Pete opened his eyes with a groan. The landing had not been gentle and his head was all the worse for it. Despite the pain it caused, Pete forced himself to sit up. He seemed to be in the middle of a garden. There were plants all around him. Raederle and Mistress Tessa were sleeping near a tall elm tree. There were more different types of trees and flowers than Pete had ever seen.
“Where are we?” He couldn’t help but ask.
“I am glad to see you awake, Pete,” Tarale said as she walked purposefully into the garden. “I was worried with the hasty exit and unplanned landing. You humans are so fragile! Still, we were able to get you away from the Eratians and into the floating city.”
“Is the whole city like this?” Pete asked in wonder.
“There are many small gardens like this in the city,” Tarale said with a touch of pride.
“Are the others there? In another garden?” Pete asked.
Tarale looked from left to right uncomfortably. She opened her mouth to answer but Raederle filled the silence first.
“I saw Caidan leave. The Dark Elves took him! Shadows covered him!”
“Shadows covered Evan too!” Pete said in shock.
“What happened to my Evan! What did you see?” Tarale asked in desperation.
“I wasn’t there but Morgan saw it all,” Pete explained. “She told me about it right before I was brought up. Morgan said that the shadows attacked Evan. He fought them but they were stronger. They took him! Maybe the same thing happened with Caidan.”
“The fight was different with Caidan. Shadows weren’t fighting him,” Aliana explained. “They were distracting him. The Dark Elf grabbed him while he was discracted. We have to go help him!”
“The Dark Elves travel to a different deminsion in the shadows,” Tarale reminded the humans. “How do you think that you can help him?”
“Your libraries must have something that can help me find him,” Raederle all but pleaded.
“The libraries tell us about an elemental magic user who was able to travel between the demensions but it does not tell us how,” Tarale explained. “Our masons may be able to help you.”
“Do they know much about elemental magic?” Raederle asked with excitment.
“We know more about the use of magic than those forigners ever could,” Mistress Tessa chided. “You taught well in our travels with Pete and Will. We can figure out how to help Caidan together.”
“Nemphs do not posses elemental magic... or we haven’t in the last 10 centuries. Our records are long. Still, we Nemph know our history. We know the history of magic even if we do not have the ability.”
Taralen led the three of them along the tree-lined walk ways to the biggest building that Pete had ever seen. The building had to be over ten stories high! The tallest building in the whole village was only three stories and a fraction of the building’s width.
“What do you keep in there?” Mistress Tessa asked in awe.
“This building is the Nemph library. We keep books, scrolls and knowledge in there,” Tarale told the visitors. “There is a place of worship inside as well. All knowledge comes from the Creator.”
A man was parchment for skin and eyes older than even the oldest grandfather in Winding opened the door of the giant building and came out to meet them. His eyes were dark, almost black, and his hair was white. The parchment of his skin turned grey in the sun. Pete was afraid he would break the man even though he was so tall.
“I am the master mason of the library,” the man introduced himself. “How can I help you?”
“We need information on elemental magic,” Raederle told him quickly. “There are ledgions that say elemental magic can be used to travel across the deminsions... I have to learn how to do it. Dark Elves have taken Caidan into their own deminsion. He needs help!”
“We have books that may have some information but I think that the best thing would be to talk with the Creator,” the master mason suguested.
“The wolves talked with the Creator in their caves in Winding. They are interested to see how you manage it without caves,” Pete translated for his friends.
Tell the Nemph that their city smells like the forests after a rain, Snow ordered with a wolfish smile. I feel comfortable here. This city is almost as nice as the forests but that does not mean I do not want to go home. Tell them that they are invited to use our cave if their worship place does not work.
“I’ll let the mason know,” Pete promised her.
Do not look at me like that, Pete, Snow chided. I am being polite.
You are spending too much time arguing and bregging, Plum argued. Follow the Nemph and help them talk with the Creator. We knew that they could be trusted because we followed Fate as they do. We are cut from the same cloth.
Yes, Snow agreed. I trust them and I do want to help find the Darkness Chaser.
“Do you have an idea about how to help Caidan?” Pete asked in surprise.
Maybe. I need to see what this mason finds. Do not tell the women who can control nature until I know more.
