Aravoen sat under the tree near the River Misorin, right on the border of the Silent forest, looking over the other side where the fields of Sandor lay as a vast plain that stopped at the ruined city walls. Aravoen had crossed the River Nimlor upon his horse Elben. He had been doing this for the past sixteen days, sitting there waiting for the elves who were meant to come. He had sat upon the same tree reading parchments of history. Today he sat there watching Elben take a dip in the water.
Suddenly, a sharp blade was upon his neck and his sword was on Elben who was still in the water, not seeing what was going on. Aravoen dropped the parchments, but still could not fight as the sharp blade was still held at his neck. Aravoen stood up and tried to turn around, but to no avail. Like a bolt from the blue, a sweet female voice broke the air so close to his ear.
“A man of Eduin unarmed,” it said with mockery. “I thought that you amongst the Easel were the best fighters.”
“If you give me the chance to get to my sword I could show you that those are not rumours,” he replied
“Put the sword down,” said a clear, booming, chiselled male voice. “You boy, can you let us into Cair Sandor. We have business to discuss with the Eluncil.” Aravoen still could not see who they were. The sword was removed from his neck and two hooded figures stepped out from the shadows of the trees.
Both of them removed their hoods and two elves stood before him. One was male; his features were angled and smooth and his long auburn hair was well combed. On his shoulder, he had a bow and a few arrows. His sword that was sheathed around his belt had a jewelled hilt. It reminded him of his old blade. The one he had cast over the cliffs a few weeks back.
The woman had striking green eyes with long midnight-black hair that was held back by a thin silver filament. Her startling eyes shone like jewels in the dark and she surveyed her surroundings with poise. Her clothes were unblemished, but a bit travel worn and yet her beauty was undiminished. At her side was the sword, clear and bright with a hilt of pure gold and jewels. Aravoen could not help but notice her beauty.
“Well, I may, but what may be your names?” Aravoen asked
“Forgive us,” said the male. “I am Miaren and my companion here is Leonora.”
“Very well, if you will follow me.”
“Do not dare cross us, boy,” Leonora said angrily.
“I would not,” Aravoen began, but as soon as he saw the look on her face he held back his statement. Motioning to Elben, he requested the elves to follow him. As he mounted his steed, out of the corner of his eye he saw the elves mount two magnificent horses. Together, the three crossed the river and the plains and entered the city.
Aravoen led the elves to the stables. Upon dismounting Elben, Aravoen motioned to the two elves to do the same. As they dismounted with supernatural speed, Aravoen turned around and sent the groom to get Softfoot. As they waited for the Eluncil messenger, Aravoen wondered how to start conversation with the two elves.
Just as he was about to bring up a subject, Softfoot came walking at a brisk speed. He stopped in front of Aravoen and bowed down. “You sent for me, sire.”
“Yes, please lead these fair folk to the tree hall,” Aravoen said, “and inform Sedranor that they have visitors.”
“Please, if you may,” Aravoen added to the elves, “follow him; he will lead you to those you seek an audience with.”
“Thank you, sir,” said Miaren. “The skies bless you, noble man of Eduin.” Aravoen smiled, turned, and headed off towards his chambers - happy that he had managed to hide the fact that he was the hidden prince of Eduin from the elves. He turned around and spotted the elves heading in the direction of the tree hall.
* * *
The elves followed the boy they call Softfoot. Leonora took careful note of everything around them; the beautiful buildings which were beyond their prime, the sturdy men who seemed to be preparing for some war, the women who walked as fast as the elven horses trotting and the little children all running like there was no tomorrow.
My Lady, the sound of Miaren’s voice sounded in her head.
Miaren, these people are all so odd, she replied by the same means. She was sure that no one in Eduin had the power to talk with the mind, only the hidden prince had such a gift and he was not ready to use it. She continued, each one is so, I do not know... eager.
My Lady, just so you know they are half elven.
Well if so, the similarities are few if there are any, she replied. They continued with their secret conversation, observing and listening to the people of Cair Sandor.
They were brought out of their silent trade of thoughts by the boy who had stopped in front of the tree. He turned to them and pointed to the doorway in the great tree hall. As they entered, they noticed that almost all the seats in the hall were filled. The men and women who occupied them stood upon their arrival. One of them, who wore lilac robes which hid his protruding stomach, and whose receding hairline revealed a small scar shaped like a small twig, welcomed them, showing them to empty seats.
