid down the half skinned rabbit and tilted her head. “So, what is it that you want to know oh great one?”

The sarcasm in her voice could have made smaller men angry but Ahravan just grinned. “There has been a sighting of demons again, a small village. Everybody dead”

She froze and her eyes told of disbelief. “Really? You burned everything I hope?”

He nodded. “Of course, no spawn could survive that blaze”

She sat down and pulled her shawl over her shoulders. “I don’t like this Ahravan, no, I don’t like this at all. I need to speak to the spirits, this has to mean something”

Ahravan frowned. “Are you sure?”

She nodded and grasped a small drum, it was round and flat and strange symbols were drawn onto the stretched leather. She found some pieces of bone in her pouch and laid them on the drum, then she started to chant and Ahravan shut up. She had to do this without being disturbed. She started to bang the underside of the drum and the bones were dancing over the leather, moving from symbol to symbol, her eyes were glittering in the darkness. Ahravan knew that she had some gifts his people didn’t, elves do rarely die and to them the other side is something incomprehensible. Humans do die eventually and they had a steady faith in the afterlife and so she could tell him things he never would be able to see for himself.

She kept banging the drum, and he knew that she could read a lot out of the way the bones moved and how they landed, her eyes were distant and yet keen and after a while she stopped and laid the drum down, she tilted her head. “Be aware Ahravan, danger is coming. I can see it clearly, the spirits are upset. Darkness is coming, the gate is no longer closed”

He swallowed hard. “Are you serious?”

She nodded and put the bones back into the pouch, her movements were those of a young person, swift and precise. “Yes, more beasts will come, prepare.”

He felt his heart speeding up.” Is there anything we can do?”

She stared at him. “Yes, remember the sacred pools, that is all the spirits said. And wait, when the time is right it is right. Not before.”

He frowned. “I am afraid that doesn’t tell me much at all.”

She cocked her head. “Oh but it does, sooner or later you will understand. Go now, I feel that danger is nearer than you can imagine and it is a mundane one, not one created by the forces of darkness at all”

Ahravan felt confused. “What?”

She sighed. “The evil of men, you will see it soon, first hand.”

She turned her back to him and he knew that this meant that she was done talking for now, he had to bow his head in respect and he left the cabin, feeling somewhat confused. Laupir was waiting for him outside of the hut, the man was holding a colt by the reins and he was petting the horse. Ahravan tilted his head. “Is that the son of Ayr’esh?”

Laupir grinned. “Aye, his first. I am starting the training today, and I am having great expectations. Dhai is gonna be a good steed for sure”

Ahravan petted the colt too, he wasn’t as tall as his sire and the temper seemed to be a more gentle one. “Have you managed to get hold of a Da’ith?”

Laupir nodded. “I sent a raven off to the south, to one I know and asked for them to send their best northwards. The answer was promising, they have one available and they will send it to you, as a tribute.”

Ahravan smiled, he was looking forwards to this. “Excellent, if we are in luck it will arrive before my bride does”

Laupir smiled. “Probably. I know the riders from those tribes, they ride like the wind and their horses needs little rest at all.”

Ahravan still felt worried, the evil of men? What had the shaman meant by that?

He went off to train some of the recruits and then he took a long ride around the camp with some of his riders. Some of the herders had complained about a pack of wolves which was too bold for their own good and he ordered that the best guard dogs were set to watch the herds of sheep. The cattle could look after themselves, the long horned cows were aggressive and pity upon the wolf which believed that it could get a calf easily. It would end up skewered by sharp horns. The area hadn’t much snow and the little that was had blown into drifts along the hills and the grass was still edible so the animals had plenty to feed upon. It was a good thing, he remembered winters when the herds had starved and summers when the heat had driven the animals mad. That evening there was a feast in honour of one of the gods the tribes did worship and everybody was cheerful and the wine did flow freely. Ahravan sat there and felt melancholic, he missed Rhawan again and didn’t feel like he could contribute to the merriment. Word games were popular among the tribes and clans and usually one person would start and try to explain a word or expression just by body movements, the one who got it right had to continue and soon everybody were roaring with laughter. Ahravan did sigh and knew he had to be present for yet a few hours, it was his duty and he felt that he was getting a slight headache. When the music finally died down and the party goers did return to their huts Ahravan was drunk and felt miserable, he stumbled back to his own tent and fell onto the bed, missing Rhawan intensely and feeling very insecure when it came to the future.

