Here are the elements for February:
Some sort of electricity
Venom/poison in the bloodstream
A secret revealed
All works must be related to Elfquest, whether canon-based, original character, alternate universe, or whatever. Writings must contain all the above elements. Art can either contain all the elements, or illustrate one of the writings.
When I pester you all to stay and go on I should contribute, right?
His body is a puzzle
Of parts which do not fit.
Where eyes meet eyes
Should sparks make fly
He feels like venom in my veins!
Now this secret is revealed
So all the strangers know
From my lovemate's tenderness
New hope grows - a way to go.
My senses are bewildered
This puzzle will not fit.
The promised child
Bears no new hope -
It's deadly venom in her blood!
Tho this secret is revealed
To all my tribemates' shame
New energy - like lightning -
Revives my old Lord's fame.
Nice poem Embala.
Yay!! An Embala poet! Like it!
Very nice poem! Got a little inspiration from Nightsea, huh?
And... I'm back with the short pieces! Very short this time!
What is this riddle?
Sparks spring between magic scrolls
Watch the secret become no more
Though others might see it as venom
This change of blood became new hope.
Nice poem, both of you!! Hope to find time to write something myself soon, too!
Riddles, riddles, plenty of riddles!
Good to see so many diddles
Embala and Ember!
Your works we remember!
You have set the bar,
Let there be many more by far!
Thanks for all the friendly comments
I would gladly take credit for being inspiration to such a nice poem, too! (what did I do?)
I've got one idea, but more inspiration is always welcome!
now, to eat my breakfast and read Tymber's story...
first thought: oh god.... they can't be serious, can they? Those bastards... I hate them!!! Well, Branchsnapper and Lionheart, that is... the rest is 'innocent' victims of the system... obeying to their Sire, trusting his judgment.
oh! *slaps forehead* almost forgot to comment on Embala's background pic! Very nice!
hey, I got the same with comments on my stories! Plus, discussing things that came up in the story iz nice...
*hugs da Tymber* Stonehowl is great as ever! That ...incident... sure did not harm your writing skills! AAAYOOOAAAHHH!!
Yea yea, I know... should've been studying for my re-exam... but this is soo much more fun!
Anyway, hope you guys like it!! I wanted to write the whole thing from Old Maggotty's POV, but Strongbow kinda took over...
Comments&feedback much appreciated, as always!
Moons had passed since Strongbow went after his banished wolf-friend Lashpaw.
When at last he found him, Ladhpaw had gotten sick and attacked him. Forced to defend himself, Strongbow knocked him unconcious.
But he couldn't just leave his dear friend out there... So he constructed a carrier, and started dragging him home.
Strongbow knew something was amiss, something had happened when Lashpaw wounded him. He could feel it in his blood, in his head. It was spreading, like a venom.
Days passed, through thunder and rain, over hills and through valleys, and still they weren't there. Occasionally, they would hide from passing humans.
At last, they found Timmain, and she took the carrier from Strongbow for the last part.
"Thunder... and skyfire... inside my head! Soon... I'll be like Lashpaw!" he urged the High One on, and slowly followed her.
Suddenly, dozens of demons appeared around him! Fierce, angry demons with blazing eyes and sharp weapons! Somewhere deeply buried in his mind, Strongbow saw they resembled his beloved tribemates... and not, at the same time. He unsheathed his knife, and attacked... till everything went black.
"Clang! Clang!" It was the well-known sound of the troll-door the elves used. Old Maggotty was just minding her own business when they came, blasted elves.
"All this sweat, and they're both done for! It doesn't make sense!"
"This isn't about sense."
"Anything for family, eh? I guess I can fault you elves in all ways but that!"
No, Old Maggotty wasn't happy at all. Sure, she’d get a good price for all of this, but she’d had to brew her secret potion in front of them... and that brat ShenShen had been staring all the time! She’d have the recipe puzzled out before long...
*mutter mutter* “Hold still, twit! This goes in, stays in and gets tended for as long as it takes!” Jamming her golden needle-like instrument into his blood vessel, Old Maggotty poured the potion in. “hee hee hee... be cured or be killed... hee hee hee....”
Slowly, the demon changed into his lovely Moonshade... then, she disappeared again as Strongbow fell into a deep, healing sleep.
Redhead - When I look at the elements for this month I am just almost overwhelmed wondering how to make them fit, so it's amazing to me that you were able to make them all come together so efficiently! (and, yes, that is a compliment!)
Embala I already mentioned I think your poem was really well written but the collage really clearly illustrates it, making it all that more poignant.
