The leader of Elveran did not live in a palace or castle built for kings. His house was small and quaint, consisting only of a bedroom, living room, dining area, and study. His name was Delenas Farlong, and he had just returned from a venture to the Dwarf lands. He was a tall, noble figure and his long, blonde hair was so uncommonly dark that it was almost brown. He wore a brown traveler’s tunic around his shoulders and a dark green cape which was fastened to his shirt by a diamond-encrusted pin. There was a gracious and kind crook in his eyes, but his intrepid face and powerful physique proved him a warrior. Throughout his eighty years as their ruler, his people loved him for his benevolent spirit. There could not be found a leader who, despite the daily toil of managing a province, and despite the sickness and death of his wife Miranda twenty years past, was more gentle and just.
Sitting at his desk piled with books and papers, he brooded over a particularly disturbing letter which was adorned with a royal seal. It read:
Caldradon of Iere, king of the humans of Gemdals and loyal partisan of virtue,
To Delenas Farlong, Leader of the Elves in Elveran and fellow noble,
I bring news of our condition in the West. Never before has the country suffered such misfortune as has afflicted us this month past. The events of late, that appear strangely coincidental, have weakened our nation considerably. The water supply has waned, and many of our best military commanders and our finest warriors have recently died from the sword or disease. Food is scarce as well, and in such starvation even the rich become poor. Our regime struggles against economy and state, and the people are divided by loyalists and charlatans. I feel there is little unity left in our society, and its strength may suffer a great deal. I am doing all that I can, but I fear for the loyalty of the people. Many of them, along with a handful of the nobles who prowl the royal halls, blame these tragedies on me.
I maintain the belief that in spite of our grievances we can take comfort in the alliance between the humans, Elves, and Dwarves, however strong that may be. I can only speculate in these strange times.
News of the North has been daunting. Sights of Possessors have been reported almost daily, and rumors of their incredible numbers are whispered in the corners. Some of the peasants, I am afraid, have even joined their side. War is on the enemy’s mind, and the stench of it is in the air.
I ask for an account and status of your country that we may stay informed. I hope and trust that your land flourish with the blessing of peace. I would not wish for the Elves to be deprived of it. I may hold a private meeting before long.
Perturbed, Delenas set aside the letter. He sat in thought, as he had so many times before, and rubbed his forehead despondently. He had always been comforted by the white walls and polished wood floor of his study. It cleared his head. But having just returned from Frorland for a meeting with the Dwarves, his mind was already haunted by distress. The Dwarves were in an era of renewal and discovery, of new religions and discrepancy. They had requested his advice in executive matters but there was no denying the resentment for the Elves in their hearts. He thought that perhaps they were obliged to lay their differences aside just this once in order to make any progress. But the Dwarves would not be reasonable. After Delenas offered any word of counsel, they went berserk like vipers. It was all in their heads, the leader knew. He could only trust that his visit had not broadened the gap between their races. He held the same hope for their alliance with men.
The rumors of recession in the West were now alive in the letter before him. He wished the letter had been more specific, although, from what he gathered, their condition bade as dreadful as civil war among them. A weakness had come upon them like a plague. He wished as well as the king to uphold the strength of union that men and Elves had held for ages, and his spirit yearned to do all that he could to support their civilization.
His recent inconvenience with the Dwarves and this news of recession in the West made his head ache. And if that was not enough, he had the city’s annual Militant Games being held tomorrow night to worry about. As host of the events, he still had many preparations to make.
He was reaching for a blank parchment to write his reply to the king of Gemdals when a knock on his door startled him.
“Goodness save us!” he exclaimed. “Come in!”
For the Elves to speak in the human tongue was normal. Ever since the exodus from Slyvelia when the enemy had invaded, the language of men had spread and become the most wonted speech in the world.
The door opened to reveal the stout figure of Kinfas, one of his guards. “My lord, an Elf from Barasel to see you, sir.”