“You know I can keep a secret,” Pete said, “but do not make me do it for long. My sisters could always string the truth out of me if they had long enough.”
Raederle’s breath caught. “Your sisters weren’t in the village?”
“No.” The ghost of a smile seemed to dance on Pete’s face. “They went to visit relatives Auman before the Eratians came.”
“How many people do you think made it out? How many of our villagers are still out there?” Raederle asked in a whisper.
“I’ve never been to Bridgeton but I know some people in Winding who are too stubborn to die,” Pete told her.
Raederle forced out a smile and let the memories of her home overwhelm her. She missed her mother and her cousins; she missed her neighbors and friends. Raederle wanted to go home! It felt like forever since she had left her front door. It was hard not to let saddness overwhelm her with the memories. Raederle knew that she would never be able to go home again. Her home was no more -- the Dark Elves had seen to that!
All of the villagers had lost their home in that one swoop the Dark Elves thought would win their prince. The scout had come to get Caidan back to his own realm but Caidan had refused to leave his home. The family he had in Winding had been the only family he had ever known.
Winding was his home as much as it was Pete’s or Will’s. None of them would ever leave it. The Dark Elves thought Caidan would leave Earth if Winding was no longer in it but they did not know Caidan. Destroying his home only made him hate them more.
Pete was lost in the same type of thoughts. His sisters were safe and he thanked the Creator for that every day but his parents were in Winding when he left. He had no way of knowing if they were alive or dead. The Eratians had taken him from his home and the Dark Elves had made sure that he could never return. Pete was not sure he could forgive either of them for that... He had seen hate eat away at a man and he never wanted to live his life like that man. Still, forgiveness was easier said than done.
The Eratians and the Dark Elves had taken his home from him. They may have taken his family! If they had only taken things than Pete could forgive them. He could always buy more things but no one could replace people! Pete pushed down dispeare but not fast enough.
I feel your saddness, Plum told Pete. Pete believed her when she said it. She said the words with an equal amount of saddness in her voice. Do not let it eat away at you. Eating rotten meat does the body no good. Go hunting, brother and find happiness.
Live for the day, brother, Snow adviced behind Plum. You cannot change yesterday so never worry about it. Think of tomorrow and the possibilities it brings.
“I am not worrying about yesterday, Snow. I’m sad because my family is gone,” Pete tried to explain.
They are never gone, Plum said, confused at his confusion. You will see them again.
“I need their advice now. My father always knew what to do,” Pete told the wolves.
Your father’s advice is good because he told you what you already knew you needed to do, Plum told him. Her tone said that she did not understand why she needed to explain why water was wet. Still, she continued on, A child needs its father to confirm his thoughts but you are grown now. You can see the right discisions without being pointed in the right direction.
“I’m not sure what to think about the masons,” Pete told Plum. “I can see that Mistress Tessa is not impressed with them and Snow seems to think that there is a miscomunication between them and the Creator.”
Snow is worried, Plum agreed. She is our pact’s leader now and she is not sure she is worthy of the challange. Snow is going to question everything she does and face each unavoidable problem with caution. Plum gave a wolf version of a shrugg. That is the way of things. She will learn and grow confidant. You will learn and grow too, brother.
“Do you trust the masons, Plum?”
I must see what these masons think they know first, Plum decided. I agree with Snow’s caution. A good hunter must be patient at times and a true wolf is a good hunter. This situation calls for caution and patients.
Pete nodded, seeing the logic in Plum’s thoughts. He nodded but he stayed silent.
Raederle was obviously trying not to listen in on the half of the conversation that she could hear. She wanted Pete to have his privacy but she could not help the curiousity that rose up in her. She wanted to hear what he was talking about but she was not willing to fall to ease-dropping to do it. Pete himself ended her curiousity when he walked up to her.
“The wolves and I have been talking,” Pete told her. “There are somethings you should know.”
“What is it? Is something wrong?” Raederle could not hide the fear in her voice. This was her chance to save Caidan and she was desperate to see his face again. He had saved her time and time again when the invaders came. She had to do her part now.
“The wolves do not trust the masons. They say that the Creator’s words may be being misinterperated. No decisions should be made until the Nemph show us where the Creator speaks to them. Mistress Tessa believes that she can use the room to verify what the masons say,” Pete explained in a rush.
