Chapter fifteen: The Commander of the Dark Elite
Zorn summoned his generals and gathered them in the War Room. After three hours of heated discussion over strategies and troop movements Zorn summoned the troops on the training grounds, where they were later briefed on the situation and told to prepare for battle at sunrise. Zorn and his sons left to make further arrangements with the weapons masters. Drell and the others stayed with the generals to oversee and participate in the training exercises. Come nightfall the soldiers were dismissed. Some were sent back to their posts the others returned to the barracks to get some much needed rest. Drell was searching for Mina when the horn sounded.
“Damn it” he hissed and set off in a run. The horn called a second time as he raced through the now evacuated city. At the keep the troops were already assembled and forming ranks. Loroedor was already at the front line with Leather and Nerohain. Drell ran up beside him as the horn called a third time. Loroedor side glanced at him then shifted his gaze to the battlements where the archers were making ready for battle. Drell followed his brother’s gaze and soon spotted one archer that was taller then the rest. Drell ground his teeth and stomped to the nearest stairwell. Reaching the strange archer he folded his arms over his chest.
“Mina” he said sternly. The archer turned and indeed it was Mina. Drell shook his head, “Mind telling me what the abbys you’re doing here and where you got that armor?” Mina frowned.
“I can fight as well as anyone Drell you know that”
“I know no such thing and this is not a small band of goblins or bandits we are talking about. This is an army” Drell sighed and placed a hand on her cheek, “I just don’t want you getting hurt don’t you understand?” Mina nodded.
“ Of corse I understand but Drell of what use would I be hiding? Here I can help” Drell frowned, “I promise that if it gets too dangerous I’ll go back to the castle and stay there okay?” Drell smiled and hugged her.
“Okay but that’s a promise remember” Mina nodded, “Alright then, be careful” Drell turned and made his way back down to the front line where Zorn and his sons had now joined Loroedor. He bowed to them, mounted Nerohain and waited as the soldiers continued their preparations. Another horn call split the air, but this one came from outside the mountain, their enemy was mobilizing.
“What do you see?” called Zorn to his head archer.
“They are gathering their force. Men mostly in black armor. Goblins and Hobs are also present in their ranks”
“Any sign of their commander?”
“None” that was all Zorn needed to here. As the enemies horn called again he turned to his men, his voice rang through the mountain.
“Men we and our kin folk have dwelled below these mountains for over seven thousand years. We have fought men, Elves, Minotaurs, Gobs, Hobs, Ogres, and even Dragons in the defense of it and our families. There is nothing in wait for us out there that we have not fought before. They dare to stand on our front door step and threaten us, I say we send them back to their Lord with their tails between their legs, who’s with me?” the combined battle cry of the dwarfs was deafening, thrumming though out the mountain to the vary bowls of the earth. With a proud smile on his face Zorn spun a round, “Open the gate!” he called over the roar of his men. The great gate of Barlendure slid open to reveal the enemy ranks, far vaster then any of them could have imagined. A battle cry to rival that of the dwarfs eminated from them as the gate slid clear. Their archers, if there were any, held their fire knowing they would gain no targets but Zorn did not hold back.
“Archers ready!” he called the air rang with the sound of bowstrings being drawn. A rider came to the front of the enemy ranks and called the charge, “Pick your mark,” the enemy’s front line continued to advance slowly coming within range,“Fire!” the air came alive with the buzzing of the many arrows as they flew free most finding their targets with ease but not completely eliminating the enemy front line. Zorn drew his war hammer and raised it above his head.
“For honor and in the name of our ancestors charge!” the warriors echoed his call and followed him and his sons out onto the field. The clash was instantly bloody and Drell reveled in it. This was one of the things a Shamera lived for. Outside of the darkness and quiet was this, a beautiful and deadly dance of steel, blood and sweat. A pleasure sweeter than the livery of music and song and fully intoxicating.
It was not long into the battle that Drell realized that something was wrong. A human soldier attacked him from behind and he could have sworn he had cut him down moments before. It happened again with a hob and then again with the exact same human. Drell fought his way to a brake in the chaos, a place where he could overlook the field, what he saw was staggering. All about the field of battle fallen enemy soldiers were rising to their feet to fight a new. Even those with arrows in their breasts and missing arms were rising from the dead to strike new blows. Had he not seen it with his own eyes he would not have believed it.