The leader gave his consent, and Kinfas directed into the room an Elf with imposing strength in his chest and silky, blonde hair that flowed past his shoulders. His bright, blue eyes were sharp like a falcon’s, but Delenas could tell they were not always so. He knew when an Elf had seen both deep sorrow and great joy, for both were found in the outline of the eyes. Fastened to the Barasen's back were a bow, a full quiver, and two long knives. His casual apparel suggested less than nobility.
“Lord Delenas,” the Elf began in a gentle voice, “I am Lasgaleth, son of Dandaron Ferell, third lieutenant of Barasel. I wish, if it were any concern to my lord, to ask for a new recruit.” Such a direct request meant one of two things. Either the Barasen had short business to make and wanted to give a positive impression, or he was characteristically rude. Delenas smiled cordially. Whatever his motives, this Elf appeared to have honest ambition. The Barasen himself remained impassive, lowered his gaze, and sighed. “Begging your pardon, but the leaders of Barasel do nothing in acknowledgement of my deeds and abilities. Their manner and guidance are…displeasing.”
“To speak ill of your authorities is a crime, Lasgaleth. You must know this. And do you not believe that one who tries too hard to gain favor will lose it?”
The Barasen lifted his eyes. “For that, please forgive me. My will cannot be silent before the corrupt leadership of my land.”
“No! Well, not entirely. If there is treason involved, it is that of my conscience against an immoral and careless government.”
A coldness consumed the leader’s expression, and not because of the Barasen’s defiance. Over the past few years, he had had far too many troubles with the northern province, and he had never before been approached by one so disconcerted by it. He wondered what truly stirred the passions of this young revolutionary.
“I hope irrationality has not swept you off your feet. Are you sure what you speak of is true?”
“True? You yourself should know, sir.”
His guest certainly was not the most polite, Delenas thought, but he could not help but like him. He pushed back his chair and stepped to the side of his desk. “I would like to hear all that you know, Lasgaleth. But you must know first that I have little power over the leaders of Barasel. What is it that you ask for?”
“Only the initiative to oppose their corruption. There are beggars and thieves in the streets while the leaders are squabbling indoors, ignorant of what is happening outside. With what little power you have, will you do nothing?”
“They have wronged me many times,” said the leader, “but such is to be expected in the field of leadership. The monarchy of Elveran will not be equated with their oligarchy sanctioned by my father. Nonetheless, I will think it over. It could be that I can do nothing for you and your people, Lasgaleth, and you would be obliged to return home.”
“I don’t have a home, sir.”
The statement caught the leader by surprise.
The Elf continued, “I lived with a swordsmith after my mother’s death. With every passing day, Dralindor has become less of the home I once held it to be.”
Behind the Barasen’s weary eyes, Delenas saw courage. This was a stanch, young Elf who was full of heart. “Have you thought about living here?”
“I have. If you were able to do nothing for Barasel, I may just as well choose Elveran as my home. At least then I would live in a land that is ruled well.”
Rather than blushing naïvely, Delenas smiled brightly. “You are more than welcome here in The City, Lasgaleth. For the present, I will see to it that you receive good housing on the north side. There's no need to worry; it's only temporary.”
Before the Barasen could express his gratitude, the leader pointed at the hilts of his knives. He was impressed to see the knives in place of a sword.
“Your weaponry intrigues me," he said. "There are few who practice the daggers nowadays.”
The Barasen did not hide his glee. “You call them daggers as well! Today blades that are crafted as short as these are generally called long knives. Until perhaps a thousand years ago these were always referred to as daggers, so I have always identified them as such. I've practiced long and hard with them, and have never been bested. I'd like to teach someone someday.”
A scholar and a teacher! Now Delenas was truly intrigued.
“As you may well enough know, we are holding the annual Militant Games tomorrow night. This will be our thirty-eighth year. You might possibly see others who fight with daggers.”
“I attended last year’s competition, and there were none.”
