It looked as if it was a hundred mansages, its trunk was colossal it would take at least 50 good strong orcs holding hands to surround it.
The old oak reached up to the sky, its branches stretched as if it wanted to grab hold of the clouds that were lazily floating by. Yes it had seen a lot, just about everything there was to see. A hundred years standing in the same place, it knew every creature that came close to it. The tiny insects that scurried inside it, the owl sleeping inside it during the day and flew out at night only to return with its nightly catch and the crows nesting in its crown.
It remembered the humans who engraved their names in the bark, the two lovers Hagar and Christa. The old blacksmith Garmer who had buried his beloved wife under it and how it caressed her with its roots, the oreads that danced around it at night when the sky was clear and the moon lit the branches and created both beautiful and sometimes frightening shadows, and how the faun Angelon would scare it with his tales of things unseen.
It was old and tired and the holes inside of it where the children played pained it, and sometimes it wished for the lightning that came from the dark clouds during the rainy season would strike it and bring it up to the sky so it could sail with the clouds, or turn it back to the mull and dirt so that it yet again could live as a young tree.
Bron closed his left eye and stared at the oak, an easy target, it would not move. He raised the bow and stretched it, he let go of the string and let an imaginary arrow soar through the air and hit the tree right where he had aimed it.
A wolf was laying in the grass next to the great oak, its fur was pitch black. It looked at him, tilted its head to the side wondering what the master was up to.
Bron understood the look and nodded his head in agreement, the noise from the other side of the rise behind him was louder now, but he paid it no mind.
"Let them fight," he thought to himself.
He turned to the tree and once again stretched his bow as much as he could, this time he had an arrow as well. He closed his eye and let go of the string. The arrow sliced through the air and struck just a few inches from the target. The tree shrieked. The owl inside it woke up and began to hoot and flap its wings, the insects ran around, stumbling over each other in panic, was this the end of the world as they knew it?
Bron heard nothing. His soul was dark, his people the black elfs had lived separate from nature for so long and mistreated it that they no longer listened to it. This was without a doubt the reason they were hated by all the fairy folk not least the wood elves, their closest cousins.
Bron loaded his bow and took aim again, but this time he could sense that he was not alone, the wolf rose and walked towards him, its eyes fixed on something behind the black elf.
On top of the hill stood a huge male orc, he was at least three times taller than Bron and four times wider. He was dressed in black leather garnished with the bones from fallen enemies. His nose was shaped like that of a pig, his eyes were yellow and his lower jaw stuck out from beneath his snout and revealed a pair of huge incisors. He held an axe in his hands, drenched in blood just like the rest of him.
"What in the name of the dark lord are you doing Bron?" the orc said. "You are supposed to keep a look out for enemies, not practice archery."
"Well Captain Oquart, Sir..." Bron started. "It's just so boring," his voice was trembling.
"Boring?" Oquart screamed, "I don't care, you do what you're supposed to. We all do what we're supposed to. You scout and I kill. Understood?"
"Well...I" Bron began , but was interrupted.
"Is that understood?"
"Yes sir captain."
"Good, and the next time I catch you doing something other than keeping watch I'll kill you," Oquart turned around and ran back to the field.
Bron turned and kicked a rock that flew into the hollow of the oak. He turned to the wolf who again had laid itself down in the grass. He patted its back.
"Dear Moonshadow," he whispered to it "I too want to go into battle, I too want to kill elves and humans."
Moonshadow closed his eyes and whimpered to show that he understood. Bron walked up to the oak, took out the arrow, laid his hand on it and said in a low voice:
"I bet you've seen a lot, if only you could speak."
If only you would listen, the old oak said, but Bron didn't hear it.
Bron walked back to Moonshadow and lay down, he put his head on the wolf’s back and closed his eyes.
Suddenly Bron woke, he had fallen asleep. He could hear faint voices. He concentrated, now he could hear that the voices were human. He couldn't understand the language, but he knew that the voices were most certainly human. Now they were coming closer, they were coming his way and they were on horseback. He rose quickly and so did Moonshadow.
What was he to do? Warn the others of course, but the humans were coming at such great speed that they would surely be upon him before he could reach the top of the hill. The next thing that came to mind was to hide, but where? Then he came to think of the stone he had kicked into the oak. He quickly ran to the tree and ducked into its shelter, he called for Moonshadow who did the same.