“How is this possible? This is…unless” Drell took a deep breath and let it out slowly, closing his eyes as he did so. He blocked out the sounds of battle, clashing steel, whinnies of horses, the buzz of arrows, the cries of dying men, all of it and focused on the wind, and there the words of a chant softly floating. The air was heavy with magic, though he had not felt it before, caught up in the heat of battle. He focused on the sound and traced it to its source. There, his eyes snapped open to reveal a figure standing in the cover of the trees just on the edge of the field. The figure wore a black breastplate over dark robes his arms were spread wide as he chanted, he was behind this. Drell searched the field for Loroedor and found him fighting on foot against three hobs, one of which rose to face him again minus one arm. Drell rode to him.
“Brother its him, the Commander, he’s a Mage. He’s controlling the dead like puppets” Loroedor knocked down the one armed hob and sliced the other two in half with one swing.
“Then cut the strings, unless you hadn’t noticed I’m a bit busy” hissed Loroedor as the one armed hob advanced on him again. Drell nodded stiffly and rode through the fray toward the Commander. With a roar Drell leaped from Nerohains back and planted both feet on the Commanders chest sending him sprawling backward, but even with his concentration broken the spell continued to function. Drell landed lightly on his feet and drew is sword.
“Nerohain help Loroedor” the nightmare obeyed, charging back onto the field. Drell turned his attention to the Mage who was now rising to his feet, “Your games are at an end you” Drells words stuck in his throat as the Mage turned to face him. The tumble he had taken had caused his cowl to fall away, fully revealing his face. Thin and fine boned, indicating noble blood, strange violet eyes and long black hair that reached passed his shoulders. A cruel smile twisted his lips as his eyes fixed on Drell.
“Well, well if it isn’t the brat, or one of them at least. Long time no see Drell”
“Malakarn” breathed Drell, nearly dropping his sword. Again the elf mage smiled.
“I’m surprised you remember me boy you were but a child when last we met”
“I would never forget your face, Malakarn” Drell tightened his grip on his sword.
“No I suppose not” a strange look passed over the Elf Mages face. “You look so like your mother” Drell tensed.
“Don’t you dare mention my mother you bastard” the look disappeared replaced by a sneer.
“But you have your fathers foul mouth”
“I should have known you would have some hand in this, you power whore” Malakarn raised an eyebrow.
“Power whore now there is an interesting title. I suppose your father came up with that,” Drell didn’t answer, “But of coarse he did what am I saying? You don’t have the brains to come up with something so imaginative” Drell growled and charged. Malakarn laughed and dodged the clumsy attack, “You’re going to have to do better then that boy. Come on this is the day you have waited for. You can finally take your revenge, don’t tell me that’s the best you can do” Malakarns taunts drove Drell into a rage. He came at him again but this time the Mage did not dodge out of the way. He met Drells blow head on with the twin swords he had at his waist. The two stayed locked like this for a moment until Malakarn surged forward forcing Drell back. The Elf Mage rained down blows, which Drell struggled to block. Malakarn backed Drell into a tree and held him there.
“Pathetic” he spat. Drell snarled and used the tree to propel forward, braking Malakarn’s defense. The Mage slashed with his right blade. Drell ducked and drove his own sword into Malakarn’s side. The Mage cried out and clutched at his wound as Drell rolled out of the way of a counter attack.
“There’s something else I learned from my father,” sneered Drell as he turned to face his wounded opponent. Malakarn straitened and moved his hand away to find it smeared with blood.
“You little bastard you’ll pay for this” hissed Malakarn, whirling about he shouted the words of a spell and shot a spear from his left hand leaving Drell with no time to evade it. The spear slammed into Drells shoulder shattering his collarbone and knocking him to the ground.
“You`re finished” hissed Malakarn readying his killing strike; a cry from the field stopped him short. His spell was wareing off and the dwarfs were advancing rapidly, he had not the strength to cast it again, “Damn it! You`re safe for now boy, next time you shall not be so lucky” with a scowl Malakarn faded from existence, as did Drells eyesight.