“Although only the Elves of Elveran are allowed to compete, perhaps we could make an exception to the rules and have you fight in the swordplay competition. That way I could see just how good you really are.”
Lasgaleth’s eyebrows rose. “You would do that for me?”
“It would take a bit of persuasion, but I think we could get you in.” Never in the history of the games had a foreigner (even from Barasel) been allowed to participate.
Lasgaleth kept his grace, although Delenas saw he had the urge to yell out with joy. “I would like that of all things.”
“Excellent!” Delenas placed a hand on the Barasen’s shoulders and offered him a seat in front of his desk. “Then we can discuss the procedure and rules of the games.”
The leader informed Lasgaleth of everything from the rules to arrangements and participants of the tournament. For an hour they discussed their plan for adding the Barasen to the list of warriors, until Delenas excused Lasgaleth to go along with Kinfas and settle in one of the many spare houses reserved for guests.
Although small, the capital of Elveran was beautiful by all standards. A mighty wall one mile in perimeter fortified the entire city, even on the east end which was enveloped by forest. There were no great castles or temples in the city but only simple buildings that gleamed of white wood and alabaster from the forest of Nediledek. Except for the marketplace, each structure was only one story, but the Elves preferred it that way; they enjoyed harmony in the close proximity to the ground and to each other. The capital was marked by the labor of eight generations, their love and joy spilt onto the stonework and draped over the environment. Nearly every building, whether large or small, as well as every statue on the corners of the streets was adorned by runes of the Elvish language recounting legends of their past - of battles and events, stories of family lineages and legacies. The streets themselves shimmered of a white, rare stone found only in Elveran. No other city in Iělŗenväd (for that is what they called the world) grew its grass so green, and only the Valleys of Corhelth in the north boasted trees more fruitful. The flat landscape was designed delicately - where there were no streets or stone-paved paths, grass, trees, hedges, and bushes embellished the expanses. Several of the trees were great oaks, but most were shorter, fruit trees that added colors of green, orange, or pink to the city like those in a garden beneath a never-ending sunset. The whole breadth of land flourished with life. Only an Elf could describe the sensation of the place, for it was foreign and intangible to all others. It was, as any Elf would say, a most idyllic home.
The capital was without a name, for an old ruler of that place wished for it to be distinct from all other cities. So he decreed that it never be given one, and it had always been called “The City” by all who knew of it.
The City rested in the mid-eastern parts of Elveran, one of two provinces in the country of Nevles - Barasel being the other. With the exceptions of the coastal city of Windlor along the Royal Sea and of Dralindor in Barasel, The City was similar in size to that of any town or village in Nevles. The Elves' pride was not in the greatness of their cities, but in the beauty of their land. Elveran, with its consistently clear skies, rolling hills, untouched forests, and lush green grass, was for them a paradise.
Although resembling humans by their height, the Elves differed by their pointed ears, their graceful hair, and the absence of facial hair. Elves also enjoyed longer life, normally surpassing any human or Dwarf by a hundred years. Only the wizards outlived the Elves, though even they were not immortal. The Elf maidens, or She-Elves, were particularly beautiful, often wearing gowns with a splendid array of colors. The elegant and noble people, masters of sculpture and designers of architecture, were disciplined, adept in art and undeniably in love with nature.
The City was lively day after day, and the Elves enjoyed a time of prosperity. Many Elves went about their business in the streets and marketplace while the children played in the parks under the cover of trees. They had not known the sting of war for a hundred years, and over such time they had grown in might and numbers. They were a passive folk, tranquil and festive, but vigilant and always prepared for conflict.
The day after the Barasen arrived was the twenty-sixth of Ora-Vesfílin. The City was crowded with Elves from outlying towns and villages. Among them were the best warriors of Elveran, whether archers, swordfighters, or jousters. They were the elite, the finest fighters in the land, and most were renowned for their heroic achievements in foreign parts. Revelry filled the air as old friends and distant relatives were reunited.