“You think that the Nemph are lying? Why would they dave us from the Eratians?” Raederle asked.
“The wolves and I agree that the Nemph themselves follow the Creator and believe in Fate. The problem is that the masons may be misleading them.”
“This sounds like a conspiracy theory out of a novel,” Raederle said with a groan.
“It sounds too crazy to be true,” Pete agreed.
Neigther one of the humans could talk once they entered the hall of books. Neigther one of them had seen more than fifty books together before... there had to be thousands here! The hall was nothing but shelves from cieling to floor. The awe of so much knowledge silenced them. The wolves were not feeling the same sence of awe or wonder.
Raederle and Pete could both hear Snow make a loud snort from behind Plum. Something was clearly frustrating the young alpha wolf. Pete looked apologetically at Raederle. They both knew that Snow would need to talk with Pete. Raederle waved him towards the wolf. The villiage girl still needed to talk but she understood that the wolves needed him and could wait.
“What is it, Snow?” Pete asked with real concern.
Snow’s eyes burned woth a fircesom light as she answered, I thought the Nemph were supposed to be smart! The halls of books only have paper in them. I do not see any wisdom! How are we supposed to find the Creator here?
Pete quickly translated Snow’s concern to the master mason, who had stopped to see what had caused Snow’s distress.
“Wisdom lies with the Creator,” the mason said in an even tone. “We mortals can only do our best and pray for guidance.”
Does the Creator speak to you here? Snow asked incredulously. I cannot feel Fate moving.
“The Creator speaks to us wherever we are,” the mason tried to explain in a gentle voice.
The wolves exchanged looks in confusion. After a moment of silence and thought, they turned to Pete.
Do humans speak to the Creator as the Nemph do? Plum asked with genuine couriousity.
“Few humans try,” Pete tried to explain. “You told me that most humans had forgotten how to listen to the Creator. He is still calling us and Fate writes out His message in the stars and stories of centuries. When my kind does try, Fate brings our worries and praises to the Creator no matter where we are. There is no need for my kind to have a special cave. The Creator calls out from everything He has made.”
Maybe you will be able to help the Nemph reach Him here. May be you can hear the same instructions. Still, being away from the trees disterbs me, Plum told him.
I feel as if a hunter is watching me from this building, Snow sent, agreeing with Plum. The trees were safer.
“We are amoung friends,” Pete tried to reassure her. “We are safe in the floating city.”
“Maybe the Creator talks to them from books,” Raederle sugested, unable to stop gaping at the number of tomes around her.
“The Nemph really do seem passionate about their books. I don’t think they are only for learning and entertainment,” Pete agreed with her. “These books seem special somehow.”
“It has taken many centuries and many life-times for all of our people to amass such wealth,” the master mason explained with pride.
“I smell more than old paper and books here,” Pete said worriedly.
Nature itself appeared to affirm Pete’s words when a great wind rose up. The wind blew books, scrolls and papers from the shelves while the Nemph masons threw themselves at the shutters. The masons were trying to protect their papers but the trees outside seemed to be in the same battle. They too were fighting with the wind. They bent and danced and played with the wind. Never braking but some were straining with the ground beneath them. The roots held their strength and went deeper and deeper.
The trees could not hold against such force. One tree erupted from the earth itself. It was soon joined by one... no, two... no, four more! Trees spung dangerously in the air only to slam into the great hall’s shudders and windows.
Pete felt his bones shake with the vibration of the hit. He could feel the wolve’s anger but could not see what they were angry with. The Nemph could not control the weather!
“What type of storm is this?” Pete asked Plum in confusion.
This wind is not from the weather, brother. A greater danger has come to us. We cannot hide any longer.
You must face him, brother, Snow agreed, but do not fear. We will help you.
“You’ll help me do what?” Pete called in frustraition.
He knew as soon as he had spoke that it was too late. The shudders broke against the wind and the wind surged it. It seemed to roar with triumph before slamming into Pete.
Pete held onto the shelves with white knuckles, fighting the wind himself. He could not see Raederle or the Nemph. The wolves were biting and snapping at the wind but it was making no difference at all. Wave after wave of wind knocked Pete this way and that. He gripped and shelf harder but after an eternity of streaming like a flag Pete could not hold on.
