Trixie knew something was wrong long before she opened her eyes. Sunlight streamed in from a small crack in the wall. Her world was lurching about, with occasional large bumps causing her body to bounce and strike the floor.
Every part of her body hurt, as if she had been beaten in her sleep. Blinking, she groggily realized she was in some kind of carriage. One that was going full tilt - somewhere. She saw a hand in front of her face and with a startled squeal realized it was not her own. There were bodies piled one atop the other in haphazard fashion, as if someone had simply thrown them into the carriage like so much baggage.
Trixie carefully untangled herself from the arms and legs of the people around her and she realized that she recognized some of them. They were other students from the Institute. She sat up, squeezing her eyes shut as she tried to remember a cantrip or spell to help her. But her mind was too fuzzy. She could barely place two thoughts together and she groggily realized she must be drugged.
*That’s bad. Right?* she thought to herself.
It was so hard to think. She could hear a few groans and coughs. Other people were starting to stir as well.
Suddenly, a hand reached out and grasped her wrist. She opened her eyes to a ghastly sight. Staring into her eyes was an elf! His face was covered in cuts and bruises, and dried blood marred his short white hair and pointed ears. He was dressed all in browns and greens with light leather armor. One eye was swollen completely shut.
Trixie yelped, partially in fear and surprise but also in pain from the grip the elf had on her wrist.
“Leggo! You’re hurting me!” she cried.
*Mage-Child. Listen to me.* said a voice in her head.
A voice most definitely not her own. The grip relaxed slightly and Trixie yanked her hand away. The elf collapsed face down in front of her. His shoulders began convulsing and Trixie realized he must be weeping. Concern overcame fear and Trixie tentatively reached out for the elf’s hand.
“Are you ok? What can I do?” she said as she made contact with his hand.
*Mage-Child. I do not have much time left. You must listen to me. I am speaking to you in your mind so that no other can hear me. This is an ability of my people. You must act as though you cannot hear me. There are enemies even now watching us. *
Trixie’s eyes widened. “Hello? Elf guy? Can you hear me?” she pretended.
*I don’t understand!* she said in her own thoughts. *Why are we here? Who kidnapped us? Who are you?*
*So quick with questions are your people.* the elf responded as Trixie made as if to shake the elf awake, keeping in contact with his hand.
*What you must know is this. Your life is in danger. Rath has taken us from your Mage Institute and we are mostly likely going to his stronghold in the Bering Mountains. I was sent from my people on a mission to your Institute - *
The elf’s communication was cut off has he began coughing uncontrollably. Blood oozed from the corner of his mouth.
“Who are you? Talk to me!” she cried, not totally acting now as her hand broke contact with his.
She reached down to the hem of her dress and ripped a bit of cloth off from the end. Carefully, she rolled the elf over. His face was handsome, with an ageless quality and pale skin that only made the cuts and bruises all that much more stark in contrast. Gently she wiped the blood from his face while she reached out for his hand once again.
*Young Mage, I am a warrior sent from the Elf Queen herself.*
Trixie gasped. “They must have really beat you up, you have cuts and bruises everywhere” she covered.
*She is dying. Rath sent an agent to kill her, but many elves gave their lives to defend her. In the end the creature managed to scratch her with its poison claws and she is now dying. We could find no cure among our own magics, so I was sent along with others to your Human places of magic and learning for a possible cure. Miraculously, your elder Mages knew of a way to heal her.*
The elf turned his hand slowly to grasp hers, almost like a handshake. He looked directly into her eyes.
*I was about to return to my people when I was betrayed and captured by worshippers of Rath. They have been trying to force me to give them the potion. I suspect I will be killed once we reach our destination.*
The elf closed his eyes, his jaw clenched in anguish.
*What can I do? I’m just a second year student. Why did they even take me?* Trixie pleaded in her mind.
*They plan to use you. You are a Mage, even if just in training. They will place upon you a Mark that will twist your soul and make you a servant of Rath.*
Trixie flinched and closed her eyes. “I wish you would talk to me,” she said aloud.
*I can help you Mage Child, but only if you help me save my Queen.* his grip tightened.
Tixie bit her lip. *What - what can I do? You just said - I’m going to be killed or turned into some kind of monster. How can I help you?*
The elf coughed again and tried to sit up. Trixie continued to hold his hand while he raised himself up and gazed at her intently.
“My name is Thalon.” he managed.
*You must open your mind to me. The cure is not a potion. That is just a ruse to throw off the Enemy. The real cure is a spell. I can give it to you, as well as the means to cast it. I can also give you a defense against the Mark. But you must open your mind to me. And - * he coughed again * - it will probably hurt. I’m sorry.*
Trixie shuddered. “My name is Trixie,” she said aloud.
*I will - I will do it* she thought to him.
Trixie lowered her mental defenses, ones that she had learned just this past year as a Mage student. The world around her suddenly faded. Only the elf’s face remained. Sad, wounded, and yet beautiful.
*Save my Queen, Trixie* was the last thing she heard in her mind before everything went black once again.