The sound of horses came closer and closer. The ground began to shake. An awful thunder crashed on all sides of him, he looked up and he could see the backs of a hundred or more human warriors dressed in black leather, sitting atop huge black steeds. They were all carrying black weapons, their swords, shields and armor were all made from black steel. He had heard the orc leaders speak of these kinds of humans, an elite squadron of so called holy soldiers who were specialized in battling Dark folk. They were known as the Glimari and it was rumored that if they showed up at a battle their allies were assured victory.
Closing his eyes Bron sat frozen inside the tree gripping his companion, desperately trying to close out the sound of the battlefield and finally, after what seemed an eternity, it was quiet.
Slowly Bron opened his eyes again, as the sun was setting in the sky. Bron crawled towards the opening of his sanctuary and peeked outside, he listened, nothing, it was dead quiet not a single bird was singing, so he crawled out.
Bron looked up towards the hill and then began to climb towards the battlefield.
The little black elf had seen his share of death and destruction, but the sight that greeted him on top of the hill was a scene of blood and lives lost witnessed by few mortals. Hundreds of bodies of orcs, trolls, black elfs and humans lay scattered all over, the grass was no longer green, but dyed red. Bron slowly walked out on to the field, his boots treading on dead creatures, their bones crunching under his weight. For some reason Moonshadow would not follow his master. He began to poke at the bodies; it looked like the Glimari had wandered through the fallen Dark folk and made sure they were dead, because most of the bodies seemed to have a deep cut under the chin.
All of a sudden he stepped on something that gave away a low gargling sound. He quickly looked down at his foot and saw that he was standing on a man's arm. The man was still alive, he appeared to be young and he wore his blond hair long. His entire face was covered in blood and his eyes were mere slits. Bron could clearly see an arrow lodged in the young man's stomach and his hand was clutching the shaft, as if he somehow could stop his life from spilling out. The human looked at him with pleading eyes and grabbed Bron's leg, all the time letting off a low gargle, trying to prevent himself from suffocating on the blood welling out his mouth.
Bron stared at the helpless human lying there in his own blood. It would be so easy to finish him right there, it would be his first kill. Bron thought about it, he would cut off the human's head and bring it back and then he would be praised as a great warrior. He grabbed the man's hair with his left hand and moved his sword towards his victim's throat. He was shaking. The man's eyes opened wide and saw the sword moving closer and he tried to scream but all that would come out of his mouth was a dark mass of blood.
Just as Bron was about to deal the mortal blow his keen ears picked up something else; a noise. He turned his head towards the sound; it was two men, two of the Glimari. There was no mistaking their black uniforms. Bron let go of the human and ducked down among the dead bodies, he continued to stare at the two soldiers.
It looked as if they were searching for something. They turned bodies over with their feet and examined them closely. Bron thought to himself that as long as he kept quiet they would think he was a fallen enemy and leave.
Then the wounded human next to him raised his head and looked at his brothers in arms, he then turned to look at Bron and with blood trickling down his chin screamed with all his might, a scream that reverberated across the entire field, a scream filled with pain and agony.
The Glimari stopped dead in their tracks, looked at each other, pointed to where the scream originated, drew their swords and ran towards the place where their wounded friend and Bron were situated.
As Bron saw the men coming closer with their swords drawn, hate in their eyes and murder on their minds, it dawned on him that they knew that he was hiding there and that staying would mean certain death for him.
He made a swift decision, leapt to his feet and took off running, running towards his wolf, which was waiting for him. As he was closing in on the anxiously waiting Moonshadow he glanced behind him. The two Glimari had reached their wounded brother, but they quickly looked Bron's way, pulled out their longbows and began to run after him again. The distance to Moonshadow didn’t seem to shrink no matter how fast he was running, while the two humans gained on him.
When just a couple of feet remained Moonshadow defied his fear and leapt out onto the field and stopped in front of Bron who climbed up on his back. The wolf began to run down from the battlefield and down the hill.
The Glimari halted and began to shoot arrows from their longbows after the fleeing twosome.
Bron could feel the arrows whiz past him and see them hit the ground right around Moonshadow's feet who was desperately trying not to fall over them and roll down the steep hill.