Lasgaleth found himself among a people both statelier and more lighthearted than those of Barasel. Despite the joy of meeting new faces, he could not escape feeling insignificant in their presence. He was most likely the only warrior without a reputation. On the other hand, he was grateful that he was permitted to compete in the tournament. Were it not for the leader’s influence, the overseers would have refused his participation. Even after they had been persuaded, they still thought it objectionable. But there was no protest among the common folk, which Lasgaleth had initially feared.
He was shocked to discover that a large number of warriors brought large families to the event. The best of the nation, he realized, were not subject to complete devotion of their art in order to master it, but they could also care for their families. Unlike the warriors of Barasel, those in Elveran relied more on their natural skill than on incessant practice.
The stadium, which was outside the walls of the city, was one of the largest structures in Elveran. The City basically resided in its shadow. With room for thousands of spectators to sit comfortably, the stadium was a semicircle with its open end facing the eastern forest.
Twilight was little more than an hour away, and the air felt pleasantly cool. Excitement and anticipation pervaded the atmosphere as the seats of the stadium were filled within half an hour.
During the opening events, Lasgaleth watched from the sidelines and waited uneasily for the swordplay competition, the third and last event.
The archery contest took place first, and never had the Elves seen such outstanding archery and assiduous competition. Because the Elves were the most able archers in Iělŗenväd, the energy and excitement did away with the usual humdrum of watching the sport.
After the contest had been won, the targets were carried away and a long wooden fence, extending from one end of the center field to the other, was staked in the ground. Many favored the joust over any other sport. Jousting had not always been part of the games; it was a sport borrowed twelve years ago from the knights of Gemdals when the Elves went to attend a tournament of theirs. It was a dignified and fair game, although brutal and without a doubt the most dangerous. Each strike of the lance resulted in terrible pain, and no one could predict how nasty the strike would be, whether it would cause an Elf to plunge off his horse or even to be trampled underneath its hooves. Throughout the competition many riders left the field severely injured.
During the last fifteen minutes of the joust, Lasgaleth followed the warriors who were to fight in the swordplay competition as they exited the stadium and waited outside. He stood for a while watching the moon rising over the stadium. Holding his fingers in a fist to stop their trembling, he felt a considerable anxiety consume his being. The other warriors were silent, and Lasgaleth wondered if they were as nervous as he was.
He heard the leader’s voice ring out from the stadium. Delenas was introducing the start of the swordplay competition by explaining the rules, given that they had been changed since the year before. The loser of a match would be out of the competition entirely, until there were only two left standing to duel for the victory.
When it came time for the warriors to be called forth, Lasgaleth joined the others in a column before the entrance to the arena. After a few had made their entry at the leader’s summoning, Lasgaleth heard his own name called. He walked briskly into the open area where the fence had been. Immediately, he felt conflicting sensations of wonder and insignificance as he observed the many eyes upon him and the boisterous sound of applause. As he stood in the center of the arena, the stadium seemed twice the size it had from the sidelines. He positioned himself beside the warriors and waited as the rest were called.
Among them was Plagafel, for whom the crowds gave a deafening cheer. The wrinkles of his advanced years disguised his true dexterity; the strength of his arm was as impressive as the skill of his sword, and he bore himself as a seasoned warrior. Lasgaleth had seen him, the undefeated champion, victorious at the games last year. It would be an honor to have a chance to fight him.
Soon, a line of twelve warriors was situated in the center of the arena. Lasgaleth was the only Elf without a sword at his side, but that did not bother him. His daggers had served him well in the past.
All but two champions filed into their benches on the sideline. The audience quieted as the hammer of a gong rung out, and the duel between two named Aladros and Peradir began. Lasgaleth rubbed his hands together, stimulated by the dexterity of the masterful opponents and their dance.
Death was not allowed in the games. Only when one of the champions was disarmed was the fight ended.