Mjorr and Dagar had been travelling fast and they had reached one of the larger cities by now. It lay along the trading route and Mjorr was fascinated by it, he had never been this far from his home before and he was staring at everything with huge eyes. Dagar didn’t like that, it told everybody that his son was new there and that was unwise. He told Mjorr to stay calm and pretend as if everything he saw was well known for him already. They weren’t there to trade and they just passed through the city on their way. But many tried to talk to them still and Dagar knew how to deal with tenacious salesmen, he got rid of them one after the other. Mjorr was staring at the women in the streets, most were married and well above their youth but there were fair maidens too and also some women Dagar knew were whores. You could easily tell for they wore their hair in a particular manner and their gowns were too low cut to be decent. Mjorr was leering at them and Dagar felt a sting of anger, his son was a red blooded male but that didn’t mean that he should think with his pecker instead of his head. It was unwise to let the contents of his pants point the way, but Mjorr did that all the time and Dagar had started to grow a bit tired of it. He was not that much better than his son but he did know the meaning of the word discretion and he could control himself. Mjorr had little or no self-restraint when it came to females and Dagar was getting worried. He had often had to cover up when Dagar had gone too far and either raped a girl or begotten a bastard somewhere but now he was starting to see just how out of control Mjorr really was. The lad was leering at the females they passed by, even those Dagar would categorize as darn ugly. He was staring to learn a lot about his son these days that he didn’t appreciate at all. Dagar was a businessman, he was hard and played a tough game and there was no room for compassion or softness in his heart but he did love his son and heir like every man should and he was starting to feel some doubt. Had he been too soft on the lad?

Dagar didn’t care about his daughter at all, she was there, that was all but the fact that she had run off had infuriated him since it made him look bad and ruined the chance of creating a good business connection. His honour dictated that he had to punish her, and to do that he had to find her. It irked him that they hadn’t caught up with those goddamn eternal yet and he swallowed the doubt and the little voice in his head which claimed that perhaps that was for the best. He had seen those overly tall and overly pretty creatures and he wasn’t an idiot, he knew power when he saw it, rather well as a matter of fact. So if they were to succeed they would have to be careful and play their game well, and be discrete and stealthy. Mjorr was everything but, everyone with eyes would notice the way he behaved and remember it too and Dagar was contemplating sending Mjorr back home but they didn’t have enough men to escort him and lately the lad hadn’t been very obedient at all. He would most likely just follow from a distance. Dagar didn’t know of the men Mjorr had sent ahead of them and that was good for if he had then Mjorr would have experienced discipline first hand. Dagar had never lain a hand on his son but something like that would have earned the lad a good spanking, beyond any doubt. Even if he was a grown man by now. Mjorr was enjoying the sights, wolf whistling at some of the girls they rode by, making obscene gestures towards the less than honourable females they saw and having a good time. He was rather sure that the men he had hired were getting closer to the caravan and that they were ready to get rid of that goddamn cunt. He should have killed her himself, hid her somewhere. That would have been easy now in the winter and if she was found come the thaw nobody would think it was anything else than an accident. He was angry at himself for she hadn’t been that good at all, he had had way better many times.

But travelling was fun and interesting and he found that he forgot about their goal rather often, he wished that he could return to these cities when they were done, there was so much to see there and so much pussy to fuck and he was sure he would be very popular there. He had money, he had power and he was young and rather handsome too, oh yes, the females would flock around him. He grinned to himself, they had stayed at an inn some nights ago and he had given his father the one room they had been able to rent, he had slept in the hay and he hadn’t been alone. A few gold coins had ensured that the stable master’s daughter and her friend had spent some hours with him and if he had been a bit rough with them, well, who cared? They were whores, it wasn’t as if he had taken their virtue or anything and if getting fucked in the ass went against their principles he didn’t care. That way he wouldn’t risk any more bastards. He knew he had some but he didn’t care, they were nothing he cared about. Some day he would have to marry of course to have a legitimate heir but that was far ahead in the future. He bet his father would chose a bride for him but the old man would have to reconsider that, he would pick a spouse when he was good and ready, not before. And that had to be a woman of exceptional beauty, chaste and rich and obedient. Yes, preferably some noble woman, he was sure he would be able to increase their wealth and influence enough for the nobility to accept them.

