Legend of the Green
It was raining, as it always did in the High Kingdom of Baerlond. In a rickety old cabin, three small children sat around the fire besides their great-grandmother in rocking chair, as rickety as the house. The great-grandmother back and forth as the fire danced and leaped like the fair dancers from the Festival of Selma. The bright red, orange and yellow flames patterned dragon eyes and warmed the house.
"Tells us a story, Grandmamma," begged Gwyn, a little girl no more than five with curly brown hair and big puppy-dog brown eyes.
The old woman laughed. "What kind of a story do ye want, deary?" Grandmamma asked.
"A story with a big bloody battle!" said Gwyn's brother, Myrun.
"One with a fair elf-maid that falls in love with the common lad!" cried the eldest sister, Gwenfrewi.
"A story with myth and magic, legends and lore," added Gwyn. Her brown eyes glowed in the fire's shadow. "Fair elven knights and mighty dragon warriors and powerful human mages, that's the story I want Grandmamma. Do you know a story like that?"
"Well, lucky for ye younglings I know a tale with all three types of stories ye want." Grandmamma looked into the eyes of the three children. "It's called War of the Green. It begins long ago in the High Kingdom of Baerlond. The High City was the grandest city–"
"Why does it have to be about the royal family?" Myrun whined as he interrupted Grandmamma. "Where are the dragons breathing fire and spitting acid at the bad guys! This story is stupid!"
Glaring at her little brother, Gwenfrewi yelled, "No, its not, Myrun! You just don't like it because it doesn't have a gory battle scene in the beginning!"
Myrun stuck his tongue out at her.
"Stop it, both of you! I want to hear the story!" leaping to her feet, Gwyn stamped her foot, her face red.
"Shut up, Gwyn! This doesn't concern you!" yelled Gwenfrewi loudly as she glared at her little sister.
"Leave her alone, Gwenfrewi! You are nothing but a spoiled brat!" hissed Myrun.
"YOU TAKE THAT BACK MYRUN! RIGHT THIS SECOND! TAKE IT BACK! TAKE IT BACK NOW!" Gwenfrewi yelled, and would have leaped at Myrun if it weren't for Gwyn.
"Gwenfrewi stop it! Don't hurt Myrun. Myrun, don't tease Gwenfrewi. I want to hear the story," Gwyn said, and looked up at her great-grandmother.
Grandmamma shook her head. "If all three of ye don't hush up, I'll not tell the tale," she threatened.
"Okay, Grandmamma," all three children said together.
"Now, where was I…? Oh, yes, now I remember! It begins long ago in the High Kingdom of Baerlond. The High City was the grandest city in the world and life was good. But little did the people of Baerlond know that a terrible evil was growing in the center kingdom. The Shadow Kingdom it was called, for all creatures of the Darkness Shadow lived there. In this age, the magic was strong and the mages powerful, though the Fae Forest was still nothing but a whispered legend.
"One day, shortly after sunset a fair elven maiden rode out on her palomino steed. Her hair was as brown as the wet earth; and fell to the small of her back in a braided half ponytail. Her eyes were as bright and blue as the sapphires set into the High King's crown. She wore a jade green riding coat edged in golden silk, on the back was the mighty cedar tree Neetha'quaza of Alnathee embroidered in golden thread. Beneath the coat, she wore a forest and emerald green long-sleeved tunic with matching trousers. Her boots were of the finest elven leather brown as her hair. A sword of elf-steel and meythrill hung at her left side, the blade thin and light yet amazingly strong.
"The horse she rode was one of the finest palomino stallions of elven bloodstock. He was swifter than the wind and very proud, he galloped with a smooth gate and was very steady. He didn't even notice the lightweight elven leather saddle on his back or the bit-less bridle and halter around his face. His liquid brown eyes only saw what lay before him. The elf-maid was very nervous, for she kept glancing around the thinning aspen woods that were all around her, and in the darkness ahead a trap lay waiting…."
The forest was filled with the sound of horse hooves as the palomino stallion galloped into the darkness. The elf-maid he bore proudly on back, sat straight and tall, moving with the strides of her mount as if she were one with the animal. Her bright blue eyes glanced around in the growing darkness, wondering why she'd been sent out near sunset. Her mission was too important be done at night.
Birds of the day headed back to their nests while the birds of the night slowly filled the air with their songs. The great-horned owls filled the air with their low and haunting hoots.
Riding behind her were two companions. They were sworn to protect her on her journey to deliver the stone. One rode a young bay proud and strong. The other rode a buckskin that was light of foot and swift as the wind. They rode two paces behind the elf-maid, ready to leap at any sign of danger. Their emerald green eyes failed, though, to spot the snakeling witch waiting to kidnap the elf-maid and the magical stone called the Crest of the Green.
In the fading light of the sun as it bathed the mountains in blood red light, a snakeling witch waited; her bow in hand, as she waited for the elves to ride closer. The caw of a raven made the horses uneasy.
