Chapter twenty: The Elf Mage, Mina’s Decision
The next day a lighter air filled Barlendure. The shroud of Gorlons death had been laid aside and life continued on, as it was wont to. Drell spent the day with Mina, wandering the market square and enjoying one another’s company, reveling in the peace while it lasted. As evening fell they made their way to the dinning hall where the others sat waiting for them. The meal was quiet with light conversation and little said about the past day’s events. As the meal came to a close Zorn, who had been fairly quiet this entire time, shoved his plate a side and leaned forward.
“Now to business” all eyes turned to him, “The guards men have reported seeing hobgoblin archers shifting about in the trees just out of range. It seems our enemy has every intention of returning. They will not rest until they get that stone. I will see them all rot in the abyss first. We have more then enough supplies to wait them out forever if need be but if our last battle with them is any indication we are dealing with vary powerful men who will not be easily detoured. I asked this question of the two elves before but they could not answer it and so I will now ask you sir Knights. Have any of you ever heard the name of Lord Dracus before?”
“Yes I have heard of him” one of the elder Knights answered, “He’s a vary powerful human nobleman. His skill with a sword is said to be unbelievable, his strategic skill without equal”
“A human you say? You must be mistaken,” said Loroedor.
“Why do you say that?” asked Zorn, shifting his gaze to the older elf. Loroedor looked to Drell who nodded, bidding Loroedor to continue.
“I say that because both Drell and I know the identity of the Commander of the Dark Elite. Drell fought him. His name is Malakarn. He’s an Elf Mage that once lived in Neroedell. He despises humans; he would sooner spit on one than call them master. So you must be mistaken sir Knight” the knight shook his head.
“I do not believe so for I have met more then one that names him as thus. I have even spoken to one who grew up in Carna, Dracus’s homeland. He is as human as I am” to this both elves frowned in thought.
“He must be in possession of incredible power then for that is the only way he could have secured Malakarns loyalty” said Loroedor.
“I find this Malakarn character intriguing tell me more of him” said Zorn as he leaned back and raised his ale glass to be filled.
“He’s a power whore, he’ll lend his loyalty to anyone he deems worthy. During his life in Neroedell he served under three Kings, the last being King Tassaiodor, who still sits on the throne. Malakarn is also the one who hated and killed our father” Drells head bowed and Mina grasped his hand.
“That young elf is a story I would like to hear if you do not mind telling it, for it may give us a further idea of just what kind of man we are up against” Zorn leaned forward again and sipped his ale. Again Loroedor looked to Drell who nodded, so he continued.
“I recall asking father once why Malakarn seem to hate him so much as well as my brother and I. He said it was because he had married the woman Malakarn had loved, our mother Riena. When they were younger both Malakarn and our father Barlorn had vied for her affections.
For the longest time it was Malakarn she favored but his jealousy, as she came to know, was great. One day when Malakarn spied our father with her in the market he attacked and badly wounded him. After this she shunned Malakarn and later married Barlorn. On the day of the wedding she sent the mage an invitation, which he accepted, he even attended the party afterward offering nothing but well wishes and kind smiles upon them both. For a time it seemed that all was forgiven and forgotten.
Malakarn even met and married the cunning, manipulative, but beautiful Isioi. After being married for many months the two learned that Isioi was barren. She would never bare Malakarn any children. Many thought that he would abandon her but he never did. When Drell and I were born Malakarns hate for our father was rekindled. For now not only was he married to a woman Malakarn him self had loved but he now had two strong sons that the mage would never have. Malakarn hates us because we are the sons of his rival. The next part of the story is for Drell to tell, for I was not there” all eyes turned to the younger elf, who looked up and sighed.
“It was autumn, rain from the night before had soaked everything threw. The morning was unusually warm and a fog shrouded the forest. Loroedor was out attending to his duties as the baraks masters assistant. I was twelve, or maybe thirteen, I can’t remember. Anyhow father asked me if I wished to accompany him out to the forest, for at the time he was the King’s head forester. Having nothing else to do that day I couldn’t rightly refuse. At about mid day we stopped to rest and that’s when Malakarn came upon us.
“Well, well, well what have we here? The wife thief and his brat having a little picnic how quaint. Shouldn’t you be working Barlorn?”
“I am working, as I have been for the past few hours. You on the other hand have no business being out here”
“I was collecting herbs is that a crime?”
“No but treason is. Come now Malakarn, I had once thought you to be quite a masterful lire but it seems your talent is fading. How about telling the truth for once? I’ve had my suspicions about you for quite a while now and now I see that they were accurate. You’ve been plotting against the King haven’t you? Admit it!” an ugly sneer twisted Malakarns face.
“How vary clever Barlorn, I’m impressed. Yes I have been plotting against him. In fact hidden in these woods right now is an assassin that I hired to kill him”
“I knew it, treacherous bastard. Why?”
“Because Tassaiodor is a weak and gutless King, I will not have him infecting our people”
“So instead you would see a battle for the throne is that it? Or perhaps take it for your self?”
“You flatter me but no, I work best in the shadows behind the throne. You do realize that now that you know all this I cannot allow you to live” the mage unsheathed his twin swords.
