The long shadow of evening fell upon a castle, built on the coast and located on the Fjord of Paramour, bordering the mouth of the Glenmore River that empties out into the dark blue depths of the sea. This large castle, standing here now for three centuries, is the home to a group of people who had long ago built it with their own hands and most of them immortal beings or those blessed with extraordinary gifts. They are all refugees of many lands, banished by their own people over their powers and gifts they did not understand. Powers that had been accepted at first, later feared, as the Inquisition rampaged across the land, persecuting and condemning anything and anyone heretic.
As for the castle itself, however, is one that has not known any war or battle, the white stone making up the walls unscathed, unmarked from everything except time itself. It has been unchallenged in the three centuries that it had been standing and only legend, mystery and only stories spread across the land that has kept it a guarded secret.
The white walls of the castle stand well over a hundred feet high from the ground to the top. It is built on the fjord of solid stone, surrounded by the sharp rocks, the swirling churning sea making it a formidable and foreboding place. It is at the edge of the Fjord that this place is the edge of a deepwater cove, a thriving seaport that serves this castle for ships. A large island of rock on one side protects its flank, from the sea, and on the other side, on the mainland, surrounding this place is a fertile valley, with farmlands directly outside the castle walls. There is a thick forest beyond that spreads out like a sea of green, across the valley to the Algora Mountain Range that surrounding this sheltered valley. It is a place of peace and prosperity until now.
It has been only in the one hundred years that there has been more than just the castle and through the years many people traveled to this place from all over. They would know it as a refuge from the dark times that now are in this age. A village had sprung up, one of an impressive moderate size that formed around the castle. The people have come here to live in peace and escape the darkness of the Inquisition that now rages across the land. The castle has no king, no ruler, only a council of twelve that is the only leadership guiding the people. They are a wise and generous council, that guides the people who had taken refuge here, with wisdom, compassion and understanding.
Standing on guard, on top of the wall of the Castle of Dreams, at this very moment, Tári Melwasúl, one of the immortal residents sits on the top of the southern most turrets. The young woman is here on guard, a routine watch for the castle, and staring down at the forest and sea. It is her turn on the normal routine watch for this castle, where each of the immortals took turns with the volunteers who guard the castle, ensuring the continued safety of its walls.
She is an attractive youthful woman, with long brownish red hair that cascades down her back in a ripple of curls, brown eyes, and a trim petite figure. Tara wears a costume of her people, hand stitched by her own hand, of fine gray and green leather. Over the top of it, she wears the silver forged armor, and her sidearm, cast in her village long ago. This is the same village and home that had banished her over a hundred years ago, when the church encroached on their village.
As she performs her watch, her mind is elsewhere, managing to stare now at the western horizon where a glorious display of blue, purple, gold, red and mauve colors cascade across the skyline. A sunset that had been uncommon in all the times she had been here at the castle. It made her think of her mate, and lover who now traveled the lands on a quest, to gather those like themselves. Her lover, who was not here, who shared many sunsets and sunrises together embraced in each other's arms.
“Beautiful.” Tara managed to murmur, smiling as she stared at the western sky and a cool sea breeze whipped at her long hair. Her smile quickly faded, when the sound of a thunderclap echoed across the mountains.
The sound at first made her jump and quickly she turned her head, peering out across the valley toward the mountains on the horizon. Tara had been unsure what she had heard, and her sharp eyes scanned the mountains several times.
“Thunder?” thought Tara, “A storm is brewing?”
Quickly her brown eyes scanned the horizon, moving rapidly across the skyline to the few clouds that floated in the darkening sky. She saw nothing. Turning her attention back to the forest, she heard the echo again, and this time had been a steady rhythm. Immediately Tara realized it is the sound of hoof beats, and looking down, her sharp eyes caught the torchlight among the canopy of forest. The sound grew closer as the minutes passed, and what sounded like many horses approaching.