Tymber - Man, can't these guys ever catch a break? Just out of the frying pan and into the fire! It will be interesting to see how this develops, although I'm not too happy with the way it's going. (not a critism, I like conflict and emotions in stories) I hope that Spearclaw will show himself to be different than his pride-mates.
faeriegirl - You really are a very good writer and I'm glad that you are adding your stuff here. If I could have one little criticism, it would be that you would allow yourself to break a little more from what's shown in the comics. I hope as you get a little more comfortable with writing that you will develop your own voice and imagination more.
Nice job on your story Faeriegirl and your to Tymber. Red the poem was really good too.
Only three days and four entries! Man, you guys are quick!
Embala: Beautiful poem, and beautiful collage. I had originally thought of Winnowill while reading it, so when I saw the collage, I realized it wasn't about her at all!
Redhead: All five elements in so many lines is quite a feat. Brilliantly done.
Tymber: Ooo, Vineweaver has competition! Those Pridewalkers better not underestimate Stillbreeze in all of this; I'm sure she'll have something to say. Looking forward to the next installment!
Faeriegirl: Loved the peek into Old Maggoty's thoughts as to how she hated that ShenShen would learn something from her.
Thanks for the comments everyone!!
As for my story, I wanted to write the whole thing from Old Maggotty's POV... but Strongbow kinda took over. But I kept struggling to get it to Old Maggotty, which is now my excuse for the lack of detail...
Anyways, I've got my exams tomorrow and friday morning, so maybe this weekend I'll have a shot at a version 2
and jeb, so far from these grab-bags I've liked Firefighters (November) the most, and that was the only one based on a single panel... so yea, I'm gonna try to get back to that for sure
Thanks for the comments!
Embala Well... maybe I didn't have any intentions that it should be cryptical!
jeb Thanks! And personally I think the Riddle element and the Solved mysteri elements (can't remember the exact wordings) worked very nicely together!
bukittyan Don't you mean so few lines... ?
LOVE YOUR PICTURE EMBALA AND YOUR STORY FAE!!!!
Suntop watches his sister in her sleep, watches as she breathes out. Her tiny chest sinks and he stares. She breathes in, air fills her lungs and Suntop lets out a breath he does not know he was holding. Ember turns, wraps her arms around the blanket and mumbles. Suntop watches, muses, tilts his head to the side. His sister has always been a mystery to him, a riddle he wanted, needed, to solve. He blinks, sees her sun tanned smiling face in his mind. With feelings written upon her face, so emotional, yet so difficult to reach, to break through to.
Ember breaths out again and Suntop holds his breath, waiting. A soft inhale. He sighs, shifts, lets his arm rest on his knee. He watches her, tilts his head to the other side. Since when did he start thinking of her as younger? He blinks. Seeing her so vulnerable bring tears to his eyes, knowing that what runs through her veins is slowly killing her, like venom from a deadly snake bite. Suntop watches as Ember's eyelashes flutter before going still.
Venom. He tastes the word. It feels bitter in his mouth, true to its name. Venom. The same venom that runs through himself, but he will not fall to it. For he is strong. And Ember is weak, so she must be younger, must be protected, like young ones should be. Suntop sits still, watching Ember sleep on. She knows. She knows and she has accepted. He can not. He will not see the fiery sparks like skyfire in her eyes die, do not want to see empty, lifeless, blue eyes. No. Her eyes are glimmering, radiating, as blue as the sky on a cloudless day. They should be. Ember says it won't happen. She won't let it. And if it does, it's the Way. She has accepted. He has not. Can not. But there is a day tomorrow, still a chance that it will change. And he clings to it.
His twin sister turns her back to him. A soft whine escapes her throat. She whimpers. Suntop crawls the small distance over to her, lays down beside her. He strokes her forehead, her soft cheeks and gently removes the fire-red curls from her face. He wraps his arms around her fragile body and listens to her steady heartbeat. Smells her. She smells sweetly, like girls do. He not understood why yet. She smells flowers, like their mother, who has yet to accept. And understand. Suntop sniffs silently. The strongest smell she shares with their father; she smells life.
Suntop pulls her close, feels her snuggle into him. Tears well in his eyes. They sting. He ignores them. He knows he will lose her one day, that his sister will die. He knows Ember will be torn away from him too early. He will lose her one day. He can not accept. But for now, he will wait. He can do nothing but wait. The Now of Wolf thought cannot help him. He listens to her heartbeat, feels it weaken with every beat. As if the next beat of her heart shot the venom into every single vein. He will lose her one day, to the venom that run through them both, but that will only claim the life of his sister. He will lose her to this venom. Venom. He hates it. Venom. He will help with healing, himself. His eyes are ablaze. No venom shall take his sister. He will not allow it. He is the antidote. And Ember shall live.
He will not accept anything else.
*tackle hugs Suntop* you're soooo sweet!!!! Loved it!!!