They were rounding the old oak tree when Moonshadow gave a cry and fell over. Bron fell off and both rider and wolf began to roll down the hill, the world passed Bron by at an incredible speed, he saw the sky one second and the ground the next, and for a moment he could see that he was heading for a rock and then he hit it.
The two Glimari stood on top of the hill and looked for any signs of movement from down below. As far as they had seen the black elf had rolled down with his wolf and disappeared into the brush that covered the foot of the hill.
One of them dropped his bow and unsheathed his dagger, he then began to descend the hill, but before he got more than a few steps his brother in combat grabbed his shoulder and halted him.
"Kahubra, he must be dead,” he said. “We hit both him and his beast."
Kahubra looked at his friend. "What if he is still alive? You know we can't allow that."
His friend smiled at him. "He won't be, believe me."
They turned around, but Kahubra turned his head and eyed the brush where he had seen the black elf vanish.
"We will see black elf," he thought to himself and picked up his bow and walked back towards the camp.
When Bron came to all he could see was a white light, his eyes slowly adjusted to the morning sun, which was already high in the sky.
Bron's body was throbbing with pain, his head felt as if it had been split open with an axe, his back felt like it had been stabbed by a dozen daggers and his legs, to be more precise his right leg was numb. He slowly got to a sitting position and inched himself backwards so that he could get a good view of his leg. The horror rose in him and suddenly the pain in his right leg grew worse, for lodged in his right thigh was an arrow. Bron could feel the sensation of panic come over him; he closed his eyes for a moment. Would this be the end of him? As he sat there thinking of his own death, which he believed to be imminent, another thought arose in his mind: Moonshadow. His trusted wolf companion, where was he? He looked around him, but there was nothing close to him on either side, he thought he could see something black and furry in the corner of his eye as he turned his head to the sides. Something was clearly not right with the wolf, he was completely still. Bron called his name, but after he had called three times without any response he crawled over to his friend. He shook the body and when he still would not get any signs of life from Moonshadow he pulled his fur with enough power to tip the wolf over so Bron could see his face.
Bron gasped and moved backwards, for in Moonshadow's throat there sat an arrow as well as in his hip. Moonshadow's eyes were wide open and his tongue hung lifeless out of his mouth with blood running along the edges of the lips.
Bron crept up to his friend, his head hanging in sorrow, he hugged the now cold body and buried his face in the fur, not crying for dark folk cannot, but whimpering.
He didn't know for how long he had been there when he decided that he was not safe staying there. The Glimari would most likely head back this way and if they did they would undoubtedly find him and end it.
With a tremendous effort and a great deal of pain he managed to rise to one foot, balancing he reached over Moonshadow's body and grabbed whatever belongings that had not been destroyed during the tumble down the hill. Luckily his bow was still intact and using it as a crutch he began to move.
The Glimari had come from the south and that was probably the way they would head to get back to where they belonged Bron thought and to move in that direction, which was north, was out of the question. Not only would he have to climb the hill, but he would certainly run straight into the Glimari. He figured out that his best option was to head east, because west was open terrain and east was covered by thick brush and he thought that if he inched his way through it the soldiers wouldn't be able to track him.
The brush was unforgiving and rough; several times it seemed to be alive and was purposely making the journey difficult and painful. All of a sudden his bow would get caught in a branch or a root, a stick would trip his good leg and send him tumbling down, never hitting the ground, but instead being caught by the thick blanket of leaves and branches with thorns that ruthlessly cut deep into his already bruised and battered flesh.
Finally after hours of cuts and bruises and taunting brush with his leg throbbing with pain and his left foot completely numb, his arms weakened by exhaustion from carrying his own weight and trying to push through branches, Bron thought he could hear something familiar. He sat down for just a minute to concentrate on the sound. It was a clucking sound, as if something was being poured, but quicker and amongst this, another sound, not as clear, something melodic, but this was being performed by some kind of creature while the first sound originated from nature itself.
After a short pause and a considerable amount of thinking Bron recognized the first sound as a stream, but he could still not place the second sound. It was sweet and seemed to call for him.
He decided to move towards the sound of the stream which also was the in the same direction as the second sound. He got up and wobbled, the ground and the very brush around him began to spin, he felt faint. Despite his aching body, which was ready to give up at any moment, he forced himself to press on. After a couple of paces he broke through the bushes, he fell down right at the edge of his purgatory, this trial that he had just passed.