Even in the year thirteen hundred and sixty, the world still reined evil and chaos of the burning times of the Inquisition. However, in the entire existence of dark times for the last three hundred years, they had never known a threat from the church. Neither the soldiers of the Inquisition, nor their Lords, had come to challenge this place. She wondered if this notion was to change.
“Oh, by our Lady!” Exclaimed the young woman and turned quickly, fumbling at the bell's cord, ready to start ringing out the alarm as the torch light grew closer.
“Ho! Someone is approaching!” A voice shouted and soldiers ran to their places.
Tara held her breath, the beating sound of thundering hooves growing louder, as the many horses approached the castle. Their beats made the ground shake, as something wicked this way comes from the woods. Her eyes caught glimpse of the first horse that appeared from the forest, and cross the farmlands toward the gate. Tara gasped when she caught a glimpse of the rider, a young man, handsome and fair, who had been one of the occupants for a long time here at the castle. Rijiin L'Theil.
”Ho! Guards, Open the gate!” A shout echoed, the rider's familiar voice echoing across the outer wall.
Tara smiled when she heard it, startled by its sound, one that she had not heard in a few weeks. The gate was raised and the figure, still mounted upon his horse, passed through with his newfound party who appeared with him. They approached the castle through the twisting narrow streets of the town and soon approached the castle, passing into the inner courtyard through the main gate. The horse hooves echoed upon the walls and the cobbles of the stone courtyard of the inner gate as he brought the party into it.
Here, the rider dismounted and a couple of stable hands, followed by the Captain of the Guard and a castle advisor named Elrohir Sîrfalas greeted him. Tara walked to the edge of the wall that overlooked the inner courtyard and gazed down upon it, glad to see the familiar face of the young man, her lover whom had left not long ago.
“Oh my god, he's back!” She thought, as a smile appeared on her face.
Many of the others who took up residence at the castle appeared now, greeted him as he motioned to the others. Tara heard him introduce the strangers as people like themselves.
“Rest my friends.” He told the party, “Be welcome to this place.”
Rijiin, Tara's lover, glanced up while he walked toward the inner gate and smiled when he sensed her watching.
Standing on the top of the wall, the young woman turned, and motioned to a guard.
“Take over for a moment.” She instructed, disappearing through the nearby doorway, navigating the stairs, and appeared far below in the inner courtyard.
When Tara appeared in the doorway, she ran to embrace her lover, kissing him rather passionately.
“Rijiin!” She said, “Lle seiremin eicetu eska!” She planted kisses on his face, holding him tightly.
“Aye.” He replied, “Amin purjen a' na-eska.”
“I am very happy to be in your arms beloved.” He added quickly, holding his lover tightly.
“I thought your journey was to be a long one, beloved. Why have you returned so soon?” She asked, and he nodded, a look of sadness on his face.
“I cut it short, the land is a horrible place and evil times are ahead.” Rijiin told her as he walked with her. The guards snapped to attention, raising their lances in salute. The pair nodded in response to the motion.
“More and more people are being persecuted in the dungeons of the Inquisition.” He said, “More death is upon the world.”
“Well, you have arrived too late to inform the council now, and you should rest. Meet me in our chambers later, and tell me of your journey.” Tara told him, putting her hand around his back to embrace him before taking up arm. Rijiin met her expression, nodding slightly, as she returned to the stairs and returned to her place on watch high above.
“Come, we shall billet you here in the castle, finding space and rooms for you all.” Rijiin told the others, “We shall serve you food and drink if you wish.”
A low murmur by the small party echoed through the courtyard, as they peered around the incredible sight of the castle and finally followed through a doorway into the hallway beyond.
A little later, he found his way to the top of the castle, sneaking up behind Tara who stood watch.
“All quiet?” He asked, and the young woman turned.
“Aye.” She replied, “My relief will be here soon… Ah, here he is now.”