Aladros proved the better fighter and knocked Peradir’s sword from his hand, pointing his own at Peradir’s neck. Peradir demonstrated proper contentment, for showing contempt in a competition such as this was not in the nature of an Elf, and dishonor would follow those who ever did.
The event proceeded as four outstanding warriors fought in the next two rounds. Lasgaleth tried to reassure himself that losing was not as bad as he supposed, and that it left him room for improvement. When the time came, after the third duel was fought, he took a deep breath and walked out onto the field. His opponent, Gildan, from the western village of Jastin, faced him in the middle of the field, holding ready his mighty sword. Lasgaleth kept his daggers sheathed, which was how he had always begun in the past. He had fought before in tournaments such as this, and each time he was reminded of one simple idea: if he were not relaxed enough to begin with his weapons sheathed, he was not ready to begin with them drawn. All of his anxiety left him and he was able to breathe again at a steady pace. Suddenly the riotous crowd calmed down, leaving a deathly silence. The gong sounded and Gildan charged without hesitation. Lasgaleth surprised the Elveran warrior with how quickly he parried the attack. His confidence returned to him as the fight progressed to its full intensity. The energy. The rush. The passion. Lasgaleth felt he had trained his entire life for this. He outmaneuvered Gildan many times before he finally disarmed his opponent. The crowd erupted in excitement as Lasgaleth returned to the sidelines with his arms raised in the air.
After two final duels, the first round of the tournament was ended. The second round began strongly with Lasgaleth’s victory over Dimetrus. Other warriors were eliminated in the next few fights until the last remaining were Lasgaleth (who was overjoyed that he had made it even this far), Plagafel, Gorwind (from the coastal city of Windlor), and another named Valethus. Valethus was not a favorite of the people, but was nonetheless an excellent fighter.
Lasgaleth fought against Gorwind in the next round, and he had never in the past faced a more skilled opponent. Gorwind could repel any of his usual attacks, and he was quicker and more agile than the others. Lasgaleth had to rely on new methods. He refrained from attacking and focused on defense, studying Gorwind’s technique until he found a flaw. He noticed that Gorwind’s blade carried quite far back after an attempted strike, leaving his body vulnerable. The next time Gorwind came at him, he managed a kick to Gorwind’s stomach. Gorwind lost his balance and fell backwards. The Elveran warrior's right arm swung around behind him and he lost control of his sword. To avoid landing on it, he dropped it and collapsed just inches away from the blade.
Lasgaleth sheathed his weapons as the audience’s ovation resounded throughout the stadium. Despite his satisfaction, he was exhausted from the intensity of the duels. Feeling light-headed, he helped Gorwind to his feet and then found his seat again. Lasgaleth tried to keep his focus, but the stadium appeared to spin around him. As his head began to clear, he slowly realized that he had made it to the final round of the competition. The dizziness might have gone, but his nervousness returned to him; after all, the winner of the next round would most likely be the greatest opponent he had ever faced.
The sun had set, and the darkness was heavy. In the heat of his combats, he had paid little attention to the light. Torches were brought out and placed around the perimeter of the arena, illuminating the stadium in a faint orange glow that bounded off the grass.
Plagafel defeated Valethus in an impressive fight, and while the deafening roar of the crowd echoed throughout the grounds, the older warrior approached Lasgaleth’s bench and sat next to him.
“Congratulations on your victory, good sir.” Lasgaleth offered a hand, which the other took.
“Aye, and you,” Plagafel responded. “You’re a fine soldier to have made it this far. I’m surprised they even allowed a Barasen to compete.”
“It was the leader himself who gave the word to the overseers. Yesterday I would not have dreamt of doing a thing like this, leastways to be so successful.”
The elder stood and glared at him with a scrutinizing eye. “It’s been a while since I battled an Elf with knives.”
“I have a feeling that is why I have been doing so well.”
Plagafel laughed at the remark, and Lasgaleth sensed a hint of condescension in the warrior’s demeanor.
They stayed at each other’s side as Lord Delenas introduced the last round of the tournament and called them forth.
