Prologue - Parren
The air was still and cold, like it always was on a night raid. Frost glittered on the tips of the grass, mirroring the stars winking above in the sky. Clouds of breath hung like a shroud around the battalion crouched among the reeds of the moat. Fifty or so Night elves shifted around Parren, murmuring to each other. He could feel the anticipation crackling between the men in the short snaps of sentences being passed to and fro. He ran a hand through his hair, his usually gentle faced creased with anxiety at the thought of the coming task. Towering before them, the Madaras tower shone silver like a blade had been plunged into the earth. Cracking the impenetrable fortress was tonight’s mission.
Parren let his fingers trail over his weapons belt, checking the contents. He felt the cold reassuring bite of his sword on his skin, the icy touch comforting. To his left, his second in command looked over and smiled a wry smile, excitement dancing in his gaze. Trust Hanilu to be excited for the prospect of a fight. Next to Hanilu, Sethe and Uley, looked unsettled, the tension almost a visible spark between the twins. The brothers had not been part of the patrol long, but they where highly skilled in battle. Parren felt confident bringing the young recruits along, knowing he had more of a chance at being successful with them at his side.
When he had picked his camerada for this task, he knew instantly who he was taking. Being a patrol leader in the academy, Parren knew exactly who worked together best and who followed orders well. He’d also earned the trust of his teammates, something that was invaluable in battle, making his camerada one of the strongest in the entire battalion. This mission was going to be one of the hardest he’d ever undertaken, but with his warriors by his side, Parren felt quietly confident.
Looking over, he saw General Tomman bring his arm downwards, giving the signal of attack to the group. Creeping stealthily forward, the elves kept low to the ground, using the reeds as protection from the eyes of the Madaras soldiers lining the turret walls. After what seemed like an eternity, Parren’s group reached the checkpoint, a small concealed entrance that led into the vast tower. Moving slowly, Parren reached above his head and felt along the smooth stone until he found the tiny indent made into the steel. Upon pressing this nook, a panel of steel slid upwards back into the wall, leaving a small window for the elves to climb through. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness inside the tunnel, he started to climb the small staircase leading up into the tower, his camerada following soundlessly behind him.
Reaching the top of the staircase, he shoved hard with his shoulder on the panel and rolled out into the main foyer, springing up into a fighting stance effortlessly. From that point onwards, everything seemed to move in slow motion. He span round in a roundhouse kick, taking out a sentry guard. As he span, he saw hanilu despaching another sentry before he alerted anyone else, whilst the twins detained another lurking guard. “Piece of cake” Laughed Hanilu, shoving an unconscious guard back into the hidden entrance they had come from. Parren rolled his eyes at the twins as they set off up onto the next level, toward the tower room. The entire place felt cold and joyless as the group moved up each layer, the silver monotone colours leeching the life out of the fortress. Arriving at the final floor, the elves spread out into a line, flanking Parren in the middle. Parren nodded at the twins. It was time. Sethe and Uley walked up the great iron door and placed there palms against it.
“Lets bring this thing down” Sethe said with a wry smile at his brother. After a moment, the iron around the twins fingers started to glow red and warp in on itself, the surface bubbling with heat as the twins used there elemental magic to melt the solid door to the throne room. Parren and Hanilu crouched in anticipation, ready to spring through the hole the twins had started to make in the door. As they worked, the commotion from inside grew more audible, causing Hanilu to smile.
“Old Ma’daras isn’t going to like us wrecking his pretty doors now is he ?” He let out with a low chuckle. Parren returned his remark with a rueful smile, then focused back on the door. The hole was growing larger by the second, the faces of the twins scrunched up in effort as they concentrated there energy on the door. Finally, the gap widened, an ugly weeping score through the metal. Parren launched himself through, followed closely by Hanilu as they barreled into the throne room. The hall was ablaze with action, many of the guards involved in tryst’s with the rest of the battalion. Joining the frenzy, Parren and his group headed straight for there target located at the center of the room. The king’s steel throne rose up out of the crowd, highlighted by the small lithe man crouched atop it. The king of Madaras snarled at warriors as he thrashed his long staff out into the crowds, shooting crackles of lighting all over the place. His dirty silver locks flew around his head wildly as he moved, climbing around his large throne to gain better vantage angles to prey upon unsuspecting warriors. The raw, ragged scar that tore his face in half shone angrily in the flashing light coming from the sparks, casting a fierce picture of the king.