A young Elf, Rijiin knew as Varis Elm, appeared at the door. He greeted Rijiin warmly, shaking his hand.
“Ah your back!” He chortled, “Good. No more foolish adventures I trust.”
“Nay, only the beginning, as word of our existence spreads too many.” Rijiin replied with a grin.
“Ah, good.” He turned to Tara, bowing slightly. “Good night, mistress.”
“Have a good watch, Varis.” She told him, and nodded slightly.
The young woman took up Rijiin's arm, and they headed to the staircase. Arm and arm they made their way down the castle corridor, and she led him to their chambers. He met her expression, and her eyes said it all. She wanted him in her arms, to hold him, making up for the lost time that he was away. Tara wanted his embrace, and love.
When they walked into their shared chamber, Tara threw her arms around him and herself into his arms, kissing him with longing desire. Her kiss was sweet, filled with much promise. Rijiin smiled, sensing her passion had nodded suddenly glad to be home as she was. He had missed Tara. Little did they know that a war machine had formed and somewhere an army began to march. Greedy Barons and Churchmen traveled for the greed of gold and glory. A siege was on its way.
Together in their chambers, as this so called invasion and annexation started, Tara and Rijiin lay together under the comforter all night long. Both gazed deeply into each other's eyes. They had finished making love many times, both lovers since they had met here the first time at the castle. They were now completely inseparable from each other. The elves were both were glad to be in each other's arms again, after the few weeks apart, while he had quested through the far off lands. He had risked himself many times being captured and burned as a heretic by the church during these journeys.
Usually Tara accompanied him on these trips, but not this time. It had been wise on Rijiin's part, as the last one had been the hardest, almost having been captured and burned himself. He had described the many times that the Inquisition had been getting even more brutal than before.
“Amin, Amin mela lle, Tarai.” Rijiin said in Elvish, “Ten'oio. Arwen mela.”
“Naa amin lle, Rijiini.” She replied, but the next thought was interrupted by the knock on the door. The elf had told her he loved her, and in the months before had always done so, many times.
Rijiin glanced at his mate for a moment, before kissing her forehead, and he turned his attention to the door. However, in the back of his mind, his thoughts were of the news that he was bringing back to the castle and all of it quite bad.
“Enter.” He said and it opened, allowing entry of a young maiden.
“I heard you were back!” The voice said, and Rijiin grinned seeing Nerwen Sáralondë enter their chambers. The young woman is in her late twenties, a friend and resident like himself of this castle. Her long blond hair swayed as she ran to embrace him, and he stared into her brown eyes after a long embrace. The young woman seemed not to care that Tara and Rijiin finished their lovemaking, and were not dressed. Nerwen was Rijiin's best friend, both of them coming to the castle together.
“Aye.” He said, “I had to cut my journey short. It seems I needed to return, the journey having become to perilous to continue.”
Nerwen and Tara heard his tone, and knew exactly the reference he had been speaking.
“The Inquisition?” She inquired timidly.
“Aye, I was stopped many times in my travels, and questioned.” Rijiin replied, “It seemed they are really running rampant through these lands and getting more brutal in their efforts. There was always a burning every day, in the Inquisition held town I visited.” Nerwen grimaced, but managed a slight nod.
“I was questioned several times by the bishops of the Inquisition, and I held my story well.” He said, “But I came close several times to being discovered. Thankfully, I am glad you, Tara, did not come with me on this trip. It is too much to risk you, beloved on my trips out there.”
“Then why do you take them?” Asked the blond-haired maiden and he glanced at her, pondering before he responded.
“I do it to spread the word to those like us, that there is a sanctuary for them here.” Rijiin said, “Word is out there, and many have already come to this place.”
“Yes, and so much has happened since you have been away too.” Nerwen said, “The council is considering turning them away. Like that motley crew I heard you returned with.”