Facing one another in the center of the arena, they shook hands once again. After the leader withdrew from the field, the signal tolled and they bowed to each other. Lasgaleth tried to remove the anxiety from his mind, focusing on a single stone in the grass. Then he looked up at the mass of spectators. He smiled; the apprehension was gone. Now his mind was calm.
The two warriors stared into each other’s eyes, their gaze locked in a duel of its own. Suspense filled the night air as the Elves mutely intimidated each other.
Suddenly Lasgaleth plunged into action. He hurled a dagger toward his opponent, just missing Plagafel’s left arm, and it landed in the dirt behind him with its hilt pointed upward. Lasgaleth rushed forward vehemently, hoping to catch his opponent off guard, but Plagafel was too quick. The elder swung his sword powerfully, and the Barasen twisted his body on impulse to avoid the blade. For several minutes they exchanged blows, both drawing on the greatest speed and dexterity that any Elf had ever known. Lasgaleth was beginning to feel the prevailing mastery of his opponent. Plagafel’s techniques were astounding. For an aged Elf, he fought with passion and overwhelming prowess. Lasgaleth strove to keep up with the warrior, but he soon realized that his only chance to carry on would be to retrieve his second dagger. When his opponent launched at him again, he crouched down so that Plagafel tripped over him and rolled on the ground. The spectators cheered as Lasgaleth took his second dagger from the ground and waited while Plagafel came again to his feet. Quicker than he had expected, Plagafel thrust his sword at Lasgaleth’s side. Lasgaleth swerved and parried the attack, yet Plagafel plunged a second time and cut into his thigh. With a cry, Lasgaleth fell to the ground. But it was not the end. He was not disarmed. Keeping his sharp instincts intact, he swung his right dagger, and as Plagafel's sword came down at his other hand, he struck it with all his remaining strength. The blade escaped Plagafel’s grip and soared through the air. As Lasgaleth twisted on the ground, his ankles met with Plagafel’s own. The older fell to the ground and Lasgaleth sprung to his feet, pointing the tips of both daggers at his opponent's neck.
Both warriors were breathing heavily, and for a few moments they said nothing. Finally Plagafel stood with an expression of surprise on his face. Taking the Barasen’s hand in his own, he said, “Regoria Vétorin,” an Elvish phrase which meant “honor to the victor.” He picked up his sword, unfastened his belt, and presented both to his victor. “Please, as a prize for defeating me, I request that you receive my sword, ‘Braulin’.”
“Oh no,” Lasgaleth replied, “I could not. The victory was prize enough for me.”
“Please. A warrior’s ultimate act is to lay up his sword. I am too old. My career is over and I have no more use for it. Take it, and take up my title as defending champion.”
Lasgaleth yielded to the warrior’s bequest and received the blade and its scabbard and raised them up high, answering the admiration of the people.
An astounded Lord Delenas ran to the Barasen, thrilled at his triumph. In his hand, glinting like a diamond, was the trophy of the swordplay competition: a goblet of gold and jewels from the far corners of Iělŗenväd. Once a year the Elven smiths would forge a similar chalice for this very purpose. They were not always identical, but the like was not rare in finding in a warrior’s home. Lasgaleth was, however, the first Barasen to ever own one.
After Lasgaleth was presented with the trophy, a mass of Elves came down onto the field to congratulate their new champion.
“Well done, Lasgaleth!” The leader exclaimed, clapping his hands in acknowledgment.
Lasgaleth beamed. “Thank you, my lord. I told you I was skilled with my daggers.”
The leader recognized the good-humor in his tone and welcomed it. “So I see, my new friend. I shall never doubt…”
A piercing scream split the sky, cutting the leader off in his speech and silencing the clamor. Lord Delenas turned quickly to see an Elf upon the ground with a single arrow in his chest. A horrified She-Elf leaned over him, wailing. Every Elf froze in alarm.