Parren inched closer, fighting off foes without a second thought, his body reacting for him. As he twisted and dove through the fray, he saw a change in the battle around him. The battalion was winning ! Picking up there pace, his group drew closer to the crazed king and his throne, the twins now having joined them, throwing their own elemental magic at the king, great flaming arcs scorching through the air. The king turned towards the group, snarling with rage. Parren heard Hanilu laugh at the maddened kings expression as he closed the gap between them. Diving at the king, Hanilu engulfed the smaller elf, bowling him off his throne. They both writhed around on the ground together until Parren saw Hanilu being lifted off his feet by a lighting surge. The king shoved him aside and Parren heard the dull thunk as Hanilu’s head hit the floor. Turning on him, the king growled at the twins, launching more deadly bolts towards them. Uley flung himself at his brother, pushing them both out of the way and to safety as Parren ran in from the kings unguarded side. He flew at the king, whipping out his kyoji as he did, looping it round the kings outstretched hand. His arm fell down to the floor, as if it was weighted there whilst Parren caught his other hand in the rest of the weapon. Knowing he was weakened, the king let out a piercing shriek, scrabbling at the silver chains now binding him to the floor. Parren stood for a moment, panting hard as the dust began to settle in the throne room. All around, the night elves had conquered the sentry’s, and the unconscious enemies where being shifted into a corner of the room. General Tomman stalked across the hall towards the bedraggled king, looking victorious. He nodded at Parren to start the inquest.
Parren cleared his throat, ready to speak when a drawling voice interrupted him.
“Parren nightshade, of the Felana woodland realm, village of ardeth, Night elf warrior, how may I be of assistance to you?” The king spat the last words sarcastically, looking up at Parren with pure hatred in his flinty grey eyes. Parren knelt down and stared the king defiantly in the face.
“Mathmadaras, we are here to deliver justice unto you from our home realm. Your violent raids and pillages onto our land have gone too far, so we have come to collect our debts and to have you account for your crimes” He spoke, authority ringing out in his tone. Mathmadaras laughed maniacally at his words, his gaze flicking around the throne room, like a bird trapped in a cage.
“Deliver justice unto me ? The most feared king in all the four realms ? Do you honestly have no idea boy, just what I’m capable of ?” As he said this, an evil grin has started to stretch his grotesque face. Just then, a loud bang resounded through the throne room, knocking half the remaining guard to the ground. Parren span around in panic to see only his small camerada remained upright, Hanilu being supported by the twins. Dust started to shift from the ceiling of the hall as the roof bowed inwards. Rubbled fell from the sky as another loud bang sounded, and the group covered their heads with there arms, Mathmadaras cackling loudly the entire time. Descending from the roof, a dozen or so heavily armoured centurion warriors poured into the room, surrounding the remaining elves. Each warrior picked up an unconscious night elf and stood in a circle around the king, a blade to each victims throat. The room fell silent as the king looked slyly up at Parren, grinning from ear to ear.
“If you do this Mathmadaras, you’ll only make things worse” Parren spoke softly. The king bared his teeth in a growl, looking up at the elf.
“What will make things worse, young Parren, is if you do not comply with my requests. You can go and tell your queen that if she gives me what I want, and she knows what that is, Then we will have no more issues, not even accidents. If not, then clearly you can see what i’m capable of. Just imagine your comrades being your family, your village folk, your women and children, then you can picture exactly what lengths i’ll go to to get what I want.” He growled menacingly. With a sudden movement, The king sent the kyoji flying across the room, his hands glowing silver with his power. He thrust his arms forward at Parren and his group, and the elves braced for pain. As the wall hit them, everything descended into black, and they felt themselves falling through the abyss.
Parren landed face down on unforgiving marble. Marble. He was home. As he pulled himself to his feet, he realise he wasn’t alone. His camerada got up around him stiffly, assessing their surroundings. The group had landed in the hallway outside the queens court room. Mathmadaras must’ve sent them straight back to tell the queen what he wanted. Parren signalled for his group to come together around him.