“Not as motley as most people I have found out there who are not unlike us, hunted and persecuted. It is not uncommon in this age.” He said, “I offered this place as a haven for their kind, the more numbers we have, more security can be offered to the castle.” He paused, taking a drink of wine from the goblet nearby. “As is another reason why I brought them back as well, that I bear bad news that I will be addressing the council.”
There were glanced between the young women, before Rijiin continued. “It seems a siege is on its way, a soldier in the tavern spoke of a castle of heretics, told to them by a traveler, to the west. He implicated our castle before he died at the hands of the torturers, and the soldier spoke of a plan to annex our lands, and destroy this place.”
Tara had glanced at him sharply, astonished by what he had said. Something inside of her had jumped to know if they were not able to fight back and repel this attack that a lot of them would be burned as Heretics after a farce of what they called a trial.
“Just like the greed of the eager Barons and the church of the Inquisition.” Nerwen said, her anger flashing in her eyes, and on her face “They will not take these lands without a fight. I'll fight for this place, it's my home and no one is going to force me to leave again.”
“Or be burned over their greed, and paranoia.” Tara added and Nerwen glanced at her friend, nodding slightly.
“Just as we all shall.” Rijiin said, “We are fairly protected here, the sea will be high by the time they get here. Our cove, this castle stands in, is sheltered and treacherous to navigate the channel if not familiar with it. We are fairly protected from any attacks from the sea.”
“We should take some men and sabotage the pass, make it unstable.” He suggested, “If they cannot get through the pass on a winter's day, it should hold them until the thaw. It is a wise precaution. There is a lot of snow fall up on the pass.”
“Aye.” Tara said, “I will help you do that.” Nerwen grinned at the eager response off her friend. Gasping embarrassed, the young woman turned away seeing that Tara was naked, like Rijiin. She simply had not noticed.
“I am sorry, did I interrupt anything?” Asked Nerwen, and both of her friends, after glancing at each other, shook their head negatively. Both Rijiin and Tara were smiling openly.
“Oh no…” Tara said, smiling at her lover, her eyes bright and laughing. Rijiin met them, smiling slightly, before leaning over to gently give her a kiss on the forehead. He nodded to her. With that, the elf turned and grabbed his clothes.
“First, I must see the council, are they in their chambers?” asked the Elf, and Nerwen nodded. Rijiin dressed quickly.
Through the eastern window, a beam of light appeared on the horizon, the dim light of morning encroached upon them. It made a bright spot on the floor. Morning had come quickly.
“Word has already been sent to them. They know of your arrival and are eager for your report.”
“A! Quel.” He muttered, “The council will not be pleased by this news, I am sure, and will undoubtedly want to try to make peace. It is not possible when it comes to the Inquisition.”
Tara had heard him, and her eyebrow climbed slightly. She knew what he was talking about. The young elf maiden had been rescued by Rijiin long ago, as she was almost arrested by the soldiers of the Inquisition and dragged away to the torture chambers. She had seen many other heretics burned though, and that memory is not something she wanted to see happen here.
Tara dressed quickly, slipping on a gown over her body and ran to catch up with him. Nerwen walked along with them, on the other side.
“Amin uum sint manka. Ron naa aut-ien weer yassen amin, Tarai.” Rijiin told her, “Ta maea ve' lye maranwe umia dagora.” The elf had told her that he was not sure the council would like his report; their destiny seemed to be battle now.
“Aye Rijiini.” She replied, “I am sure it will be fine.” She put her arm around his waist, and they walked through the passages and narrow hallways toward the main chamber of the council room. He kissed her warmly, many times, holding her close to him.
As they walked, they also talked and laughed, as Rijiin described his adventures to them. They listened in amazement, and soon arrived at the council chamber doors. Here he paused, glancing at them both, before pushing the doors open with a loud bang. The council looked up startled, and a low gasp echoed the chamber at the entry of the Rijiin.
“Rijiin!” A voice gasped, and the Elf bowed slightly.