He could feel the evening sun on his face and the chill of a cool breeze on his bleeding skin. He looked around at his surroundings, from where he was resting it sloped down towards a small stream, a few trees were standing on the slope and on the other side of the water was what appeared to be a meadow. He could still hear the other sound; it was almost as if it came from the meadow. Bron began to wander downward, heading for the stream, leaning against every tree, he could feel his mind cloud up for every step he took. When he reached the stream the sound became louder, by this time his vision was so blurred that he couldn't see anything except light and colors. One thing he could see was a tall white shape on the other side of the stream. He reached out to touch the shape and then everything was black.
"I knew you didn't die black elf," Kahubra said. He examined the dead body of the wolf. He got up and looked around, the sun was almost set, small rays of light cut through the brush of bushes and small trees. Kahubra thought to himself, crouched down again and saw tracks of small feet and blood on the branches. He wasn't going to become an officer in the Glimari by letting enemies escape.
"I will get you," he said out loud and then made his way through the wilderness.
Milenía was sitting by the stream that parted the woods and the great meadow that she, during the summer, called home.
She was tall and her skin was so fair that it bordered on white, with golden locks framing her beautiful face and green eyes which created desires in any man who happened to gaze into them long enough.
She was the daughter of the great elven chief Pennillies of the eastern steppe -elves. Just like the black elfs the steppe -elves live in close harmony with certain animals, in their case the horse.
Milenía's tribe moved to a new location when fall arrived and very seldom set up camp on the same ground twice. Every time the tribe decided on a new place she would always go searching for her own secluded spot far away from the tribe, a place where she could be alone.
Her father was very concerned that she ended the habit of wandering off from the tribe's safe haven and that she more concentrated on finding a suitable elf in the tribe to wed, but of course as any child Milenía did not listen to this and, as usual, as soon as the tribe settled in the area she rode off to find herself a nice campground. The only company she held during the summer was her horse Sunset, an extraordinary specimen named after the color of her coat, they had been friends from birth, as is custom among the steppe -elves. Milenía was cleaning fresh fish that she had caught herself when she heard a strange sound coming from the trees on the other side of the stream. She had never explored that area so she was unfamiliar with what was over there. She had been warned by the warriors in her tribe that there might be dark folk in the surrounding mountains and that they came out during the night and liked to prey on the innocent and especially young defenseless elven females. Milenía believed that was a story that her father and the warriors made up so that she would stay with them, but she didn't care for their ways.
She looked over at Sunset who seemed to be very nervous.
Sunset told her that there was something hurt and scared on the opposite bank, but what it was she was not sure of. Milenía rose and tried to see what it might be that was upsetting her friend, but she could see nothing, and then something fell out from behind one of the trees. She could not quite make it out as it rolled down the bank and into the stream, but it was humanoid, dressed and fairly short. As the creature fell into the water she could also see that it was bleeding and that it was still alive, in the stream it would surely die she knew that. She had to save it, but the stream was carrying the body away quickly. She ran towards Sunset and mounted her and then rode as fast as she could along the stream.
She knew that there was a shallower place downstream where she bathed, because it wasn't deep enough to sweep her away, but if the creature were to crash into the sharp rocks that were waiting ahead it would surely die. Time was running out. She kicked Sunset in her sides to get her to run faster, they passed the lifeless body and continued on. They quickly arrived at the shallower part and Milenía jumped off and ran down into the water. She made sure that she was on solid ground, her bare feet felt around so that she wouldn't fall. Milenía crouched down when she saw the body coming with great speed, it rammed right into her.
She turned the body over so that it could breath, it was still alive, and she sighed. It was a male with green skin and black hair, its skin was coarse and had bumps all over. Then she noticed the arrow lodged in its thigh and she realized that she had to take care of the wound before it bled to death. She carried it out of the water and laid it across Sunset's back, who expressed discomfort at having the creature there.
They headed back to her hut to take care of this strange yet intriguing creature. It was not like anything she had ever seen before, so different to the elves she met all the time.
Milenía got a strange feeling in her chest every time she looked at that still face. It was just a tiny lump in the middle, but she couldn't explain it.
