A Look at the Past
Warriors from the three clans gathered in front of the largest tent in camp. Argol stood by the tent’s entrance and surveyed the collected hosts. One cluster of elves congregated to the left, another to the right, and the third lay straight ahead, at the far end of the grassy plain. Aldandur, in his princely vestments of purple and blue, stood in the middle of the throng and spoke.
“Assembled warriors, our king has returned. Once more, he has been victorious in battle against the demons unleashed upon the world by human spellcasters. Now, he convenes this council so that he may know what evil still walks over Mirrya.”
“Thank you, Aldandur,” said Argol. “I would hear from clan Feadil first.”
An elf in mail and green silk came forward from the group to the left. He knelt before Argol just as Aldandur had done earlier.
“Arise, Fiemaril, and report.”
Fiemaril stood. “As you command, my liege. Our rangers report the land is clean once again in the north and west.”
Argol smiled. “Excellent.” He turned to the elves on his right. “And what news is there from clan Erendyl?”
An elf in yellow silk and mail stepped up and knelt before Argol.
“Rise,” said the king.
The elf, Elsilcel, straightened and said, “Our scouts tell us that no evil walks the land in the south.”
“Very good,” said Argol, and turned his gaze to the elves at the far end of the field. “And from clan Mealidil, what news is there?”
An elf in blue silk and mail strode before the king. After he completed the ritual of kneeling before the king, the elf named Nolendur, said, “Alas, my news is not as heartening as the others. The demon named Zortan still walks the eastern lands. Reports from our scouts say he has slain the human spellcasters who summoned him and leveled the city of Davenar. What few survivors there may have been were captured and tortured, their souls ripped from them.”
Argol grimaced. “It is worse than I imagined.” He sighed and then added, “While we cannot save or restore the dead, we can honor their sacrifice and avenge them.
“Zortan will fall or I shall not see another day,” Argol concluded, and pounded his left fist in the palm of his right hand.
“Do not underestimate him, my liege,” advised Nolendur, cautiously. “He is the most powerful of the demons.”
“Yes, but this shall not deter us. He is the last scrap of evil that must be banished, and with Balodol we cannot fail. Where is he now?”
“Still in the ruins of Davenar.”
“Very well, we shall ride forth immediately and camp outside the city.”
“At once, my liege,” said Aldandur. He turned to the assembled host and cried, “To the ruins of Davenar!”
“To the ruins of Davenar,” cried the elves. “And victory.”
The scene in Daniel’s mind shifted.
The elves were now camped on a flat, desolate plain.
Beyond the camp, rock and rubble were strewn about. Broken and charred trees stood as the last clue that life had once thrived here. All other plants and animals had been blasted clean from the surrounding land, leaving only a bleak and barren tableau where nothing and no one moved.
From the elven camp and out into the ruined city, a lone figure rode a black horse. A silver circlet with seven gems rested on the rider’s head. He wore no armor and carried no sword or shield. No other protection was required with Balodol atop his brow. The long, dark hair that blew in the breeze and the rider’s green eyes identified him as an elf. His fierce expression confirmed his identity: it was Argol.
The elven king rode quickly and unimpeded through the desolation of the human city. The galloping of his steed was the only sound that could be heard. The land sloped gently toward the center of the devastation where the initial explosion had occurred. Argol rode on for several minutes, barely looking about.
He drew near a large crater and pulled up on the reins of his black stallion. Giant hands with claws half a foot long rested on the edge of the crater. Equally large wrists and arms disappeared into the hole.
Argol’s horse snorted. The giant hands moved at the sound. Immediately Argol was off his steed and preparing to summon the power of Balodol. The gems brightened and appeared to come alive. The hands pushed against the ground and the rock underneath each palm crumbled a bit from the pressure. A giant figure emerged from the crater with measured slowness. It had narrow yellow slits for eyes and sharp pointed fangs that looked like spikes protruding over its lower lip. No hair covered the demon’s head and large pointed ears moved as a malicious smile crept over its thin, drawn lips. It seemed to be considering Argol’s strength when its voice boomed,
“Now you will die.”
“No,” said Argol. “Only your end is at hand, evil one.” He concentrated and the light from the Aglaril illuminated the area.
Lightning bolts struck the ground where Argol stood, but the king remained unharmed. Sheets of flame scorched the land around the crater, but still Argol was unscathed. The gems in the circlet flared and a hole in the air formed, revealing a black void beyond. All the nearby loose rock and debris was sucked into the opening. The demon braced itself against the crater and laughed.
“Is that your best effort? It will take more than this to eliminate me.”
Argol knew that Zortan spoke the truth. It was just as Nolendur had said. He must be careful not to underestimate the demon. That meant using the full power of Balodol, dangerous as that was — but there was no other choice.
Argol’s jaw tightened with determination and he redoubled his concentration on the circlet he wore. The seven gems sparkled and glowed with the fury of the sun. Zortan was pulled out of the crater and into the air, tumbling head over heels repeatedly.
“No!” cried the demon. “I am Zortan. I am the strongest and the greatest being that has every lived. I cannot be defeated by a mere mortal.”
Despite his protest, Zortan was pulled toward the dark void. He struggled against the force that dragged him forward, but he had nothing to push against. He tried to fly away and failed. Some unseen force held him tight and prevented his escape.
Argol, meanwhile, felt the stress of maintaining his concentration mounting. His fatigue was like a physical weight, and beads of sweat formed on the king’s brow. Still, he did not relent. Argol could feel Zortan’s resistance like a dead weight — the proverbial immovable object — and he pushed against it.
Zortan reached the opening of the void. He peered into the darkness and gnashed his teeth. The pull on the demon was stronger now and it took all his strength not to be swept into the dark hole. Even so, Zortan could not stop his legs from entering the void. Argol saw the demon look about for something and noticed his opponent’s eyes shifting from side to side rapidly. The elven king wasn’t sure what Zortan was looking for, but it did not matter. In a few more minutes, the demon would vanish into the void and that would be the end of him.
Argol saw a smile come to Zortan’s face, a hideous, evil smile. In a single movement, one of the demon’s giant hands came up, as if to slap Argol across the face. The elven king saw the maneuver and dodged the blow, but Zortan hadn’t been aiming for the elf’s face and, a second later, the circlet was knocked from Argol’s head.
The effect was immediate. The winds and force that pulled at Zortan turned against Argol. He couldn’t concentrate and lost control of the magic that had created the void. Swept up into the air, Argol plummeted into the void, pushing Zortan through as well, just as Balodol struck the ground and shattered.
Daniel saw a flash of light and then the images in his head went dark. The sudden change startled him and made his eyes pop open. He sat quietly for a few minutes and then he reached out with his mind.
Aure? Are you all right?
Yes. Relating that story has saddened me.
I understand. What happened next?
Immediately after that, it is hard to say. I was very disoriented. When Balodol shattered, we were separated from each other and came out of the settings that held us. I lost track of my brothers and the events around me for a very long time. Eventually I was found by some dwarves and sold to Tindolen. About the same time, Amelidel prophesied that an heir of the House of Richmond would use Balodol and oust the invaders of Andropolis.
Is that possible?
Yes. The time of reunification is at hand. Soon we will all be united and the prophecy will be fulfilled.
Daniel replaced his mental barrier and sat quietly, thinking about everything Aure had said and wondering how the prophecy could come true.