“Aye, I have returned.” He said, “And I bring distressing news of an army that approaches from the west.
A low ripple moved through the council chambers, and behind the Elf, looking in the doorway, Tara and Nerwen glanced at each other in surprise. Their gazes focused back on Rijiin, who now stood before the council in the center of the chamber. They had been surprised by their friend's news and yet, it certainly was no surprise to them that war would eventually come to the castle. They both had not known when that would be.
“How do we know this is real, Rijiin?” The elf turned his head toward the speaker, named Rowan Axe blade, the dwarf. He is a member of the council that speaks for his tribe who lives deep below the mountains in the mines of Morin. He had always butted heads with Rijiin and Elves, the fight between these two races long and tedious for over three centuries.
“I know what I heard while in a tavern, a soldier speaking of a legend to the east, and where a castle stands containing many heretics lie.” He announced, despite the low murmur that rippled through the council chamber, “He also spoke to his party of an investigation and possible annexation of this place by the Inquisition and the Barons. There is no doubt he speaks of us, and we must prepare for battle.”
“If you speak the truth, perhaps we should negotiate a treaty.” The dwarf suggested, making Rijiin turn. He realized quickly there was a traitor in their midst, and there was the leak of the castle’s safety to the outside. He had sent an envoy to the Inquisition, and his man was arrested and tortured, learning of the castle before he died.
The elf knew he was the culprit, and what he must do. He must prepare to sabotage the pass as planned, and move the non combatants into the caves not far from here that they had discovered and stocked with provisions until the siege blew over. All combatants and fighting men, at least over five hundred thousand strong, could keep the Inquisition at Bay for a long time if they agreed to hold them at the pass.
War was about to begin, and it would be a bloody conflict when it came right down to the Inquisition being involved. The immortals and the castle had the advantage, however, that they had the isolation of the realm in their favor in which it would make invasion difficult for the Inquisition forces. Now all they had to do is wait which is the hardest part of the battle of all.
“We must also neutralize a traitor in our midst.” Rijiin thought, and made a plan, and with this plan he knew he would have help of Tara and Nerwen.
“But what about those people who have come to this place to live in peace?” He thought.
He had meant the others who had come to this place who called this home. Battle would be harsh to those who had nowhere to go, who had given up everything to be here in this land of peace. But even for those people, Rijiin and Tara had already had a backup plan and location for the non-combatants of this war to go. It would be somewhere safe, and well provisioned for more than five years. It would be out of the line of fire of the battle to come.
Rijiin stood in the council chamber and he regarded the councilman and women who sat in the chamber. His gray eyes narrowed at them.
“We must negotiate!” Rowan shouted, “Arrest that elf in the name of God, as he is no longer part of this council.”
Rijiin drew his blade from its sheath, that glowed brightly in the sunlight and he held it casually, but ready.
“Then take me as you will.” The elf challenged, drawing an invisible line on the floor with the blade in his hand.
“There is a traitor in our midst that we must seek out!” Rijiin shouted, and he nodded to Tara and Nerwen who also drew their elven blades from their sheaths.
Guards ran toward them, and Rijiin’s blade flashed twice, leaving their bodies without even a scream. He vanquished the guards who approached with no mercy.
“Nerwen, Tara, get the people together and take them to our backup point. Along with anyone else who will follow us.” Rijiin ordered, “We shall leave this castle in siege.”
More guards stormed through the door, as Tara and Nerwen lashed
out, to kill them where they stood. Tara noted she had her bow and arrows with her, as they
fought down the hallway to those loyal to the council.
Meanwhile, Rijiin continued to fight, as he pivoted, his blade flashing swiftly as he killed the guards that seemed to pour into the council chamber. The elf drew his dagger, and thrust outward as a scream followed. The council was on their feet as they tried to regain order, but the elf nimbly fought and headed to the door. He fought down the corridor and to the ground floor where Tara and the others who did not support Rowan and the traitors, prepared to leave with everything they could.