“We will wait for two of our council to come,” he said. The two elves looked at the man and looked into his mind.
His name is Raspian, Leonora revealed.
I suggest that we wait before we make our request to speak to who we want, she added, more cautious.
Miaren announced for the Eluncil members, “Then let us wait for them.” Leonora and Miaren sat in the shadows of the branches. They spent the time discovering more about the council members present. Together they learnt that the balding woman was Astrila; the greying woman was Menandra, and the old man who held his walking stick ready to strike like a parent disciplining his child was Pastiris. The blond firm-faced man was Sander; the woman who had a patch on her eye hiding an empty socket was Elenar, and the man in blue robes with a grey belt laced with magnificent gems was Meyendocor. The last present was a thin, fragile, old man who could not hold a gaze for more than a few seconds. He was Sturonin. Looking into his mind they discovered that if it were not for his age, he would have been the head of the council.
The silence that engulfed the room was uncomfortable. The members of the Eluncil were honoured to have elves in their midst, whilst the elves were growing impatient.
Just as Leonora was about to make her feelings known, two men briskly rushed in. Sedranor in robes of deep grey with a matching belt, his hair combed back neatly. It looked as if he had just made himself presentable. The other man, Rithin, in his armour, with his sword hilt seen protruding from the cloak around his shoulders.
“Forgive us, we were in a bit of a tight spot,” Sedranor explained. “I am Sedranor, head of this Eluncil, and the man so inappropriately dressed is Rithin, our general,” he added irritably.
“Well, if you do not mind we would like to get under way now,” Leonora snapped back at Sedranor, moving into the more illuminated part of the room.
“Yes, mistress elf.” He was beginning with another excuse, but Miaren raised his hand, moving into the light beside Leonora.
“Like she said, or rather implied,” he said curtly, “time is not our best ally.” Sedranor sat heavily in his seat. Many a thought ran through his mind. Never before had he been spoken to with such indifference; maybe a few times by Eleonor and more recently by Aravoen. However, he did not have time to ponder this as the elves’ expressions clearly showed they meant what they had said. He looked at them with questioning eyes.
“We wish to speak to the hidden prince,” Miaren said.
“What you mean to say,” Sander said, surprised, “is that you came all the way from the Guardes Wesselren to see that ungrateful boy.” The elves were taken aback, turning to look at each other.
They do not like the man who their hidden prince is, Miaren said sympathetically.
We have no choice but to see him, Leonora said solemnly.
“All the same,” Leonora began, “we wish to see this boy as you call him.” She smiled to herself on seeing the looks of disappointment on their faces. Poor them, thinking that we had come to see them; hoping it to be so, she thought.
“Well Rithin, go and get him,” Pastiris said venomously. “You and he are good friends.” Rithin stood up with a ghost of a smile on his face and walked out leaving the room and its occupants silent. The elves quietly walked back to the shadows of the branches and sat.
* * *
At the other side of the city, Aravoen entered his chambers with a grin on his face. He was wondering how the elves could not tell him apart from the rest of the Eduinians. Elves were rumoured to be the mightiest race in Elasia and yet they could not tell him apart from the rest of his people.
He gave a humourless laugh, settling into his chair by the window. He looked out wondering where his mother and Mendrek were right now. Had they reached Elvhelm? Had they got past the Guardes Wesselren? Had they got permission for him to enter the elf and wizard lands? He had no answer to all these questions; all he could do was ponder and hope that all the answers were positive.
The loud creak of his door brought him back to his body. He turned and looked at Rithin who looked as if he was ready for a battle.
“Why the dress?” he asked.
“I am doing as you told me,” he said swiftly. “All our forces make their return to the city. I am going to meet the garrison from the ruins of Cair Andic; I intended to leave today.”
“That leaves a problem of who will handle Sedranor when I am gone.” Aravoen said.
“We have bigger problems sire,” Rithin smiled, “the most impatient pair of elves sit in the tree hall, and Sedranor is annoyed they want your prescence.”
“Ah,” Aravoen said, with a smile. “That must truly bother the eluncil and their high horses.”
Aravoen smiled at his general. He motioned for Rithin to lead him away.
The two walked discussing the plans for the army that would soon be in the city. Gradually the general and the hidden prince reached the tree hall. Aravoen stopped in front of the great doors hidden between the large branches well hidden from the common folk of the city.
After what seemed like years, he stepped in ready for whatever might come. Ready for the change this conversation would bring upon his life.