Bron was coming to, his body was in pain, and there wasn't one part on him that wasn't hurting. He found that he was lying on his back on something very soft; he tried to remember what had happened to him last. He remembered the brush and the stream, the sound and that light shape, but from there on it was completely blank.
He opened his eyes and was staring at a dark ceiling made out from wood; he slowly sat up and looked around. He was on some kind of fur in a hut. It was very well made, made out of branches and twigs, they had not been cut or broken at all, and instead they appeared to be naturally fallen wood that somehow had been intricately woven together into the structure.
Suddenly he felt dizzy and he was very hot that he had to lie down again. He also realized that under the fur, that was covering him, he was completely naked. He lifted the fur to look at his leg, it was extremely warm and his thigh had swollen to almost double in size. He noticed that someone had removed the arrow and wrapped the wound with a bandage.
Then he heard somebody outside coming closer to the hut, he desperately fumbled around to find a weapon of some sort, but it only made him dizzier. He began to crawl backwards trying to hide in the darkest corner of the structure, but it was too late, whatever it was entered the hut.
It was tall and slender, dressed in a white cloak, hair glittering as if it were gold, with green eyes and skin so light it was almost the same color as the cloak. It was no mistaking, it was an elven female.
The female was carrying a wooden bowl filled with something; it smelled like fish, but like burned fish, as if she had thrown it on the fire.
Bron found that she was not threatening, she put down the bowl and knelt down. She looked at him and took another bowl and a piece of cloth and began to undo his bandages.
The black elf stared at Milenía with wide eyes and tried to pull his leg away as she touched his bandage, but he couldn't move any farther back since his back was flat against the wall.
She told him not to be frightened, but he didn't seem to understand her.
As she tended to him after saving him from the river she had found that the black elf was running a high fever, so she had gathered some herbs to help the fever and the swelling wound on his leg.
Removing the bandage seemed to hurt the black elf, because for every layer she removed he bit his lip and closed his eyes. The fabric had stuck to the skin and removing it caused the wound to bleed again. She carefully bathed the swollen thigh with water mixed with a special root to disinfect it and then re -wrapped it with a new fresh bandage which she had made from her own cape given to her by a suitor.
When the thigh had been wrapped Milenía left the hut, but shortly returned, now with another small soup bowl filled to the brim with a hot brew concocted from magical herbs against fever.
She saw that the black elf had now taken the fur with him to the corner and was shaking as if freezing. He was still staring at her.
She handed him the bowl and gestured for him to drink from it, he took it and smelled the brew and then hesitantly put the bowl to his lips and drank. He drank it all in one go and put the bowl down beside him, soup was running down his chin, still staring at her. Milenía felt curious about this creature, who was he? The strange feeling she had felt before inside her when she had rescued him came back to her, this time it didn't stay in the middle but spread itself through her entire body.
She put her own hand on her chest and said:
"Milenía," and then pointed to the black elf.
He looked at her hand in wonder, she did it again. He still did not understand.
Then she did it again, but this time she laid her hand on his chest. He looked at her and then put his hand on his own chest and said:
"Bron," his voice was low and rough. He then stretched his hand towards her and said:
"Milenía?" she nodded and smiled at him.
She moved towards him and forced him to lie down again and then she gently dabbed his warm forehead with the damp cloth until he fell asleep.
Bron woke again and looked around in the hut, then he remembered where he was and what had happened. He saw the elf lying on the other side of the hut sleeping, she looked so peaceful and something stirred inside him.
"Milenía," he thought to himself. "What a wonderful creature."
He wanted to touch her as she lay there, but he didn't want to scare her so he didn't.
Instead, feeling much better, he went outside and looked around.
It was a beautiful night out there, suddenly he could feel and hear things he had never noticed before.
He was amazed at everything, but what he did not think about was the light from a man -made fire in the distance; Made by someone hunting, hunting him.
The next morning Milenía gave Bron the fish she had prepared for him the night before.
After breakfast she motioned to him to follow her outside and she stepped out, leaving the quilted blanket, that acted as the door, pushed all the way to one side so that Bron could see her standing in the tall grass.
Bron put on his pants and tunic, but left his shoes, belt and undershirt off. Milenía continued to call for him and wave, motioning to him not to be afraid, she danced around in a circle until she fell down, laughing.