Uncouciousness claimed him and he fell into the embrace of the dark...
“I already told you,” Will said for the hundredth time, “I don’t know anything. I don’t think the escape was planned but the Nemphs clearly already knew something.”
Will had seen Morgan, Pete, and Raederle all fly into the air with those trees but he had been felt on the ground. Will took his triangular emerald ring and continually pressed the jewel but the Eratians had taken it away from him once they were able to get near without fear of the trees.
Will and Sargento had both been left. He tried not to take it personally. He was sure that none of his friends had meant to leave him; but it was hard when the Eratians seemed bent on getting every scrap of information they could from him.
“Why would the Nemph leave us here if they thought that we could ruin their plan. Either the Nemph know nothing or we know nothing. You cannot have it both ways,” Sargento argued.
Will was not sure he agreed with his freind’s logic but he was not about to let the Eratians know that! The Eratians wanted to uproot a giant conspiracy that involved the villiagers making alliances with the Nemph long before the Eratians had ever shown up. No conspiracy existed but Will doubted that telling the Eratians this would result in anything other than a swift kick and a trip down to see the empress.
The little woman coudl really pack a punch. She would never dirty her hands so but Will could see from the way she moved that she could fight. The fire in her eyes told him that she was not afraid to fight him just because he was bigger or stronger. She walked in a way that said she knew that she owned the ground she walked on. Anyone who tried to lower her a peg or six would see that they were sorely mistaken. The empress would make a little wave with her little hand and her unspoken command would be obeyed.
Will had to admit that her silence unnerved him. He would know what to expect if she said a word or two. But then, he expected that she remained silent for that reason alone. She did not want him to know what to expect.
Her little games would not work though. Will was no longer surprised when the punches came after the little man waved a hand. He still jumped each time though. The empress would order him blindfolded if she knew that her tricks were no longer working. Still, he knew that he could only pretend for so long.
Sargento said that he slipped into the dream world any time the empress and her goons pressed him for information. He would be in a peaceful field while the empress ordered him to be punched or denied food and water. Sargento did not notice the things that were happening around him.
Will could see the advantage of escaping the situation like that but there were clear disadvantages too. Will feared that Sargento’s body would die while he was away. Will was not sure what would happen if Sargento’s body died while his soul was not there.
Will could see a number of possible “could be’s” but none of them made him any calmer. He was not sure if Sargento would only exist in the dream like Juniper did or if he would not exist at all. Frankly, Will never wanted to find out the answer to this question. He posed it to Sargento after their first night of torture.
“Anything is possible,” Sargento said musingly. “I could end up never dying, never feeling my body decay.”
“You can feel the buises in your body now,” Will argued. “You won’t be able to enter your body if you die. Or maybe you can enter your body but the pain of death will only make you go into shock.”
“You may be thinking too much about this, Will. We cannot change what the empress does but we can change how we react to it,” Sargento argued.
“My mother used to tell me something similar. She said that the people around us change when we change. I have a hard time seeing her agreeing with you on this though. It’s dangerous to ignore your body,” Will tried to caution his freind. “Anything could happen while you are gone. Can you defind yourself if your spirit is not there?”
Sargento paused for a moment, thinking, before saying, “Defending yourself when you are hurt or attacked is instinct. My body can react by instinct and by muscle memory if I am not there. My body will know what to do better than me.”
“Caidan and Morgan have already left us,” Will said saddly. “I’m glad that they’re safe but I wish that the two of us weren’t so alone.”
“You should come into the dream world with me, Will.” Will looked at him incredulusly. “You traveled there before. Why can’t you travel now?”
“I can get there at night, when the room is quiet and my mind is peaceful, but I could never travel during one of the empress’s visits. I cannot think straight when the punches are thrown,” Will tried to explain.
“The solution to that is simple: don’t wake up,” Sargento said with ease in his voice and movements.
“What?” Will rubbed his head and decided, “You talk crazy sometimes.”
“Just go to the dream world while you’re sleeping as you normally do but stay when the guards come to wake you. No one will be able to torture you that way,” Sargento said.
Will sat and thought about it for all of two seconds. “I’ll meet you in the dream world then.”
“I’ll be in the valley where you first met Juniper.”
“Did you meet Juniper before me?” Will asked, surprised he had never thought of this before.