"What was that?" asked the elf-maid to her two protectors.
"Saireanya, I think we should turn back and go another way, or wait until dawn," said the elf astride the bay, he was nervous for it was his first really important mission.
The brown haired elf-maid glared as she turned to him, her blue eyes like sapphires, "No, this way is safe. It was just a raven. Nothing has ever happened by just hearing the caw of a raven, Vanlyn."
Vanlyn sighed and nodded, even though he knew something bad was going happen.
They rode on.
The snakeling smiled, her plan was working perfectly. The first sign of danger the elf-maid dismissed it with a blink of an eye. The snakeling straightened a bit, sending the birds chattering into flight.
The elves stopped again, their eyes glowing with their own inner light as they glanced all around.
"Sister," the elf riding the buckskin said, his silvery gold hair turning golden orange with the fading light.
Vanlyn's fire-red hair became an illusion of flames. Both Vanlyn and Saireanya's brother were nervous about continuing the journey.
"Let's go. It was most likely just an owl or an eagle," Saireanya touched her stallion, and rode straight pass the snakeling.
Sensing the evil creature, the other two elves stopped right in front of the snakeling.
"My lady!" Vanlyn called, in a frightened voice. He drew his bow and nocked an arrow. He shakily tried to aim for the snakeling in front of him. He saw the monster's flat face, ringed by a cobra's hood. Orange-red eyes with their golden slits stared back at him; the purple-blue forked serpentine tongue tasted the air. The fiend was half hidden by the aspen's branches.
"Vanlyn, shoot it!" yelled Taeolyn, Saireanya's brother.
Taeolyn's eyes kept flickering from the snakeling, to his sister and finally, to Vanlyn then back at the snakeling.
Time seemed to slow down to a stop.
Beads of sweat ran down Vanlyn's forehead. His emerald eyes locked on the snakeling above Saireanya. Yet, he held his bow and arrow in two shaky hands. Why wasn't he shooting the creature in the trees? He saw the snakeling draw one of her own arrows, touching the arrow's head to one of her pearl white fangs. Snakeling venom dribbled down, oozing along the metal arrowhead.
Vanlyn watched as the snakeling nocked her bow. She raised it and aimed the envenomed arrow at his heart.
"Shoot the bloody arrow!" a voice distant and dream-like yelled at Vanlyn.
The snakeling pulled the bowstring of her bow back against her hood.
Vanlyn's hands began to get sweaty, and he started to lose his grip on the bow. Why can't I let the arrow loose? Why? Why? He asked himself. The arrow and the bow quivered as the young elf shook in fright.
The twang of a taught bowstring being let go sounded, breaking the still silence of the twilight. Blackbirds were sent cackling into flight.
The air was suddenly filled with silence.
Saireanya spurred her stallion around. She saw the arrow as it flew, her eyes wide with shock and fear, "Vanlyn!"
The arrow with its poisoned tip found its mark, and embedded itself in the elf's heart.
Vanlyn's eyes grew wide as the arrow pierced his soft flesh. Tearing through his flax tunic, wrenching through his muscles and settling in the warm flesh of his beating heart. He went limp as death instantly took hold of his body. His bow faced the trees, and he let go of the arrow. It landed in the trees above as he grunted and toppled off his bay. The horse reared and whinnied, and ran into the forest. Saireanya drew her sword and her brother nocked his bow. Both pairs of eyes darting from left to right.
"You should have listened to Vanlyn, Saireanya! Now he's dead because of your arrogance!" Saireanya's brother snapped.
Saireanya glowered at her brother.
"Be quite Taeolyn! Keep your eyes open," snarled Saireanya.
"For what? What are we looking for? We are hunting ghosts!" Taeolyn told his sister coldly. Their horses pranced anxiously around in circles.
"The arrow came from the trees, Taeolyn. Look in the trees!" Saireanya waved her sword at the branches above. "Besides, I don't know what it was! Anything that looks like it will kill us and take the Crest of the Green!" hissed Saireanya, trying to control her fretful horse.
"By the gods, Saireanya! That's vague! 'Anything that looks like it will kill us and take the Crest of the Green!'" Taeolyn rolled his eyes in annoyance. "C'mon Saireanya, you aren't helping! Why are we taking the silly thing to Kenban's Moor at this hour? We don't even know which Green One it belongs to, let alone where the Green One lives! Are we even sure the Shadow One wants the Crest of the Green anyways?" he was trying to control his horse, too.
"I don't know! Just because—Please, just concentrate Taeolyn? Look for something in the trees and make sure it doesn't try to kill us—"
"That is what you said last time! How can we make sure something doesn't try to kill us if we don't even know what creature is trying to kill us! It's as if we're trying to catch—" Taeolyn stopped speaking for something made a sound.
"Shh! I here something from above," Saireanya said, and both brother and sister gazed up into the branches.