Mjorr was daydreaming and they rode out of the city gates and Dagar was getting a bit tired. He wasn’t young anymore and spending day after day on horseback was taking its toll of him, he felt it in his bones and he ached in places he normally wouldn’t ache at all. It was the price to pay for all this but he didn’t like it, he had always been strong and vigorous and being reminded of his age wasn’t funny at all. He stayed straight and rode well but he knew that it would get worse, way worse. The valley they were in was rather steep and the roads treacherous so they had to ride carefully and here and there they had to stop to remove snow and ice from the horses hooves. Dagar did this himself but Mjorr let one of the men do it for him, he didn’t even dismount and Dagar knew he had spoiled the lad. They were rich and they had influence but that didn’t mean that you could sit on your arse and do nothing and that was just what Mjorr intended to do. Dagar was sad he only had one son, if he had had more the competition would have shaped them into strong men, hard men. Mjorr was too used to getting away with everything he did and Dagar had been too proud to see how he had allowed the boy’s flaws to become a real problem. When they got back home he would have to change things, a lot.

When the group reached the large lake known as Aivarhat Mjorr had started to become bored again, there were few people travelling at this time of the year and he had started to feel a bit strange. They stopped to rest the horses and that was when Mjorr got the first taste of what karma was all about. He had to take a piss and got off his horse and sauntered over to the bushes by the road. Normally he wasn’t shy at all but he didn’t want to flash the men they had brought since they could get jealous of his endowment. In truth Mjorr wasn’t that well endowed at all but nobody had ever dared to tell him that. He got his pride out of his pants and relaxed and that was when it hit, a piercing burning pain unlike anything he had ever felt before. He yelped and stared down, the joy of his life was sore and a bit red and was that puss?

Mjorr cussed, so bad it was a miracle he didn’t spontaneously combust there and then. He had caught some sort of venereal disease from those two cunts! Fuck it. He couldn’t tell his dad for then Dagar would blow a fuse and demand to know what he had done to get sick. He finished peeing while moaning and whimpering, it felt like he was pissing fire! There had to be something he could do to get rid of this? He would ask the men, they had been around and he bet that they had experienced something like this. But not his dad, no way. Mjorr tucked himself back inn, shivering and sweating and he just hoped that it wouldn’t get any worse than this. Perhaps some good brandy would cure it? Yes for sure, that would fix just about anything, Dagar did have a bottle in his saddle bags. Come the nightfall he would help himself to some, then the problem would be solved.

The morning after a feast used to be very peaceful, in fact it was strange if anyone got up and out of bed before noon. Ahravan woke up to the feeling of having a head made of lead and a tongue covered with cotton, or at least that was how it felt. He cussed and sat up, his head was spinning and he felt a bit nauseous. He had tossed back too many goblets of wine last night, that was for darn sure. He could drink a lot and he often did too but this? Oh by the Gods, he had downed several bottles. What had gotten into him? Except the wine that is? He wobbled over to where he kept his washing equipment and poured some cold water into a bowl before washing his face. It did sting a bit since the water was at freezing temperature but it did refresh him and he washed his entire body thoroughly, not just his face. It did help a lot, then he got redressed and found some drinking water and forced himself to drink as much as he could before he prepared for the day. There would be no training this day, most of the young ones were in no shape to train and he was pretty sure that this also was true for the more mature warriors.

He found some cheese and bread and sat down to eat, the cheese was the soft almost buttery kind he was very fond off and he enjoyed the slightly nutty flavour. The twelve clans did make many types of cheese, from a sort made from goats milk which was stored for years and so hard you needed a good knife to even carve tiny slices out of it to a type which was so soft it was almost like sour cream in texture. But all were delicious and he had to think about that one time when they had visited some tribe living to the far south and it made him cringe. They too ate cheese, lots and lots of cheese and their speciality was a type which had smelled like old unwashed socks and underwear and the taste had been even worse, but they loved it so it had to be something you had to get used to. He was planning on going for a ride, just to clear his head, the weather was nice now with a clear sky and no wind so he was rather sure that it would cure his headache rather fast. He had several good riding horses beside Ayr’esh and he wanted to take his favourite mare for a ride. She was a very nice dapple grey with a muscular rear and an elegant build and she was the fastest horse he owned, at least over shorter distances. Ahravan was thinking about Greyflower and a trip to the nearest river as he got his cloak and boots on, sunny weather didn’t mean warm on this time of the year and you had to dress well. He attached his sword and his two long knives to his belt and found the short rider’s bow he always carried if he was out on his own.