Loroedor ran his blade through the one armed hob and heaved an enormous sigh when he stayed down. He gazed about the field and saw that the same was true for all the other undead soldiers, the spell was broken. Seeing that their Commander’s magic was no longer working those that remained turned and fled. A shout of victory rose from Zorn, who was indiscernible in the crowd. The other dwarfs echoed the shout as their enemy disappeared into the thick of the jungle. It was a short-lived victory for Loroedor who was unable to find his younger brother amongst his allies. He looked to the place where the enemy Commander had been standing. Seeing Drell on the ground he thrust his sword into its scabbard and ran toward him.
“Drell, Drell!” he cried, skidding to a halt and dropping to his knees. The young elf’s eyes slowly opened.
“Lo…. Loroedor” Drell forced the words passed bloodless lips.
“Hush, don’t talk you idiot”
“The Com…. Commander was…”
“Stop talking damn it” Loroedor pulled out his dagger, “Bite on the blade, I’m going to take the spear from you shoulder, and for the love of the Shade be still” Drell nodded weakly and allowed Loroedor to place the dagger between his teeth. This done Loroedor rose and planted a foot on Drells chest. He grasped the shaft of the spear with both hands.
“Ready?” Drell nodded and bit down hard on the blade. Summoning all of his remaining strength Loroedor pushed down on Drells chest and wrenched the spear out, sending up a spray of blood and bone shards. Drell spasmed with pain, biting hard on the daggers blade that muffled his cries. With the worst of it over Loroedor took the dagger from his brother’s mouth and placed it back in his belt. He crossed Drells arms across his chest, gently lifted him and began walking swiftly toward the mountain. Drell moaned with pain, each step his brother took caused him agony.
“Shade damn it, it hurts”
“I know Drell just stay with me, were almost there” passing through the gate Loroedor saw Mina out of the corner of his eye. She had not fled, and she looked well. He ignored her call for him to stop, there was no time. Drell grit his teeth and began to shiver.
“You`re going to be alright just stay with me” Loroedor didn’t believe his own words. The wound was grave; even a Shamera couldn’t stand up to this amount of damage for long, if not treated soon Drell would. Loroedor shook his head no time to think of that. As they came in sight of the castle Drell lost consciousness.
High in the tower room she shared with her husband Isioi waited. She had been forbidden from joining the battle herself, for reasons she could not understand. Both her husband and Lord Dracus knew she could fight but they had ordered that she stay. She had obeyed but resolved to give them both a good tongue lashing the next time she saw them. A series of horn calls heralded the return of the army. Setting her book down Isioi went to the window but could not find her husband.
“Isioi” came a weak voice. She turned to find the black robed Elf Mage standing near the door. Blood stained the left side of his robe.
“Malakarn” Isioi went to him as his legs gave out and led him gently to the bed. Working swiftly she removed his breastplate and robes to reveal a clean, deep wound that was bleeding profusely.
“Damn it, now, you see?, if I had been there this wouldn’t have happened” she went to the side table and grabbed the bowl of water and the cloth she had used earlier to clean her face. Malakarn smiled faintly as she began to clean the wound.
“You may be right about that my dear”
“Of course I’m right, that’s why you should listen to me more often” Malakarn chuckled and watched as she went again to the side table to fetch a needle and thread, and a length of cloth bandage. “Who did it? Was it them?”
“You mean Barlorn’s boys?” Isioi nodded.
“Yes they were there. I fought with the youngest one Drell. I would have killed him if my spell hadn’t started to ware off. I didn’t see Loroedor but where one of them goes the other follows, so no doubt he was there too”
“So Drell was the one who did this?” Malakarn nodded and ground his teeth as Isioi began stitching up the wound. This done she tied off the thread and began wrapping the bandage.
“Next time I’ll kill him. I’ll kill them both”
“Oh no you`re not leaving me behind again, next time I’ll be with you” she took the bowl and cloth back to the table.
“You know I would love you to come my dear. But it’s not my decision to make. You will stay here as long as Lord Dracus wants. When you fight will be up to him” a sly smile came to Isioi’s face as she turned and walked to the bed.