“We must inform the queen of what happened tonight, she needs to know what we are risking by launching another attack” He stated. The others nodded in agreement, there tense expressions mirroring one another. Having half the Night elf academy in the clutches of a tyrannical leader was not what the kingdom needed right now.
The group entered the court quietly, waiting out of site in case of interruption. Although not mad and evil, Queen Fellia was not a woman who liked to be interrupted. Sunlight poured down from the sky hatch, creating a warm basking space in the center of the hall. The ladies in waiting all perched within this circle, looking up at the high back golden marble throne, where the queen was seated. Parren searched the faces of the ladies, looking for one in particular. There was Athela Lamerone of Mishra, dressed in the desert sand colour of her people, Merenethia Nave of Loralil, in white. Sat beside her was Teteratia Hothen of Elden in bark brown silks and lastly there was Naratheil Nightshade of Ardeth in deep green, who also happened to be Parren’s wife. He longed to rush to her, but he willed himself to stay still. He next looked at the queen, Fellia Dureth, dressed in her golden silks. Her crown, Marble inset with jewels from every village lay atop her head. The marble was bewitched to be feather light so as not to crush the snow white hair that tumbled down her back in loose curls and framed her heart shaped face. The only thing that appeared ugly about the queen was that her lip was permanently twisted up into a half sneer, and accident that occured in childhood. No one in the realm knew the full story behind it, and no one had ever found out. Again, although not mad or deranged, there were certain subjects you avoided with the queen at all costs. Parren listened to the discussion going on at present, waiting for a lull in the conversation so he could step in.
“My lady, If I may be so bold as to ask, will your plan not affect the lives of your own people?”Athela asked timidly, her voice high with nervousness.
“Athela my dear, I wish could promise you that our entire realm could be protected, But alas, I cannot. You must remember that it will all be worth it in the end. Do not forget the guaranteed safety I have assured you and your loved ones and do not forget what could happen if we were to have a disagreement.” The queen soothed in a sickly sweet voice, threat sliding under the surface of her tone like a snake.
“No my grace, of course your grace, I am so sorry, please forgive” Athela’s words tumbled out in a nervous rush. Parren exchanged a puzzled look with Hanilu as the queen spoke again.
“Its alright young one, we all make mistakes. Do not worry so. When we strike upon the mad king, his kingdom will fall hard. Any loss we sustain will be just that, sustained. We are not the type to mourn for our people, as there sacrifice will be beneficial to the new dawn of tomorrow. Felana will rise from the ashes like a great phoenix and that is when we will rule over all of Episonia. Agreed?” The queen let the last word hang in the air, a challenge to any of the ladies to disagree.
Instead, the women nodded around the table, Athela having the smallest of nods.
The queen sat with a smug smile on her twisted face, her eyes blazing with passion as she spoke of the destruction she planned to bring to there home. Parren stared in horror as the women rose from there chairs and quietly left the room. It took all his strength to hold him in place and not cry out from the sheer madness of what had just been discussed. He felt the same mortified panic from his teammates surrounding him, as they waited for the party to leave the chamber.
Naratheil lingered in the throne room, slowly collecting herself together from her chair. Parren took this opportunity to reveal himself to his wife.
“Naratheil” He breathed. Slowly, she turned to look at them, an amused look on her face, as though she had known of their presence all along.
“Hello darling, How nice of you to be back so early ! My my, you all look so battle worn ! Maybe you should get some rest hmm ?” As she said this, Parren heard a small movement from behind him and before he could react, strong arms had pinned him in place.
“Please don’t say you are with this? Think of everything we’ve built, think of the children, think of the people” He cried out, trying to wrestle free of the guards grip. Hanilu was kicking and biting next to him as metal shackles were placed on everyone’s wrists and ankles. Naratheil walked over to them, lifting a hand to caress his face in a soothing motion. He flinched away from her, searching her eyes for a piece of his wife. It was like looking into the eyes of a sea serpent. All he saw was a cold, lifeless malice. She smiled sweetly at him as he was dragged backwards and away from her.
“Oh Parren, my love. You always go looking for trouble” She let out in a sigh.
“Guards, to the dungeons.” She issued the last command with ruthless authority, her face showing no emotion as she watched the group get dragged across the throne room floor.