“I could not travel to the dream until Annesta took the Eratians’ spells off me. You were able to travel to the dream world long before I could. I met Juniper the first time I came here too but in a different valley.”
“Those wolves don’t make any sense sometimes,” Will said with a shake of the head.
“They make perfect since to themselves. We’re the ones who talk non-since to them,” Sargento reminded him.
“That’s what worries me. They understand so much but can tell us so little.”
“I think that part of the reason the Eratians wanted Pete so baddly was so he could explain the dream world to them in a way that they could understand. I could understand the wolves when I was a were but I could never explain the dream world.”
“The Eratians want to understand everything but that’s where they run into trouble.” Will said all of this as he realized it himself. “Somethings loose their magic when they’re explained.”
“We might be able to use that to our advantage if we hide in the dream world.”
Will nodded his agreement. “Let’s get going then.”
Will closed his eyes and lost himself in that place between waking and sleeping. When he opened his eyes again he was on longer in a dark cell. He was in a sun lit valley surrounded by butterflies and colorful, swirling clouds. This was Juniper’s valley!
Will turned this way and that, looking for his friend. Sargento had said that he would meet Will there but no one expected that Sargento would be having a little adventure of his own.
Sargento blinked up in surprise. This felt like the dream world and smelled like the dream world but it did not look anything like the dream world. Everything seemed to be made from mist. Everything was hazy and not clearly defined. Grey blended with grey and only made Sargento dizzy and confused. He wanted to close his eyes again.
Sargento thought that the dizziness would go away if he closed his eyes but he did not quiet dare to do even that small thing. Every movement seemed like an important milestone when ice ran up and down his spine. He could feel the mere look on his back. He could even even blink when he felt stone cold eyes on his back.
“Come out in to the light, whoever you are,” Sargento called out a challange. He felt ice and tingling spiders along his skin as soon as he said the words.
“So few have come to see me,” a voice hissed.
The speaker was much too close for Sargento’s taste but then anywhere in the vencinity was too close for Sargento. The thing before him was nothing like a man. Oh, it had two arms, two legs and one head but its skin hung off of it in gelled masses. Holes where eyes should have been seemed to see into Sargento’s very soul!
“Stay where you are,” Sargento ordered. “Don’t come any closer!”
“Oh, but you called me, my friend. I am Ornree, a denizin of the Eastern tribes and who are you, my new friend?” The thing asked with what would have been a smile if it had a visable mouth.
“I am... I am a wolf-brother. I have come here to speak to the wolves.” Sargento did not like lying but something about this man told him that the truth was a weapon in his hands.
“You searh for wolves, do you? I beleive that you are lost, friend.”
“What is this place? I should be in the dream world.” Sargento asked, getting bolder now that he had spoken with the man without meeting his end.
“This is the shadow world, friend. You came here because you have enemies. Can you not see it? This is the place that can destroy all those who wish to destroy you.” The creature, Ornree held out a hand coaxingly as it talked.
“What’s to keep my enemies from coming here and using this place against me?”
“I am here, of course. I protect my freinds. You are my freind aren’t you, wolf-brother?” Ornree was not bothering to coax now.
“I think that I had better be your friend,” Sargento decided guardedly.
“Oh, I am glad,” Ornree said mockingly.
“As long as one of us is happy,” Sargento said dryly.
Ornree laughed and laughed at that.
“As long as we are all being friends,” Sargento began uncertainly, “what do you think about taking me to the wolves here?” Sargento hoped that the wolves would help him even without Pete. He hoped that they would not give him away.
“What a nice idea, friend,” Ornree agreed. “Surely you can find the wolves here, being a wolf-brother and all. Why don’t you call them?”
“I don’t want to scare anyone,” Sargento said, looking frantically for a way out.
“Who do you see to scare?” Ornree asked, waving his hands about. “It’s just you and me out here. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were you and me and a wolf or two?”
“I’m not sure they’ll come with you here,” Sargento said, getting suspecious of the creature all over again.
“Your sinsitive nose can smell me, can it?” Ornree said with a hackling laugh.
“If I can smell you then the wolves certainly can,” Sargento reminded him. “The wolves won’t come for you and with you here they’ll know that my call is really your’s.”