The camp was relatively quiet still as he emerged from his hut, some kids were running around playing and squealing and some of the elderly humans had gathered by some tables to chat and play a board game. It was rather complicated and you needed both dice, some very elaborately carved figurines and more than a hundred small balls in four different colours. Ahravan loved that game but he had never been any good at it, there were just too many possible moves and the rules were numerous as well. He was heading towards the corral where the riding horses were and he stopped by the tent where they kept the saddles and tack, he owned several very good and valuable saddles and his people were extremely conscious about the tack the horses wore. They would never make a horse wear tack which could harm them in any way and most of the elves rode without a bit, just a halter and some simple reins. He had seen way too many horses with sores and injuries from ill fitted saddles and also animals with their gums and mouths torn by sharp bits so in this city any damage to a horse was regarded as just as bad as damage to a person and it would be punished accordingly.

Greyflower was a very ticklish mare and she didn’t like to wear a saddle at all so he usually rode her with just a pad and a girdle, she accepted that but nothing more elaborate and he was humming as he strolled towards the corral.

He had started to open the gate when a call was heard and he turned around and stared, one of the citizens came running towards him, obviously upset and he now saw that some people were gathering near one of the huts on the outskirts of the city. He closed the gate and tilted his head, the person who approached him was an elf, a rather spindly looking fellow with very long blond hair and soft brown eyes. Ahravan didn’t remember his name but knew that this one made a living embroidering leather and cloth and designing carpets. The male stopped and he was heaving for air. “Ath’ir, I apologize for interrupting, but my children…they have gone missing…”

Ahravan frowned. “Missing?”

The male nodded. “They weren’t in their beds this morning”

Ahravan hung the saddle pad on the fence. “How many are they and how old?”

The elf swallowed hard, there was fear in his eyes. “It is my youngest daughter and my son, she is twelve and he is fifteen”

Ahravan felt a sting of worry, a twelve years old elf is the equivalent to a four year old human and fifteen was a five year old. They were very young indeed. “Tell me more”

The elf nodded. “I have two more daughters but they are adults, and they have their own hut. Both the children were fast asleep when my wife and I returned from the feast and we sent the baby sitter back home. But they were both gone when we woke up, oh Gods!”

Ahravan tried to think, two kids of that age couldn’t have gotten far and someone had to have seen them? “Is there someone they could have gone to visit? A friend perhaps? A relative?”

The male shook his head. “We have already checked, nobody has seen them”

Ahravan followed the elf back to the group, a weeping female was in the centre of it and he realized that this was the wife of the male. She did look terrified and Ahravan walked over. “What were they wearing?”

The female sobbed. “They had taken their coats and boots, but nothing else. Oh Gods, please, find my children!”

Ahravan saw that several of his warriors were approaching them, curious and alarmed and he sighed. They would need to organize a search party. “Children will often be impulsive, there isn’t something they have seen recently which they would seek out? Somewhere you have been? Children that young doesn’t think very far you know”

The father was thinking and the mother blinked and then she gasped. “The small holt east of here, we were there three days ago to pick nuts, it could be that they wanted to return to that place for there were some very playful squirrels there and they said they wanted to go back and play some more”

Ahravan snapped his fingers. “There we have it, they have probably gone off to find the squirrels then, and they don’t have a perception of distance at that age.”

The father did look relieved. “They cannot have gotten far”

Ahravan shook his head. “No, find a horse and we will ride out now, I bet we will find them rather fast”

Some of the warriors did join them and Ahravan rode Greyflower and let the father borrow one of his other horses, a tall brown gelding. The holt was an hours ride away and Ahravan felt pretty confident that they would find the two rather easily. They would be cold and tired and probably scared too but there shouldn’t be too many dangers out there at this time of the year and nobody had seen wolves or other predators this close to the camp. The wind had removed what little snow there had been so there were no tracks to follow but they spread out and rode slowly and Ahravan saw that the father was swearing to himself. “What is bothering you my friend?”

The male shook his head. “I drank too much last night, as did my wife too. We were drunk, if we had stayed sober we would have woken up when the kids tried to get dressed”

Ahravan sighed deeply. “Don’t think about that, children are often very good at sneaking away when the parents least of all expect it. I did sneak out of my parents hut when I was just ten and they found me playing in the dog pen, my mother had been awake and working on an embroidery the whole time.”