“Oh but you forget my dear, I can be vary persuasive” she hiked up her skirt and settled her self gently over his hips. Malakarn smiled.
“I know” he took her arms and gently pulled her down so that she lay on top of him. “That’s why I love you,” she laughed mischievously as his right arm encircled her waist and their lips met in a passionate kiss. “Ah my dear what would I do with out you?” Isioi smiled and she kissed him again.
Upon wakeing Drell did not immediately recognize where he was, the stone ceiling and dim light were both alien to him. Slowly, however, memories of the battle came to him. He remembered his wound and looked to his shoulder identifying his brother’s handy work. The dressings were tight but not uncomfortable and the green salve beneath was barely visible. Drell smiled and began to take better notice of his surroundings. He was in his room in the castle. His cloths lay folded at the end of the bed, more of his brother’s work. He turned his head, reawakening the pain of his wound. Though much less severe than the previous day it was enough to make him grind his teeth.
Mina sat beside him, her head and arms resting on the mattress. Drell smiled wondering how long she had been there, all night perhaps. He lifted his right hand from beneath the sheets and touched her hair. The slight touch made her stir; she opened her eyes, lifted her head up and smiled at him. He withdrew his hand.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you”
“That’s all right, how do you feel?” she stretched and rubbed her eyes.
“Well my head feels a bit cloudy and my shoulder aches a little but other than that I feel fine” Mina smiled and leaned against the bed again.
“My memory of yesterday is a might hazy though. How did I get here?”
“Loroedor carried you from the field” Drell nodded, he had thought as much.
“Did he do this too?” Drell looked to his left shoulder. Mina nodded
“Yes. When he brought you here the castle physicians came to see what they could do for you. When they gave up, saying there was nothing they could do, Loroedor flew into a rage and threw them out. He then asked me to leave so he could work. In the state he was in I wasn’t about to question him. So I did as he asked. He locked the door behind me. He must have been in here for close to three hours. When he did come out he looked haggard. He didn’t wait for me to ask any questions just went straight to his room. I don’t know what he did but I’m glad he did it” Drell smiled faintly and nodded.
He knew what Loroedor had done just from Mina’s description. Shadow mending was an old and well guarded healing art of the Shamera. Only those of strong mind and will could use it. It was a long process and exacted a toll upon its user. It involved clearing the mind of all conscious thought. One then had to call upon the Shade that had given birth to the Shamera and beg the favor of healing. Once granted one could then use the shadows around them to mend broken bones, knit flesh, even repair ruptured internal organs. In this case Loroedor had used the shadows to form new bone to mend the brake. No wonder he had looked tired. The door opened and Cinders came bounding in to jump up on the bed. Drell smiled and scratched behind the kittens ears.
“Well hello there my little friend. I’m glad to see you well” Cinders mewed.
“Oh don’t mind me I’m only the one who saved your life” Drell looked up to see his brother leaning in the doorway, grinning.
“That little ball of fluff a friend of yours Drell?” asked Loroedor as he strode into the room.
“Yes, this is Cinders” the kitten looked at the older elf and mewed. Loroedor smiled.
“Smart little fellow. But what about you? How do you feel?”
“A great deal better actually, thanks” Loroedor smiled and turned to Mina.
“I wonder if you might leave us Mina”
“I wish to talk to Drell alone” Mina looked to Drell who nodded. She rose and quietly departed closing the door behind her. Once certain she was gone Loroedor sat and leaned in close. “Drell when I first came to you on the field you tried to tell me something. Do you remember what it was?”
“The enemy Commander”
“Right now what about him? What were you trying to say?” Drell thought for a moment trying to remember. He side glanced at Loroedor.
“Malakarn, their Commander was Malakarn” Loroedor paled
“Malakarn? Are you sure?” Drell nodded stiffly
“Yes I’m sure. You know I could never forget that face” Loroedor nodded, he too would never forget. He placed a hand on Drells uninjured shoulder.
“Alright that’s enough talk for now. You need your rest. Sleep well brother” Loroedor stood, scooped up Cinders and departed closing the door quietly behind him. Drell smiled, closed his eyes and was soon deep in slumber.