“I’m afraid it’s the other way around Malakarn” my father drew his own blade. Malakarn sneered and rushed forward. The two traded blows for a while. Malakarn struck out with a force spell and flung my father hard against a tree. The mage then called down a lightning spell that blasted the tree to pieces but narrowly missed its target.
“Stay back Drell!” father demanded staggering to his feet.
“Do as your father says boy” sneered Malakarn.
“Don’t you dare address my son!” the two clashed again. It didn’t take long for my father to find a weak spot in Malakarn’s defenses, knocking the mage to the ground and putting his sword to his throat.
“You`re finished” my fathers voice was grim. Malakarn smiled.
“Wrong” with that the mage vanished from sight. My father turned about looking for him. Then he cried out, blood running from his chest, but he didn’t fall forward. Malakarn appeared again, one arm around my fathers shoulders and his other hand on the hilt of the twin blade he had thrust into him from behind.
“You’re the one who’s finished” then Malakarn looked at me and his expression softened, not taking his eyes from me he said, “In case you have not noticed Barlorn I missed your heart, you will not die as swiftly as you would have otherwise. I have done this because even though I loath you and your sickening loyalty there is a small part of me that respects you, and so I will give you the opportunity to say a proper farewell to your son” he pulled out the blade and watched my father fall. He looked to me again as he sheathed his blade, “You have seven minutes boy, maybe less, do not waste them for I shall not be so generous again. When next we meet neither you or your brother shall be granted the same courtesy” he disappeared. With shaking legs I went to my fathers side.
“Drell take my sword, find Loroedor and tell him what happened. Warn the King of the assassin and don’t worry Neldaroe will take care of you. Go now and know how vary proud I am of both of you” I did just as my father asked, when we went back for him he was dead. The assassin was found and put to death but Malakarn was gone, as was Isioi. After all these years we thought them dead, but he is still very much alive” Drell sighed and Mina placed her hand over his.
“Well now we know plenty about this Lords second in command but we still know almost nothing about him. We don’t even know where he is because if he had been in Morlaron for all this time we would have heard of him long before this” said Valorn, saying his first words since the Council meeting, “What’s worse is we don’t even know where to start” the elfin dwarf prince slumped in his chair.
“Arelsgain might be a good place to start. Its been locked in a bloody civil war for years now, the place is a breeding ground for mercenary filth. I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one or more of them had served under Dracus at one point or another, and mercenaries don’t ask questions, so if we planted a spy there its unlikely that he’ll be found out” said Redtree leaning forward to take his glass.
“But who will we send? With an impending counter attack I don’t have men to spare” Zorn’s gaze shifted to Drell and Loroedor. The older elf shook his head.
“No, Malakarn knows us too well. If we were ever discovered that would be the end of it. It’s too big a risk. The same goes for you and your men Redtree, true Malakarn probably didn’t see you but a surviving enemy soldier might have”
“In that case I’ll go” the room fell silent and all eyes turned to Mina, “Well think about it, it makes sense. There are female mercenaries aren’t there?” she looked to Redtree who nodded slowly.
“I’ve seen a few, yes”
“So then I wont be suspicious. Besides that none of them know my face or my name, it will be easy for me to blend in”
“Mina its too”
“Drell, don’t start arguing with me again. You know that I can fight and that I can take care of myself. You have no possible argument to offer except that its dangerous, a fact that I am already well aware of so please let it rest” Drell sighed and looked down at the table. Zorn leaned forward.
“Are you sure you want to do this lass?” Mina nodded.
“Yes, I am sure”
“Vary well then” Zorn smiled, “You have courage lass and what you say makes sense. Less suspicion would fall upon a woman then it would on a man, no offence intended of course”
“None taken your highness”
“ Will you be ready to leave by tomorrow morning?”
“More then ready”
“Its settled then” Zorn stood and raised his glass, “To lady Mina, may the gods watch over her on her dangerous task” all raised their glasses with the Kings and drank. Drell rose from the table and, completely forgetting his manners, departed from the dining hall without a word.
At the brake of dawn Mina sat ready upon a dapple-gray mare that one of the knights had gone out to purchase in Mina’s nearby hometown of Talowen. She had replaced her sky blue tunic with one of plain black wool, for the other would have been too rich looking for a mercenary. She would exit the city by a less frequently used and hidden doorway that lead out onto the Plains of Morlan. She could wait for Drell no longer, she made ready to call for the door to open.
“Wait!” Drell came running in and seized a hold of the reigns.
“I didn’t think you would come” Mina smiled.
“Neither did I” he placed a hand on her leg, “Mina I just want to say I’m sorry. I should have more faith in you after all that has happened. And that… I love you”
“I know, but I really had best be getting on. I want to make good use of the day” she placed a hand on his face, “Goodbye Drell and don’t worry I’ll be fine” Drell nodded, took her hand and kissed it. Smiling at her he then stepped back.
“Open the door!” called Mina. The lone dwarf complied and Mina turned to Drell, “Goodbye my love, wish me luck” with this she flicked the reigns and was off with all speed. Drell stood in the shadow of the door to watch as she swiftly disappeared into the distance, toward Arelsgain.
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