They rode at a steady pace over the frozen plain and the riders made sure that every bush and every rock was examined, even the snowdrifts were checked for footprints but there wasn’t anything to be seen. Ahravan started to get a bit confused, they hadn’t seen anything yet and by now they should have caught up with the kids. Had he been wrong in his assumption? Had the children taken a different path after all?

The father looked worried again and Ahravan stood up on the horse’s back to get a better over view of the surroundings. He saw nothing and the holt was already visible in the distance. The last stretch was completely flat and there were nothing to be seen at all, just untouched grass.

The male was urging his horse on. “Fheliel will murder me if something has happened to them, it was I who convinced her that it was alright to have some more wine”

Ahravan shook his head again. “Listen, you cannot blame yourself Erabhan, it isn’t your fault. Children are rather rambunctious at that age”

Erabhan did sent him a look filled with despair and the other riders were circling them, looking for tracks. One of the warriors came over, he reined in his horse and bowed his head. “My lord, there are no tracks here, the snow is pristine. Even if they strayed off course we would have seen some tracks by now”

Ahravan took a deep breath and Erabhan let out a thin wail of despair. “Pick two swift riders, ride to the holt and check it, then return to us, I feel we may be looking in the wrong place”

The rider did nod and turned the horse and he took off with two others at his heels. Ahravan wheeled Greyflower around and the father was grey faced and trembling. “Is there somewhere else they could have gone? Some place they would be attracted to?”

The male shook his head. “Not that I know off, but…”

He fell silent for a few seconds, then he went even paler than before. “Oh Gods, the baby sitter, she took them to the river a week ago, to wash clothes. They could have been heading in that direction?”

Ahravan took a deep breath, the river wasn’t ice covered yet and very dangerous. “Let’s ride, everybody, ride hard”

He spurred the mare and she took off like an arrow from a good bow, the powerful hind legs did drive the animal up to an insane speed. Ahravan rode to the camp again, there he switched to another horse, a long legged colt and Erabhan caught up with him just as he got in the saddle. Ahravan did shout orders, he sent riders out in every direction and they were to check the entire area around the city for fresh tracks, he didn’t trust that the kids had been that predictable after all and as he rode towards the river he felt a knot of fear in his gut. He was rather sure that this would end badly.

The river wasn’t that far from the camp, and it was wide and the current strong but it wasn’t very deep, you could easily ride across it without any problems but a small child didn’t stand a chance if it fell in. The women had found a perfect place for washing, it was an area with smooth rocks which tilted at a very low angle into the water and here and there were loose rocks where you could sit or hang your laundry. Some baskets were left there and also some long hard pieces of wood which were used as a tool to get the filth out of the clothes. Some buckets of soap did also stand there where they had been left and Ahravan did dismount and started to walk around. He was the first to arrive and there were no signs there of anyone having visited the place since the day before. He saw no fresh foot prints in the sand along the river’s edge and he ran along it for a while. He was getting more and more confused, where could the children be? The camp was surely searched by now, not a basket or mat unturned and even the tents where kids had no business being was being examined. And they were not by the river? Erabhan did weep by now, he was shaking and Ahravan tried to understand, he had never been a father and he had never experienced the loss of a family member in such a manner but if something had happened to Rhawan he would become very affected indeed. “They are not here, they must have taken off in some other direction”

Erabhan shook his head. “But why, and where to? There is just the plain, nothing which can tempt a child?”

Ahravan was grimacing, he tried to imagine being a toddler, new to the world and infinitely curious. The children of the twelve clans were trustful and fearless, they were used to being looked after and didn’t fear anything really. It was a dangerous thing in some manners but being innocent is one of the glories of being a child. Ahravan did mount again. “Ride back, comfort your wife. Nobody will rest until they are found.”

Erabhan sobbed. “I have lost them, I know I have lost them”

Ahravan didn’t quite know what to say. “I am sure we will find them, how far could they have gotten?”

He kicked the horse into a trot and started making circles around the washing site, just to check that the kids hadn’t reached the river somewhere else. He rode for a long time but saw nothing and when he did return to the city there were people everywhere. Many had ridden out to help in the search while others were just waiting for news and many were worried. There were many children in the city and the parents were naturally afraid that something similar would happen to their little ones. The day did slide by with the speed of a slug, everybody was on edge, waiting for some sort of news and when the sun set the atmosphere was one of despair. Nothing had been seen and Ahravan was starting to feel that this was something way different from what he had first believed. The children couldn’t have gotten that far off on their own? Or could they?