Bron stepped outside and felt the sun touch his cold skin. He felt a cool light breeze blow through his dark hair. He felt something, something strange, like his life had come full circle. Milenía patted the grass beside her, telling him to lie down and he did.
They lay there a while, still, every now and then Milenía would giggle and squirm, she kept pointing to different shaped clouds. Bron squinted to try and see what it was that she found so entertaining, then, all of a sudden, the clouds began to take the shape of a pack of wolves. They ran across the sky, chasing rabbits and then just as sudden captain Oquart appeared, big and menacing, then one of the wolves jumped up and bit his behind. At the sight of that image, something strange happened deep inside Bron's stomach. A bubbling sensation that climbed up from his bowels through his throat, until he could contain it no longer and it just poured out of his mouth. He was laughing and it was loud.
He looked at Milenía and she smiled at him, she smiled and took his hand, Bron felt her warmth and was filled by it, he sighed and thought that now he had something to live for other than killing.
As the sun began its decent Milenía brought Sunset to the hut to show her to Bron;
The horse was a bit uneasy at first and so was Bron, but Milenía took Bron’s hand and placed it on Sunset's nose and patiently waited for the two creatures to feel each other out. Milenía then swung herself up on Sunset's back and stretched out her hand to Bron who grabbed it, and with some difficulty he too managed to climb up on the animal's back.
Then Milenía gave a cry and off they rode, at a great speed, across the field and into the woods that surrounded it, along a narrow path, passing huge trees and animals.
After a couple of minutes ride they slowed down and at a bend they halted. Milenía climbed off and showed Bron to do the same. She began to crawl through some bushes beside the path and Bron followed. As they came through the bushes Bron saw that they were at the edge of a glade, and in the glade there were hundreds of huts exactly like Milenía's and walking around in the glade there were elves just like her. They were tall and handsome with blond or red hair, often with a green tint in it, fair skin and wearing mostly green. He saw that the path they had been on led directly into the glade, but that the entrance was guarded by a tower, that had some very strong looking and armed guards in and around it. These were Milenía's people, her family.
He suddenly felt that he could never be part of her people; he was different, not beautiful as they were and he realized that one day she was going to leave and he would not be able to go with her.
Bron placed his hand over her, looked at her with understanding eyes and touched her cheek gently just as if he knew what she was thinking, and he did.
They spent the rest of the evening hidden among the bushes and watching Milenía's tribe perform their daily chores. From time to time she would point out an elf and try to explain to him who they were and soon they had created some form of mutual language.
When the sun was only a sharp red line across the bottom of the sky they decide to go back to the field. Milenía looked at her tribe one more time and hoped in her heart that she would not have to choose between them and Bron.
They mounted Sunset, Milenía wanted Bron to sit at the head so he did. He was nervous, but soon found that it was not much different from riding a wolf, except higher up.
Slowly they rode on the path. Milenía holding Bron's waist tightly and resting her head on his back letting her mind wander; Imagining a life with this black elf, even laughing at the thought of presenting him to her father. Blissfully dreaming the ride away. If she had to choose, her mind was already made up.
As they reached the edge of the field Bron halted Sunset, Milenía looked up wondering. Bron pointed towards their hut, someone had lit their camp fire. Bron jumped off and Milenía followed, there was a man sitting by the fire. It was difficult to tell, but it was either a human or an elf sitting there, seemingly waiting for the owner of the hut.
Milenía tried to explain to Bron that it was probably best if she rode to the camp to ask the man's business and then signal Bron when it was safe and Bron agreed to this and sat himself down in the grass. Milenía rode off towards the camp.
The man's image became clearer the closer she got. She saw that it was a human, tall and lean with short blond hair. He was dressed completely in black leather with black armor. On the ground beside him lay a black cloak and a bow, a shield and a sheathed sword.
When she was ten feet away from him he noticed her and rose and picked up his sword. He stood and watched her approach and as she halted Sunset in front of him he spoke:
"Good evening princess." to her surprise he spoke her language. She quickly regained her composure and looked at him.
"Who are you and what is your business?" he smiled at her and bowed.
"I am Kahubra of Glimari. I am a servant of our lord God who's name no mortal man may take in his mouth. As Glimari it is my duty to my God to rid this world of his enemies and those who wish to harm his people."