“Wolves would have come for a wolf-brother,” Ornree said getting within arms reach of Sargento. “They’re very rare. The wolves treasure them so.”
Sargento twisted away from Ornree’s hand but the man only gripped him harder. “If I were not a wolf-brother, how would I get here? Not just anyone can enter the world of dreams.”
“Oh, you are spechial, my friend. There’s no question about that. That is why you’re still here, friend.”
“Get me out of this shadow place and take me back to the dream world!” Sargento demanded. “You have no right to make me stay here!”
“Don’t worry yourself, my friend. You will not have to wait here alone. I doubt he will come if you are not here.”
“Who are you waiting for? This trap was laid for someone and it doesn’t look like that someone is me,” Sargento said slowly.
“I need a real wolf-brother and I think he’ll come for you.”
“I am a wolf-brother,” Sargento almost growled the words out. How many times would this man make him say it? He might start believing himself if he had to say it just one more time!
“Then howl, my friend. Prove yourself to me. Warn yourown friends, your pack,” Ornree challanged.
Sargento felt himself start to shake. He felt an urging deep within him. Sargento threw back his head and howled. He felt his mouth and nose change into the muzzle of a wolf, but unlike the Eratians terrible experiment, Sargento’s mind remained his own. He could feel and think like a man but his eyesight and hearing were that of a wolf. His teeth were the teeth of a wolf but his heart and soul were still a man’s. His howl was a wolf’s howl.
A wind rose up and pulled at his hair and clothes. Sargento could quickly see that this wind was more than a wind. It smelled... wrong. The wrong wind made the wrong mist morph and change into a man. Sargento could see as he got closer that it was not just any man.
It was Pete.
“Pete?” Sargento was able to ask with his wolf’s mouth. “How did you get here?”
“Sargento?” Pete asked, shock clear in his voice.
Sargento felt the world jerk as someone, something, pulled at his leggs. The world went black again. Weights, tons of weights, seemed to fall on Sargento. It took a mile or more to open his eyelids.
His saw clouds rolling in a sun lit sky.
“Sargento?” Will asked in excitement. “What happened to you? I was afraid you weren’t coming.”
Sargento pulled himself into a seated possition with a groan and got ready to explain...
Caidan kicked against the hundreds of hands that held him. He could not see or hear but he knew that these shadows did not have his best interest in mind. He was not sure what these things wanted with him but he was sure that he was fighting for his life. He kicked and flailed, not ready to give up on life or on himself. Suddenly, he was falling. Darkness still covered his vision but he could still feel that odd vertigo of falling.
“Gah!” he grunted with the rough landing.
“You’ve done well,” a familiar voice purred. “This is the one I wanted. Release the sheild on him. He and I must talk.”
Caidan could see as soon as the words were spoken. He blinked twice in the brilliant light. It took him a few seconds to get acclimated to the new lighting. He was blind for those few seonds but the bluriness quickly gave way to focus. Caidan saw that the Dark Elves had finally found him. The Dark Elf who had come for him all that time ago in the Mist Mountains now had their prey in their hands.
“I should have known you were behind this,” Caidan grounded out, trying to stay calm.
“You should know that your father will stop at nothing to bring you back. I came for you on his command,” the Dark Elf said with calm heavy in his voice.
“You should know that I won’t abandon my world. I’m going back right now!” Caidan declared.
The Dark Elf laughed. “Demensional travel is not as easy as that. You’re suck here until the king’s good grace decides otherwise.”
“If there’s a way in than there is a way out!” Caidan screamed, twisting away. Caidan took two steps away from the Dark Elf but could not take any more than that. Invisable ropes seemed to wrap around him and keep his from moving. The Dark Elf had a small twist to his lips that let Caidan know that he was the one casting the spell.
“I’ll try to explain this in a way even a simpleton can understand,” the Dark Elf growled as his invisable ropes held Caidan tighter. “I can make a cake with flour, milk and eggs but I can never turn a cake into milk, flour and eggs. I can use the time flows to get to this deminsion but it takes many more steps to get back to another deminsion.”
“Your kind used to travel all over the twelve demensions,” Caidan reminded him. “There is a way to get out of this deminsion and into mine!”
The Dark Elves tightened the ropes then until they were painful. Caidan grunted with the pain and almost fell over. But the Dark Elf only held his shoulders and continued talking as if Caidan had not spoken.