They were on their guard now and the snakeling witch knew it. Silent as a mouse the snakeling slithered up the tree Saireanya was under. In the branches, the snakeling witch damped a cloth with a sleeping draught and swiftly reached down.
Luck was with Saireanya for she looked up just in time and ducked the first try from the snakeling.
"Taeolyn! Kill the snakeling! Quick!" she said knowing she had to try to get the Crest of the Green away from the snakeling at all cost even if it meant using a highly tricky teleporting spell. With her mind now made up she whispered, "Natho nenna!" as she threw the stone, letting the Crest fly. The Crest of the Green vanished from sight like the light of a firefly.
Taeolyn shot the arrow at the snakeling in the trees, and the arrow skinned her arm. Blood oozed out of the breakage of the skin, bright and ruby red.
"Krissss!" The snakeling hissed, nocking another arrow and shot it at Taeolyn, believing he had caught the stone. Saireanya had thrown the Crest of the Green in Taeolyn's direction.
The elf grunted as the poisoned tipped arrow embedded into his shoulder, but he swiftly yanks the arrow out of him and watched as the snakeling put Saireanya to sleep. But the Crest was gone; hopefully to where he and Saireanya were, supposed to take it if the spell worked properly. He spurred his buckskin around and galloped back to the city, to tell the Lady's Guard what just happened. He was literally racing time. He glanced over his shoulder and even though it was for a moment or two he saw the ghastly sight of the ambush.
Vanlyn's lifeless body lay there. His face was the ghostly shade of white taken on by the dead. His flame red hair framed his head. His bow was on the edge of his fingertips on his left hand. His lips were slightly parted, white as a sheet. His emerald green eyes held the glassy glazed look of the dead. An arrow stood straight up in his chest.
The snakeling slithered away, and she looked back at the path on which her carefully planed ambushed had taken place. She gave a cruel smile when she saw the lifeless body of the elf she had killed. She had half of the prize; she would get Saireanya Swanfeather to talk. She had her ways of getting information out of her victims.
Saireanya's horse was nowhere in sight. Vanlyn lay dead on the ground, the sun bathing him and the forest path in light the color of blood. A raven cawed and an owl hooted, and the forest was filled with silence once more.Taeolyn raced against time. The snakeling's venom worked swiftly, but he was lucky that she'd aimed hastily. The arrow landed in his shoulder. His left hand held the reins of Goldriver, his horse, while his right hand held the bleeding wound. He knew the arrow had done little damage going in, but by pulling the thing out, he had done more damage to his injured left shoulder.
His left arm began to tingle; the venom was taking hold quickly. He shook his head, for he was starting to get dizzy, and he slapped the reins down on Goldriver's neck; forcing the horse to gallop faster. Taeolyn's sharp ears heard the sound of a small stream just up ahead. His entire left arm was now numb.
"Kytha!" he grabbed the reins with his bloodied right hand, allowing his numb left arm to dangle at his side.
He shook his head again, and his vision began to blur. Goldriver leaped cleanly over the stream. The horse landed with a thud on the other side and continues his mad dash through the forest of cedar and aspen. Taeolyn began to sway in the saddle. He looked up into the large cedar trees.
Watch posts! He was getting closer to the city!
"C'mon, Goldriver! Fly!" Taeolyn weakly hissed to his loyal horse. Goldriver neighed with fiery spirit put on a last burst of speed. "The Gates…of…Fen Daitelarune," Taeolyn whispered, his strength failing with each passing moment. His vision was beginning to turn go double as he neared the gates of the elvish city.
Atop the ground level gates of the elven city Fen Daitelarune, two elven sentries on watch duty, were talking about the weather and other things when they heard the whinny of a horse. They looked, and they saw that it was Taeolyn astride his horse Goldriver; the horse was covered in a white foaming lather of sweat. Taeolyn was very pale. They leaped fluidly out of their posts and ran to their kinsman.
"Speak Taeolyn, what brings your return so soon? Where is your sister Saireanya, and your friend, Vanlyn?" the first one asked, very worried about the events that led to Taeolyn's frantic return. The second one steadied Taeolyn in the saddle.
"Kidnapped… snakeling ambushed. Vanlyn dead… Vanlyn's horse…Windancer," Taeolyn shook his head. "Gone into… the forest… Crest sent… sent away," Taeolyn gasped before he collapsed out of the saddle and slumped into the second sentry's arms. The elf that asked Taeolyn the question, felt for a lifebeat, it was there but very weak. He glared at his friend, who was holding the dying Taeolyn.
"Well what are you waiting for? Get on that horse and ride to the main city!" cried the first watchman, the second sentry holding Taeolyn nodded, and mounted Goldriver. With a few simple High elven, words sent the horse into a swift gallop, through the Gates of Fen Daitelarune, which were almost always open.
"Gods be with them both," the first elf whispered, touching his forehead, then his heart and then kissing his hand and touching his bow. He hoped the gods were with them both. He then returned to his post.