"And what do you want here?" she asked.
"I am looking for a godless murderer who is an enemy of my lord and whom I wounded, but managed to escape death. I wish to finish my work. Have you seen a black elf sneaking about here, with a wounded leg?"
Milenía's heart skipped a beat, the man was looking for Bron and that was not all, he wished to kill him. She tried to hide her trembling hands in Sunset's mane and kept her voice steady.
"No I have not seen such a being here, although I have not been here all day."
"Come now Madame," the man said with a stern voice. "How come then you keep weapons and clothing like these boots and this belt from a black elf in your camp. The exact same boots that left tracks from the scoundrel’s dead wolf to that very bank?"
Now Milenía's fear turned into rage.
"How dare you search through my belongings you murdering thief?" her voice no longer uneasy, but strong and resolute.
"That is my given right as the defender of this world and savior of races like your Madame," the Glimari's voice was raised as well. "Now tell me where he is or I will be forced to use a more unpleasant method!"
"I will tell you if you must know," in her anger she did not know what she was saying. "A black elf came out of the woods on the other side of the river and fell into the water and the stream carried him off. I saved the body, but he had already drowned. I kept his weapons, belt and boots to give to my nephews and then I threw the body back into the stream. That sir is what happened to your precious little black elf. Now if you would please leave I would be grateful." She fell silent, letting him take it in, hoping he would believe her. The Glimari stood for a moment and then picked up his cloak.
"I see Madame," his voice was calmer now. "Thank you, my mission is at an end. I would not give those weapons to my nephews. Those things are full of awful diseases and I would not fish or swim in the river either," he laughed a short scoff, put on his cloak, bowed and said:
"Sorry for having disturbed you Madame. You have been most helpful and understanding for an unbeliever. Keep a look out for other black elfs. Good night to you."
Milenía did not answer and the Glimari left following the river down.
After an hour she believed it to be safe and lit a branch on fire and signaled Bron to come and he did. She gave him a big hug and then they went inside the hut.
She slept on Bron's arm, a worried sleep, Bron was worried for her sake, but she had assured him that everything was alright.
On the other side of the river, watching the two lovers hugging and entering the hut was Kahubra and he was smiling.
"I knew it," he said to himself. "Enjoy your night together, for in the morning you will be sentenced by Glimari.” He sat down, his eyes fixed on the hut, but what Kahubra of Glimari did not see was the big shadow coming out of the bushes behind him, not until his nose sensed a familiar odor, but then it was too late.
The following morning Milenía woke up more at ease, she had during the night assured herself that nothing evil was going to happen to them.
After getting up, Bron and Milenía sat by the entrance to the hut and just let the sun warm them, enjoying each other’s company.
After a short while Milenía rose and motioned to Bron that she was going to fetch water farther down the river where the banks were lower and it was not as stream.
As she wandered off down the river, around the bend and out of sight Bron tried to restart the fire.
Wandering beside the river Milenía was happy and everything was wonderful, the joyful sound of the river as it ran with her, the soft grass caressing her feet and the sun shining on her body, keeping it warm.
Suddenly she noticed that the river was turning red and it became more prominent at the shallow part where she had first rescued Bron. The she saw what caused it.
Lying by the bank, stuck between the rocks was a body; Dressed in black leather and armor, but without a head.
"The Glimari," she said and then she got a feeling, like a knife stabbing her in the stomach. She sensed that Bron was in danger. She called his name and began running towards the hut.
Meanwhile Bron had got the fire started and had gone into the hut again to get his tunic.
In the midst of his thoughts he heard something from behind the hut, footsteps.
What if the man was back? He grabbed his bow and an arrow and went outside.
He saw nothing at first; he slowly walked over to the left side of the hut and looked around the corner. There was nothing there either.
"Bron!" a low dark voice said behind him.
He turned around and standing by the fire he saw Oquart, his captain and he looked twice as foul as he had done before.
Bron could tell that Oquart narrowly had escaped the battle, his clothes were torn and he had big open wounds all over his body, one across his face.
He was grinning as if he was thinking of something funny and then Bron noticed the saber in his captain's hand and the human head hanging from his belt, blood still dripping from its neck.