“We are both Dark Elves, you and I. Like calls to like as hate breads hate. Your nature calls to mine and pulls it. Your father sent me to find you and bring you here. This will be a safe place in the days to come. Your former home will be destroyed but your father could not destroy his heir.”
Caidan could not allow himself to stay silent no matter how tight the ropes were. “I can’t let you destroy my home. My father, my sister, my friends are all still down there!”
The Dark Elf’s claws dugg into Caidan’s arms, silencing him. “You have little choice in the matter. Your father wants you here and so here you are.”
Caidan opened his mouth to argue but he quickly found that he could not move his mouth. The Dark Elf had used his magic to keep Caidan’s mouth open and hold down the tongue. Caidan glared at the elf as much as he was able. The Dark Elf only smiled back.
“We have an appointment to see your father and we’ll have to hurry if we mean to keep it.”
Caidan was pulled after the elf as he made his way down the boardwalk at a quick pace. Caidan struggled to keep up because the invisable ropes were so tight but the Dark Elf created anotther piece of invisable rope to connect Caidan to him. The rope pulled at Caidan if he was too slow. The tugg of the rope made the tedious balance Caidan had obtained nonexistant. He stumbled and fell, landing heavilly without his arms able to catch him.
The Dark Elf growled before reaching down and pulling Caidan to his feet roughly. “I told you, we’re in a hurry!”
Caidan stumbled but did his best to keep up. He was out of breath by the time the two of them stopped. They stood in front of cherry wood doors with gold inlay.
“Inform the king that Braudin of Eurin has a delivery for him,” the Dark Elf told the guards who stood in front of the doors. The guards went to do as he told them without even glancing at Caidan. The guard ran back to Braudin and said breathlessly, “Go in,sir. The king has been expecting you.”
The king was a tall elf with white hair and black skin. He wore a gold and silver tunic and matching pants. The shirt had golden necklaces waven into the collar while the pants had intricate scroll work done in golden thread.
“Braudin, how good to see you,” the king said, clapping the other elf on the shoulder. “I see that your mission was successful.” The king leaned around his friend to get a look at Caidan. “Was all this reall necessary?”
“Your son is a very stubborn young man,” Braudin tried to explain.
“Remove the bindings and let him speak for himself,” the king ordered.
“Of course, my king.” Braudin waved his hand and Caidan was releaved to see that he really could move now.
“Isn’t that more comfortable now?” the king asked in a disgruntaled voice.
“I’d be more comfortable if I were back at home,” Caidan said in a mummled voice. His jaw was sore from being forced open for so long.
“This is your home now,” the king said in a voice that was less than friendly. “You will take on the duties equal to your station now that you are here.”
“I won’t be staying here,” Caidan said, trying to use the same calm tone they had used.
“How do you plan on returning?” The king asked with real curiousity.
Caidan ground his teeth and did not say a thing. These men wanted to make him look like a fool but they could not have their fun if he did not speak.
The king laughed quietly and motioned at Braudin. “This will be your guard. He has earned the right to the highest position at court but he as requested to be your guard instead.”
“You can give him the highest honor instead,” Caidan snapped. “I don’t want him as a guard.”
“You will have him as your guard or your stay here will have to be assured in other ways. Leg and ankle chains will be needed if you cannot abide this guard. You cannot possibly hope to escape.”
Caidan looked at the king with fire in his eyes. “I will escape and I will not be babysat by your guard!” Caidan called the lightning to his hands and threw it into the king’s room.
The king and the guard both yelled out in surprise and alarm. Caidan used the distraction to run. He was not sure where he was running to but away seemed like a good enough direction for now. He ran in as many darkened paths as he could, avoiding the pounding boots of guards.
Still, shouts seemed to follow Caidan as he ran. He tried moving into small rooms and crawling into cellars. He only drew himself into a trap. This was a deadend! Guards waited in the doorway and there was nowhere left to run. Caidan did the only thing he could think to do: he ran at the guards.
The guards were surprised by his move but they still outnumbered him by twenty to one. More guards seemed to flow in through the open doors. Caidan fought as best he could but he was driven to his back seconds later. He kicked and went limp by turns, trying to break free from their hands. But his movements only resulted in invisable ropes wrapping around him until all movement was impossible. Caidan’s face was so numb that he was not sure he could blink.