It was dark when one of the scouts rode into camp on a horse which was close to collapsing with fatigue, the rider dismounted and his eyes were wild. “I have seen something, a camp fire I think, by the cliffs north of the Wolf’s pond. And I think I heard screams”

Ahravan was on his feet. “You are alone?”

The rider nodded, he was a young human and didn’t carry any weapons. “Yes my lord, had I ridden with anyone I would have investigated. But I deemed it more wise to ride back here for backup”

Ahravan patted him on his back. “A very wise decision indeed!”

He turned around, waved his hand. “Gather all my best warriors, and bring my horse”

Erabhan came running. “I am going too”

Ahravan laid his hands on the male’s shoulders. “I wouldn’t think that this is wise my friend, if something…”

Erabhan grasped Ahravan’s collar with both hands, the eyes were wild. “I have to know! You cannot stop me from coming along”

Ahravan sighed. “Right, I know but do as you are being told.”

Erabhan nodded and one of the warriors came running with Ayr’esh. The huge stallion was pawing the ground and Ahravan mounted swiftly. He saw that the lad had been given another very fast horse, a white stallion by the name of Windseeker who belonged to Rhawan. What he wouldn’t have given to have his Si’ish by his side now. By now there were almost fifty riders gathered and the youth looked excited but also nervous. “It is a long ride my lord”

Ahravan sent him a swift smile. “I know, but we can ride fast even in darkness, just hang on”

He let the great warhorse speed forth and the others followed him like one. Reaching that cliff would take hours, even at this speed.

They left their horses by a small groove of bushes, the animals were well trained and wouldn’t whinny and Ahravan ordered the lad to stay with the animals, he had a nagging feeling within his guts, this was not boding well. They saw the camp fire, it was a distance away and looked like a deranged firefly from where they were. The warriors were skilled and experienced and Ahravan turned to them. “I will move closer, you follow. If this is something which require that we make our presence known I will hoot like a burrowing owl, got it?”

They all nodded and Erabhan was trembling. “What is this?”

Ahravan swallowed hard. “I do not know, yet. But if someone were screaming we should investigate, so, be quiet and if this is just some innocent travellers we won’t even let them know we were here”

He moved forth, as an elf he had excellent nightvision and he had no problems finding his way. He heard voices, laughter even. He cocked his head, the voices were male and human and he closed his eyes, concentrated. Some horses were tied not far from the camp, small sturdy animals and he could smell them. He walked over to a huge rock, peeked forth from behind it. It was five humans and they were poorly clad and he could smell sweat and smoke and meat gone bad. These were men without a tribe, probably outlaws and he felt a sting of anger. Then he heard something which made him freeze, it was a sort of whimper and it was coming from the other side of the camp. He knew his men were behind him and he did sneak forth with the speed and stealth of a huge cat.

The camp was a simple one, just a fire and some bedrolls and not even a real tent. He heard movements and more whimpers and he did crouch down beside a bush. The light was very bad there but he saw. A man was laying there and Ahravan saw only his legs and his butt for his upper body was hidden behind a rock. But that butt was moving in a very tell tale manner and Ahravan could barely make out the shape of something underneath the man. He could smell blood now and seed and fear, heard the sound of flesh smashing into flesh and heard the man grunt and pant. Ahravan felt cold to the core, this couldn’t be true? No, this…this wasn’t real. He got up, slowly, moved closer so he could confirm what he otherwise wouldn’t wish to see at all.

The rock shielded him, the man couldn’t see in the dark the way an elf does and what Ahravan saw almost made him reveal his whereabouts, much against his own will. The small body was almost entirely covered by the man’s bulk, and Ahravan saw the naked skin which looked like snow in the darkness. The child was on its stomach, and the man was eagerly thrusting into the small torso, groaning in anticipation of his release. Ahravan blinked, he just…How could anyone… He had never anticipated something like this, not at all. The man tensed up and roared in delight, the body shuddering. Ahravan started to breathe again, he felt a surge of white hot rage and sorrow burst through him and he hooted twice, knew that his warriors would hear him. He couldn’t stand it, couldn’t stand seeing this. He did draw his blade and with a swift move he did slide forth, kicked the jerking man off the tiny body and rammed his blade down through the man’s chest. The man let out a sort of hoarse roar and trembled before he went limp and Ahravan felt like throwing up.