“Stop that elf!” A voice wailed through the air as Rijiin mounted his horse. He nodded to Tara and Nerwen who stood nearby as he reared up the horse.
“Get that traitor!” The elf said, and Nerwen loaded her bow to draw it back to let loose one shot. The arrow sailed through the air and it struck Rowan in the throat, making him stagger back, mortally wounded.
“Let us go.” Rijiin shouted, “To the backup point. Come with us, if you want to live!”
A multitude of people walked with their children and their elderly through the forest to a narrow cave, beside the elves. Nerwen and Tara both glanced at each other in question when they arrived at their destination. They both eyed Rijiin, who still sat on horseback.
“Take them inside and lead the way Nerwen.” The elf instructed. He smiled as she nodded. “Fear not, it has been provisioned well, with everything you need for the people.” She motioned to the people who began filing down into the darkness of the cave.
“Do you think Nerwen’s arrow killed that traitor Rowan, Rijiin?” Tara asked, and her mate considered a moment what she was asking.
“I hope so, but the council was on his side, and there is no hope for saving it and the castle against a siege.” Rijiin said, “I have to go to the pass and stop the advance of that army.”
“I am the only one who can do it, and save us all from siege for a time, beloved.” Rijiin intoned, with a low timbre in his voice. “I will be using a spell to close the pass.”
“Don’t you mean, WE, beloved?” Tara asked, and Rijiin smiled, holding out his hand.
“Yes, my love, I meant US. Let’s go save a kingdom.” Rijiin declared and nodded his head as she took his hand. Tara smiled as she jumped up behind him on the back of the horse and together they galloped off into the forest.
They were to stop the army that came from the west. A long line of soldiers, catapults, and clergy marched on the castle known as the Castle of Dreams. Their mission was to destroy heretics, and the elves were on a suicide mission to stop them. The only comfort for them both, before they perished into the hands of the Inquisition, they would both embrace the Lady, the Creatrix of the elves, as they walked to the other side together,
When Rijiin and Tara reached the pass, they climbed the unstable snow, and they planted six iron stakes at the points along the side of the mountain. In the distance, the elf could see the army of the Inquisition as it approached.
“They are here, beloved.” Tara said, taking up her bow, as Rijiin drew himself up, gathering strength as he began to cast a spell. An arrow, a moment later, flew toward and struck the elf.
“Rijiin! No! ” Tara shouted, as she drew back her bow, and shot the archer who had shot her love. She bolted to rush toward him, but he waved her back.
“Stay back!” Rijiin said, as he drew his blade, and continued to cast for two minutes. He dodged the archers of the enemy, mortally wounded and his blade flashed as he downed two soldiers. It flashed again and he beheaded another. The elf backed away from the overwhelming number of soldiers and toward the avalanche zone. The elf reached up, pulling the arrow and breaking the shaft.
“Stay back Tara!” Rijiin warned, as her arrows continued to hit the soldiers.
“Tincya en' russe tuulo' moriloomir!” The elf shouted, as he sank to his knees.
A bolt of lightning streaked down from the sky, and it struck the stakes in the snow. There was an electric charge, followed by an explosion, as the snow gave way to come down like a hellish rain of white and gray stone. Rijiin ran into the falling avalanche that rumbled down the slope. Tara screamed at him but her lover did not pay any mind as he opened his arms to stand in the path of the oncoming snow. An arrow hit him in the back as he retreated, staggering him.
“No!” Tara shouted, as he disappeared in the wall of white snow. The last thing she could see was the glow around him, as the cold frigid ice and snow filled in about him and the pass. Rijiin knew that he had saved the castle, the kingdom and his mate. He knew soon that he would be in the arms of the Lady, the Creatrix of the elves for a job and duty finished. The elf weakly smiled despite it all.
With one last breath, Rijiin muttered a single command.
“irma haeannon…” He said, as blackness filled in around him.