“You are proven correct, my son,” the king murmered. “You will need more than one babysitter. Get the chains, Braudin.”
Braudin moved to follow his king’s order while the other guards kept the ropes tight. Caidan was sure that he could not blink or move his lips to speak. He felt strangely relieved when the chains clicked shut because the ropes were finally released.
“You’ll need more guards than this,” Caidan warned.
“Stay with him, Braudin. Wrap him in ropes if he tries anything,” the kiing said, ignoring Caidan. Caidan stonilly returned the favor by ignoring the king as well.
“It seems you can learn since, my prince,” Braudin said with gripping mockery.
“I’m not a prince. I’m a farmer,” Caidan reminded him through grounded teeth. “I don’t belong here.”
“This is your home. It’s your family and you belong with them,” Braudin told Caidan without a shred of mockering. “You will come to see the truth and accept this place as my home, as I have.”
“My home and my family are in a different demension. I’ll get back to them one way or another,” Caidan swore.
Braudin gave a soft laugh. “Allow me to lead the way to your rooms. You’ll want to clean up before dinner.”
Caidan was lead into a grand room that was bigger than the house he had shared with his father and sister. The manor he had been given in Eratian was the richest place he had ever been but this place was in a different class. Not only was the room huge, it had every luxery imaginable. The furniture was covered in gilding and the walls had velvet curtains. Caidan sat on the bed and found that it was full of goose down.
He looked around at the luxery and tried to see something he could use. Something in this room had to get him home... or at least out of this palace! Caidan began pulling out drawer after drawer, looking for anything. A knock on the door interupted him. Caidan froze. The knock sounded again.
“Come in!” Caidan called after a second or two.
The door opened to reveal a short teen with yellow hair. “Good evening, sire. I am Edwin, your serving man. His majesty sent me to prepare you for dinner.”
“I see,” Caidan said uncertainly.
“Very good, sire,” Edwin said, clearly releaved. “I’ll draw you a bath and lay out your attire.”
“Would it be possible for you to esscort me to the city?” Caidan did not want to get this boy into trouble but he needed to test the security.
“I’m afaid I don’t have that kind of authority, sire. I can mention an outing to Lord Braudin on your behalf,” Edwin sounded hopeful, eager to please.
“That won’t be neccessary.” Caidan did not bother to hide his disappointment.
“Shall I draw your bath now, sire? You’ll be late for dinner if we do not get going.”
“Of course. We can’t be late now can we?” Caidan asked with gripping sarcasm.
After the bath had been filled and Caidan rested comfortably in it, Edwin began to lay out cothes. Caidan tried to think through all that had happened. His thoughts seemed to drift in circles asif he were dreaming.
“Uh... Sire? May I ask you a question?”
“Is something wrong, Edwin?” Caidan asked, getting nervous.
“It’s just that I heared that you were from earth. Are the rumors true, sire?” Edwin could not hide the eagerness in his voice.
“I am from earth. I was raised there.”
“Are there really blue skies and green vallies there?”
Edwin sounded like an excited child and Caidan could not help but answer his questions.
“On earth the skies really are blue and grass is green. Grass covers the vallies and fields.”
“Have you ever seen a cow? Do they really have five stomaches?”
“Yes, I’ve seen a cow and yes they have multiple stomaches. The cows have to chew and chew so that the food can go through all their stomaches.”
“Do cows really eat grass? Do they turn green like the grass?”
“Cows do eat grass but they don’t turn green because of it. Cows are black and white and brown. Who told you all of this about earth?” Caidan asked the young servant.
“My mother told me. She said that my father came from earth and that they would find a way back to each other one day!” Edwin made a sour face. “The story sounds gushy and romantic to me but I still want to see earth!”
Edwin was smiling now and Caidan felt like he had to smile back. “Looks like we are both somewhere we don’t want to be,” Caidan said saddly. “We both want to be on earth but we are stuck here.”
“We need to get you ready for the state dinner.” Caidan gave Edwin a confused look at the younger man’s words. “As you said,” Edwin explained, “we’re stuck here and I don’t want to be in trouble.”
Caidan quickly got out of the bath and dressed for dinner.