A gust of wind sent chills running down Lasgaleth’s neck. The breeze, which usually blew from the west, had come from the east woods behind him. The trees swayed a little, but he saw no one who could have shot that arrow.
The next instant, a second arrow whistled past him and struck another victim. In an uproar of screams, the crowd broke out into a frenzy. Delenas and Lasgaleth peered into the shadowy trees, and other warriors joined their side, holding their weapons at the ready. But the darkness consumed everything. Two more cries rose above the commotion and another pair of Elves dropped to the ground with arrows in their backs.
Surgeons came and examined the bodies. The arrows were identified as being from the far North, and the people were horrified all the more. The vile traitors bearing the mark of the Possessors on their necks had not shown themselves in Elveran for many years!
Delenas hastened to move the crowd away from the woods and out of the stadium, shouting, “Assist the elderly and the children! Get them away from the trees!” As the bodies of the dead and wounded were carried away from the stadium, many warriors and guards remained to encounter the intruders.
“My lord, there!” a warrior shouted out, eyes fixed on the wood.
Lasgaleth could see it as well. Dark shapes in the distance were slowly approaching.
Three Elven archers let loose their arrows, sending them streaming into the woods. One hit a tree, but two struck down a pair of men at the front whose cries were shrill and carried by the wind. Their minor attack was countered by a flock of arrows sent speeding toward them like a black cloud. The Elves dropped at once to the ground, but one fell backward with a dart in his side.
A warcry from the enemy echoed out of the trees, and twelve Slyvelians emerged, brandishing their weapons in assault. The Elves drew their swords. Lasgaleth, who in the commotion had left his daggers on the ground somewhere, had only the sword Braulin to use. He held it tight, muscles fatigued from the night’s events. But he saw no need to worry since the Possessors were outmatched, being nothing more than a flock of bats before the far mightier Elves.
The Northerners came upon them in a rush, and the two parties collided. Lasgaleth was shoved off-balance, but was quick to find his footing and charge the nearest enemy. Though he was less experienced with the sword than with his daggers, his movements were just as smooth and adept.
Before long the Slyvelians were defeated, and their bodies marred the ground. The air grew heavy as the breeze died away. Two Elves collapsed to the ground, gasping for air. The only noise that remained was the intense breathing of the warriors. Another pair attended to the one who was pierced by removing the arrow from his side and cleaning his wound.
Juriht, one of the champions from the night’s swordplay competition, had taken a dreadful injury and was lying on a small patch of grass, cringing and grasping his bloody tunic. Gorwind dropped to his side and tended to him, tearing a strip of fabric from his own shirt and tying it around Juriht’s stomach. He took hold of Juriht’s hand, embracing the cold and pale skin. The two stared into each other’s eyes. Juriht was quivering, but he said nothing. Soon his body stilled. Gorwind gently slid his fingers over Juriht’s face and sealed the blank stare.
Lasgaleth looked away from the image of Juriht and gazed with wide and brooding eyes at the ground and the Possessors before him. He took no notice of the trail of blood that dripped from the edge of his lips. The crimson flow from the decaying bodies was the more revolting.
Delenas stood only a few feet from him. As the two gazed at each other, Lasgaleth saw something in the leader that he had not seen before, not in any Elf. He saw fear - a fear he thought no great leader could possess.
“My lord, what is it?”
“I must go,” declared Delenas urgently and sprinted off toward the city walls.
“My lord, wait! Where are you going?” Lasgaleth darted after him. Having the advantage of speed, he caught up to him quickly. “My lord, please! Tell me what you’re doing!”
Delenas did not slow his pace to answer. “We must act quickly to ensure that there are no reinforcements. The troops must be sent out.”
“After such a small attack as this?”
Suddenly Delenas stopped and seized the Barasen’s cloak. Lasgaleth was deeply alarmed by the foreboding behind the leader’s eyes.
“Lasgaleth, several Elves just lost their lives! There hasn’t been an attack like this since the Southern War! I don’t know what is happening here, but I intend to find out.”