"Didn't think you'd see me again, did you Bron?" and Oquart laughed. "I have been looking for survivors of our little battle, and so far it's just you and I," he laughed again and pointed to the head and put away the saber. "I found this one on the other side of the river; he was watching your hut. I needed weapons so I killed him," his laugh echoed across the field.
Bron was silent; he did not know what to say. All that he knew was that he had to get rid of Oquart.
"Bron!" it was Milenía.
She was standing a couple of feet from the two dark folk, breathing heavily and with a frightened look on her face. Bron clutched his bow and closed his eyes.
Milenía's worst nightmare had just come true. On one side of the fire stood Bron holding a bow and on the other side a big ugly beast.
The beast was screaming in Bron's language and pointed at her. She did not understand and she repeatedly called for Bron, but he was still.
"Who is this, Bron?" Oquart screamed. "I demand an explanation! An elf? I demand to know what it is doing here!"
Bron looked at Oquart and through clenched teeth said: "She is my mate, Oquart," he fixed his eyes on the captain.
Oquart's expression went from surprise to rage.
"I don't believe it. Your mate?" he pulled out the Glimari's bow and an arrow. "You are still under my command and I order you to kill it!" he pointed the bow at Bron.
Bron lifted the bow and aimed it at Milenía, she looked at him with a surprised expression and called his name pleadingly.
"Kill it or I will see to it that when we get back they will boil you in oil," Oquart screamed.
Once again Bron looked at Milenía, he felt his heart, which she had helped him discover, again. He felt it call to him, telling him that he was his own master now and that Milenía was the keeper of his heart. "Kill her and you kill yourself," it said.
"I will not do this," he shook his head.
"No!" he cried. "I won’t do it," he lowered his bow and looked at Oquart. "You don't command me anymore. I am my own."
"So be it." Oquart said. "Let this be your lesson." quickly he pointed the bow at Milenía and fired.
As if time slowed down Bron could see the arrow cut through the air and hit Milenía in the stomach. She cried out and collapsed. Bron screamed.
"No!" he cried. He looked at Oquart who was laughing at his deed.
Almost instinctively Bron raised his bow and fired his arrow at Oquart, the arrow lodged itself in the giant orc’s fleshy throat and with a gargled scream he fell over, dead.
Bron dropped the bow and ran to Milenía and knelt beside her. He gently took her in his arms and cradled her. He could feel tears rolling down his face.
"I'm sorry," he whispered in her ear over and over.
"Bron," she said in her low voice. "I love you," she touched his cheek and smiled and with one last effort she kissed him and then she fell back, lifeless.
Bron did not know for how long he had been sitting there with Milenía in his arms, but the sun was setting. While he had been sitting there he had also been thinking about what he was to do with his beloved's body. He knew now what he had to do; he couldn't leave her in the field. He had to take her to her family. Without effort he lifted her up and placed her on Sunset's back and led the horse away from the field, and the memories it held and on to the path that wound through the woods.
Bron did not know what he was going to do, just leave her there or try to explain to her tribe what had happened and then what? Where would he go? He would have to live alone for the rest of his life, with the memories as his only companion.
"Chieftain!" one of the guards shouted. "You must come quickly!"
The chieftain of the tribe of steppe -elves ran to the guard tower and shouted up to the guards standing there:
"What is it?"
"Look over there!" they pointed towards the path.
The chieftain’s heart almost stopped, he saw his daughter's horse being led by a black elf and Milenía's lifeless body draped across Sunset's back. His head was spinning, and then he got angry, angry at himself for letting her live by herself, for not visiting her often enough. He screamed for a bow and one of the guards gave him one.
"What is it doing?" one of the guards asked.
The black elf had stopped and was lifting Milenía's body off Sunset, he then carried her towards them. It was then they could see the arrow in her stomach.
"No," the chieftain said to himself and raised his bow. "Kill it!" and he fired and so did the others.
Bron felt no pain as the arrows pierced his body, only great relief. He continued walking as far as he could, more arrows hit him and he fell down. With his dying breath he took Milenía's hand in his and whispered to her:
"I love you," and died with a smile on his face.
Milenía's tribe went back to her hut and found Oquart's body and evidence that Bron and Milenía had been living together, with some convincing from Sunset. With some persuasion from the tribe's shaman the chieftain ordered the two to be buried next to each other outside the hut, they left it standing.
They raised a stone over them, engraved with the single word: