Why did Leonora hide this from him? Why did Miaren keep his mouth shut about Leonora? So many questions circling one thing swarmed in his head. But it suddenly all began to fit. The way she walked, the way she observed her surroundings, the way she held her head, all that she did, she did with grace and poise, but Aravoen had been too sightless to draw this conclusion. Suddenly Aravoen’s hand came to the cold hilt of something strange. He looked down and saw the hilt of Miaren’s knife.
Rapidly it all came back to him; how Miaren had created a diversion and allowed them to escape the Sarubel. The sound of something fast whispering through the air and just stopping, harked back into his mind. Miaren had taken the death arrow meant for him. Aravoen sat there for a while; many thoughts went through his head. He ssaw the small shimmer of a shadow from the corner of his eye.
It was one of the Sarubel. Not their leader Valefor. Aravoen could recognize all the Sarubel distinctly and he was sure of their names. The six grand generals of Sarzgat were among the most feared in the whole of Elasia and Nasr-ul-Nulk(Novorgord).
Aravoen had one too many run ins with the right hands of Sarzgat. He knew them like he knew about himself. It was through them that he discovered the return of the dark lord’s might.
Of the six, Valefor was the most dangerous and powerful. Many called him the sword of darkness. He was the lord of the black castle of Orinkir. He was the chief of the legions of the south and had the most black magic after Sarzgat. Abaddon, his marshall held the name of destroyer of the south. He single handedly wielded the powers of the orcs and uruks. Together with Bathin, Mastema, Rahab and Bernael these two lords carried out the most delicate work along with leading his armies.
“Poor son of the north,” the Sarubel dragged his horse closer to the invisible barrier. “The barrier of magic wears thin. Soon our masters power shall be enough to shatter through that cursed forest.”
“Leave here Rahab,” Aravoen recognized the blood red violent eyes of the Sarubel.
“After I kill you.”
“You can not cross the barrier of the white elves,” Aravoen smirked.
“And you can not enter the elf and mage lands.”
“I will not let your master regain his power,”Aravoen did not know what else to say.
“You and what army boy?” Rahab laughed, a cold menacing laugh. “Valefor’s blade will kill the elf princess.”
That statement hit at aravoen’s heart. He had to know Leonora was safe, that valefor’s cursed skeleton blade had done no damage to her. He had known two people that had died from wounds administered by the accursed blades of the Sarubel.
“Go away from here Sarubel,” Aravoen snarled. “Your leader valefor was already cast away.”
“Yes,” Rahab lifted his hood exposing his pale ancient face. The rred eyes stared at Aravoen while his thin red lips curved up into a small smile. “I have a message for all of you.”
“Get on with it,” Aravoen snapped.
“We are watching deep within the south we are watching yyou in the north and the time is near.”
Aravoen turned his back on the sarubel banishing all its words from his mind he stared at the imposing trees of the Guardes Wesseleren.
If elves will not allow me through to their lands I will force my way through this damned forest, he thought. Wheeling Elben around, he stared at the forest and embraced his destiny, his heritage. “I am Aravoen Elurin, Lord of the Ebillonians, stop me elves from entering the sacred lands!” he shouted. Plunging himself to his fate, he rode into the forest as Rahab turned his horse towards the black city of Ulan Bator.
Riding hard, harking branches in his way, dodging the branches of the ancient trees and some roots.
* * *
Many leagues away, past the Wesselren deep in the sacred lands, the elven city of Elvhelm loomed high and mighty. The towering walls, ancient and strong, ran around the great city. The main gate faced east to the River Valmiera and beyond. The great trees that surrounded the gate formed what seemed like an arch. Deeper in, the buildings were a mixture of stone and those like trees. The stone houses made those of Cair Sandor seem like mere hovels, draped in bold colours whilst the tree houses bulged either at the base or towards the apex, forming what seemed like living spaces.
Deep in the city at the Imrahilin houses, home for the royal family of Elvhelm, Stareonor, the elven king, stood on the balcony facing east, his eyes shut to the world. His long black hair streaming in the wind; his grey robes whistling in the soft breeze.
Suddenly like a cry of need, he heard a voice speak to him in earnest,
My Lord, it said, we hurry across the fields of Valoin. We carry your daughter and she has been grievously injured. Miaren is dead and the companion who saved her, I fear, is still at the border.
No, what happened?
All we know is that a skeleton blade pierced her, My King, was the swift reply.
Where are you, the king asked in earnest.
Look down, we reach the gates now.
Come up immediately, time is almost at the end for her.
My Lord, bellowed another.
What is it this time, Stareonor snapped back.
Someone has forced his way into the forest.
Get him now and bring him to the dungeons, Stareonor sputtered.
Stareonor hurried down, passing many people rushing out to reach the carriers.
* * *
Aravoen was riding hard. A few moments ago, the forest had come to life. The tree branches had begun swinging towards him to throw him off Elben. He had just ducked in time. Now it seemed that every branch had a brain of its own because they all swung out. Aravoen ducked, swung, parried and even sometimes got hit. Just as he was falling down, Elben would swing the opposite side and force him up.
Slowly as time went on, with Aravoen growing weary, he heard soft hooves behind him. Looking behind, he saw four elven men brandishing their swords, chasing him.