The warriors did reveal themselves and grasped onto the five other men, swiftly subduing them with ropes. Ahravan looked down, it was the small boy who laid there, the body didn’t move and Ahravan felt tears stinging his eyes. He rolled him over gently, trying not to look at the bloody thighs and the visual evidence of what had been done to him. The eyes were open and stared straight up, empty and frozen in an expression of horrified confusion. It made Ahravan whimper in horror, the boy was still breathing but judging by the amount of blood there he was fading fast.

Erabhan came running, he stopped when he saw his son and let out the most horrible sound Ahravan had ever heard in his life, a terrible piercing wail he never would have been able to believe that an elf was capable of. The male fell to his knees and grasped the body of his son, rocket it back and forth, screaming in agony and sorrow. Ahravan felt cold, as if his bones had turned to ice and he walked over to the other warriors. They were pale and the rage was visible on their faces. “Where is the girl?”

The men didn’t answer, one of them did spit and Ahravan nodded to the warriors, two disappeared into the darkness to go looking and before long they returned. One of them carried the body, covered with his cloak. The warrior was crying. “She…she lay by their horses….My lord…”

Ahravan waved his hand at one of the elves. “Siarhan, you are a healer, what are her injuries”

Siarhan nodded and used the cloak to hide the body as he examined it swiftly. When he was done he was pale as ash and his face wet from his tears. “My lord, they have…She is torn apart, must have bled out”

One of the men spat on the ground and grinned. “They say elven cunt is the best and I must say that both the cunt and the ass was nice indeed”

Ahravan was breathing heavily and Erabhan was wailing still, some of the warriors wrapped the two bodies into their cloaks and lead him away, he needed to calm down. Ahravan felt how white hot anger filled his entire body, he would show no mercy now. “So, you kidnapped two children just to sate your own perverted lust.”

One of them men whimpered. “We saw them outside of that camp, heading for the river. It was easy”

Ahravan closed his eyes, his heart was beating like a war drum. “I have faced evil before, but nothing like this. You are to be punished by our laws, here and now!”

The men did struggle against their bonds but elven rope is extremely strong, they didn’t stand a chance. The warriors were shocked and disgusted and in disbelief and they still heard Erabhan crying, he hadn’t been sedated and they didn’t know how to deal with this at all. Ahravan turned to two of the elves, he felt how his voice was tense and harsh. “We need spears, five of them”

The two warriors just nodded and took off towards where the horses were hidden, they had brought their long spears for they could be handy if they came across wild boar or other animals. Most carried one and they were usually very well made and rather heavy. The human warriors carried spears of less length than their elven counterparts but Ahravan had asked for the elven type now. They were almost four meters tall and more like a lance than a spear really. The small group of outlaws hadn’t yet realized what they were up for, they were cussing and trying to get away from the elves still and Ahravan stared at them with hard eyes. They were scum, less than that. He had never believed that anyone could be that wicked. He had seen evil enough but that had been of a different type, the monsters were created that way, they didn’t chose to be a terrible threat to everything and everyone. It was their nature. This on the other hand…He couldn’t even start to comprehend what it was all about.

After a while the two came back with spears and Ahravan told them to remove the metal blades at the end but shape the wood into blunt points. The leader was staring at them with narrow eyes, he didn’t understand how these spears could be useful for anything without a head and Ahravan walked over to where the man was sitting, the guy did stink and his tunic was so dirty it could have stood on its own. Ahravan kicked the man over, the anger was still seething within him and he needed to get some of it out. He did notice something which hung around the man’s neck, a sort of medallion. He bent down and snapped the rawhide string it was attached to, the medallion did look rather primitive but it was made from bronze and he recognized the symbol on it, a sort of disk with several arms coming out of it. It as a symbol connected to the monsters, to the old magic and those who had been on the side of evil back then. He hissed and hid the medallion in his pocket, it was a wicked thing. “Where did you get that, answer me!”

The man just growled. “From your mother!”

Ahravan kicked the man again, under the chin and he spat blood and broken teeth and shook his head. “Speak, or I will make sure that your death is the slowest and most agonizing one you can imagine.”

The man growled. “I found it, in a cave near the white mountains”

Ahravan felt a surge of nervous energy, the white mountains was where the monsters had come from the first time they entered this world and some said that it was where the centre of the power had been. The medallion could be very important then, a relic of some sorts. He bent down and stared the man in the eyes. “So, you found it in a cave, what else was in there?”

The man looked down. “Some dead bodies, had been dead for decades, some sorts of priests judging by the clothes. And a small crate with coins. Nothing else”

Ahravan stored it in his memory, for some reason it made him feel unwell. He got back up and nodded to his men. “We will start with that one over there, he is the largest of them”

They pulled the man forth and he screamed and fought but to no prevail. Ahravan’s warriors did strip him down to his skin and the human was a pathetic sight, the body soft and hairy and the legs spindly and weak. Ahravan growled. “I follow the law of my people as I punish you for murder, you will die as you have killed”

The man stared at them, wide eyed and confused until they bent him down over a rock and got the spear ready. Then he started to scream and struggle even more and Ahravan didn’t feel any sort of sympathy at all, they had all abused the children, no mercy would be given. The warriors did push the blunt point into the man’s rear and his screams became desperate screeches of agony and fear. The other four started to realize what their fate would be and begged for mercy but Ahravan did close his ears completely. They didn’t deserve mercy at all. When the spear was lodged in the man’s ass two of the elves did flip the spear up and since the man had his arms tied behind his back he could do nothing. His own weight made sure that he was slowly being impaled upon the spear and he was jerking and kicking and wailing as the shaft slid deeper and deeper into the body and pierced its way through tissue and organs.

They made sure that the spear wouldn’t tip over and then they grasped the next one. It was the same procedure and Ahravan stood there with a face made from stone and just watched as the men were impaled one by one, their screams could be heard all over the plains. Erabhan came over when it was the leaders turn, his tears had dried and now Ahravan saw black hatred in the elf’s eyes. “Let me do it, I need to do it”

Ahravan swallowed and nodded “Of course, it is your privilege”

The grieving father grasped the last spear and weighed it in his hands, the others did strip the leader and he was bawling with fear now. The man had pissed himself and Ahravan saw that he was far from being brave now that he faced the end. The others were still alive, it took time to die this way and it was a terrible agony they had to endure but it was the law.

Erabhan did didn’t just jab the spear inn, like it had been done with the others. He did push the spear end against the man’s rectum almost gently, slowly pushing inn and then pulling out again and the man wailed and tried to resist but that was hopeless. Erabhan was growling. “Does this give you pleasure human? The same pleasure you took from raping my children?”

The man was gaping as the elf pushed the spear inn, Erabhan was strong and Ahravan hadn’t believed that he could get that much of it inn all on his own. The leader’s eyes were bulging and his mouth was wide open, he was making some ghastly choking sounds. Erabhan nodded at the others. “Raise the spear, but at an angle, let it be slow!”

The warriors did raise the spear and unlike the other it didn’t point straight up, they aimed it somewhat lower so it would take more time before the man died. Ahravan didn’t say anything, he just stood there, watching. The men were writhing in agony, blood seeping down the spear shafts and he knew that sooner or later the spears would pierce something vital and kill them. Ahravan turned to the warriors. “Five of you, bring Erabhan and the bodies back home, the rest stays here with me until these pieces of filth are dead”

Five of the riders immediately obeyed and Ahravan felt tired. The shock of what he had seen lingered still, he hadn’t truly believed that humans could be that cruel. But now he knew and he did miss Rhawan even more than before, he forced himself to remain calm, to think straight. It was beyond him how anyone could be this cruel and without remorse, had these men had sick minds? No elf would ever do anything like this, it was simply impossible. Oh he had encountered crime before, some really nasty ones in fact but nothing had ever been as terrible as this. He just stood there like a statue, motionless and cold until the last of the men did draw his final breath. Then he went over to his horse again and found some wine in a flask from the saddle bags, he took some quick sips, just to wet his tongue. This had turned his mouth dry. The warriors were waiting for his orders and he got up onto the horse with a grimace. “Let the bodies hang, they do not deserve a grave. Let the wolves and the vultures feast”

He turned the horse and let it trot towards the camp again, he didn’t look back even once, now he had to reassure his people that they were safe and that nothing like this could happen again. He had a heavy lump in his gut though, telling him that maybe this wasn’t the end, but the start of something really truly bad.

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