You have done it now, Aravoen thought. Turning around he rushed at the elves that were taken by surprise. Tearing through their middle, Aravoen turned left and rode. Nevertheless the elves were still hot on his heels. Not looking forward, he did not notice the branch looming a head.
With a soft thud, Aravoen found himself on the floor. Elben, realising the reduced weight, rushed back to Aravoen’s side. The elves had caught up with him and had surrounded him. Aravoen drew his sword, ready for a fight.
One of the elves lunged forward. Aravoen parried. Strike after strike came, but Aravoen parried. Soon he was overwhelmed as the other elves joined in. His arm weary he lowered his sword slightly, this gave one of the elves the opening he needed. He stabbed and Aravoen parried, as the elf knew he would, he spun the two swords around and finally wrenched Aravoen’s sword out of his hands.
As they dismounted, Aravoen was not ready to give in. He pounced on the first elf to land on the floor of the forest. He knocked him to the floor, wrestling the elf’s sword from the his grip. Turning he faced the other three, whose expressions were now hard and frustrated. How can an insolent man defy the elves’ superiority? they thought.
He lunged, but his blow was parried. He turned and took a swipe at the next elf only ducking in time to prevent any cut. They attacked ruthlessly, and had Aravoen not been weary and fatigued, he would have stood them. With a cry of defiance, he dropped the elven sword. Raising his hands in the air, he accepted for the elves to take him.
He had not looked at the elves properly, but now he did. All of them had the same features save for the hair and eyes. Their silky smooth skin was unblemished and glowed gently in the sheds of the enormous trees. One had straight grey hair and pale blue eyes, another had midnight-black hair and dark grey eyes, the third had short blonde hair and brown eyes and the fourth took him more by surprise, he had a close resemblance to Miaren save for the hair, which was a striking copper-red.
“What is your name, human?” the one with copper hair asked.
“Human.” Aravoen laughed; it was more of a croak, since his throat was dry. “I too have the blood of the elves in me.”
“Do not mock us,” the shorthaired blonde one warned. “Having a drop of elf blood from thousands of years ago does not qualify.”
“It must have been diluted through years of war.” The copper-haired one laughed. The elves were really starting to annoy Aravoen but he kept his cool.
“You will never be an elf or close to one,” the shorthaired elf said.
“You got what you wanted: me, not my name,” Aravoen said. “Take me then.”
“Why do you have General Miaren’s dagger?” the copper-haired one asked, shocked.
“None of your concern, dear Lord Elf.”
The elf was enraged. He raised his hand to strike, but the midnight-black-haired elf beat him to it. He struck Aravoen on the head, knocking him unconscious. Picking up Aravoen’s sword and taking the reins of Elben, they carried away their captive to Elvhelm.
* * *
When Aravoen woke, he was in a cold, damp cell. A small, hard bed lay in the opposite corner. His body was soar all over a painful truth he learnt as he tried to raise his legs off the floor. He shifted his head looking above him, he saw rays of light streaming onto the bed. To his left stood an iron door.
Like I would try to escape, Aravoen thought humourously.
“Maybe you would try,” a hard, cool, loud voice said. Aravoen looked around and there opposite the door stood a tall figure in the dark. Coming into the light Aravoen could see his features. His midnight-black hair was falling about his face in a straight form held behind his pointed ears by an unseen filament. His emerald-green eyes shone bright in this dimly lighted prison cell. He held himself with poise and grace, studying Aravoen.
“Who are you?” Aravoen asked, realising the stupidity of his question.
“Stareonor, Lord of Elvhelm and of the elves.”
“Nice to meet you again after all these years.”Aravoen just looked at him calmly.
“You know what you did was mad,” Stareonor stated. “It was wrong and foolish, now you will pay for it.”
“As you say,” Aravoen said curtly, “it is better than being out there, My Lord, and I thank you master elf.”
“Your insolence, arrogance and foolishness is not needed here!” Stareonor roared.
“Then go and leave me to rot here in your dungeons.”
Stareonor ground his teeth. Aravoen could see the vein in his neck throbbing and he knew he had pushed too hard. Expecting to be hit, Aravoen pushed up onto the wall.
“You are foolish and unwise, Aravoen!” Stareonor bellowed at him.
“Go, My Lord, before we both do something we do not want,” Aravoen whispered.
Stareonor did the opposite of that, he walked to Aravoen and bent down until Aravoen could smell his chestnut-scented breath.
“That calmness will get you no sympathy or empathy,” Stareonor growled back at him, before turning on his heels and disappearing after a while through the door. Aravoen was shaken to his bones by that encounter with the elf king.
He stood up and headed for the bed. Settling himself on it, he looked to the direction of the sunrays.
He could not help wondering about Rahab’s words. Rahab might not be one of the strongest Sarubel but he was the most violent among them. His words rung inside Aravoen’s head, wondering if there was a connection between those words and all that was happening.
He wished he could have told the elf king, but he remembered with a lot of anger and hatred how the elf had treated him. If only he could see Leonora.
Leonora, was she safe and out of danger. Aravoen did not know how long he had been out but it must not have been long. He hoped that the elf was safe and maybe she would come and see him in his prison soon.