And it makes much sense that he'd think of Ember's wolf blood like this the most, more then his father's...
*hugs them both more*
Wow, Tenderfoot, that was just excellent! Somehow I never really got the whole mortality thing when I first read EQ but I'm really getting the pathos of it now, and you really brought it home. You make my mother-heart ache for both Suntop and Ember.
Sweet story Tenderfoot!
You are going to continue the Medieval tale, right???
A really heartwarming story about the twins Tenderfoot. Continue like that.
WOW - this intrigue is great, Tymber! The Sire working on creating a situation where the decision he already made will look like a wise and inevitable one ... His compliant instument Branchsnapper, obviously drawing satisfaction of his manipulative maneuvers ... In the middle of this web the comparably innocent, but not unsuspecting Wolfriders. And last not least a pride mate who must make up his mind and stand - this is intense!
I hope Spearclaw will NOT bite the bait - if only because he knows that it will cost him too much at long term. And hopefully the Wolfriders, and especially a certain couple, will prove that they are not mere chessmen. So far Stillbreeze and Vineweaver seem to be a pair who will talk to each other instead of acting out of suspicion. And Stillbreeze isn't the one who makes "the winner's prize" for sure - Vineweaver should know this.
In my eyes Branchsnapper is worse than the Sire - sort of the venom in the blood of the Pride. Don't think he's true to anyone but himself ...
I'm so glad to have you back here, Tymber ... see you writing again. Can't wait to read more!
Love the story Tenderfoot.
*still waiting to get 'Dark Revelations' back from editor Goat Biter*
Kinda feel bad I've not gotten the story up, but with everything going on I'm starting to think about writing something else, and start a different thread with the series-themed stories. I"m completely at a loss as to what to do. I can't even sit down and spend time reading what others have written as I'd like lately!
I do have several other stories done or in the works that I don't know what to do with (no internet connection + unused desktop computer + few other distractions = writing time! Someone should check my math, though, perhaps?)
I am glad to see so much activity this month, though! Good job everyone!
No need to feel bad, TrollHammer! It's not even the middle of the month - your story (no matter which one it will be) will be welcome later as well, especially to shorten the wait for the next grab-bag. Good to now you are busy on the creative side.
And in case you want to compete with me for the prize for the slowest reader - good luck
No internet connection ... that's bad! - - - Wait -That's good ... time for real life!
Hi all! First time ElfQuest writer, and here's what I got with 20 minutes of writing and trying desperately to think of semi-plausible names and soul-names. Hope you enjoy!
It was not the Way.
The lightning flashes outside of your den and you recall your sire’s image fondly as his namesake disappears from the sky. Your mother’s namesake announces itself shortly after that, booming from the great pillars of dark clouds that gave you your name.
“I am Cloudlaugh. I am Cloudlaugh. I am-”
“No,” you whimper, turning your back to the outside world, with the rain and the wind and the eyes the color of an aged piece of wood, warm and full of life even as it dies. Eyes that see you far too deeply. His name burns your soul. Your blood heats with the thought of him. You are not new to the ways of lovemates but this is different. It feels like the time you were bit as a cub. A single bite from that snake had caused you agony. The feeling is similar here. There is venom in your blood and it has a name.
Jieen. You’re not supposed to know, Jieen.
It was not the Way to deny Recognition.
But you are afraid and you cannot admit to yourself that the venom you think is in your blood, the feeling of agony, is probably made up. You do not think you can bear to admit to yourself that that feeling might be giddiness. A giddiness at a possibility. A beginning.
You do not want change. You do not need change. You have had enough of change.
Your name. He knows your name, your true name, your soul-name. Your name.
The word you have been muttering to yourself bubbles upon your lips again. The desperation in his sending, the pain in his sending, stops it cold.
You pull your furs up over your shoulders to protect against the wind. To protect against his eyes. You usually love the wind, and riding your wolf so that your hair skims out behind you as you howl and bring down your prey. You hate it now, because it reminds you of your parents and the hunts with them.
You are a hunter. He is not.
He is Jieen.
And as soon as you think that thought, as soon as you calm down and think, you realize that the puzzle you had been troubling yourself sleepless over the past few nights, only exists in your now calm mind. You feel him behind you and you shudder as he says quietly, “Nael.”
You realize that he is Jieen, you are Nael, and he is yours. And your fears are unwarranted because his eyes cannot lie to you. To others yes, to others they may show deceit even though he would never, but to you, you see only love, trust, yearning, and hope.
You roll over and your hand is over your stomach, already feeling the cub that will be growing in there soon.
It was the Way.
aaaaaawwwwww..... Cuteness!! Very nice!!!
Nice story, Haley! You expressed a lot in a small amount of writing, and I love the feeling of intimacy created by the point of view you used.
I've read your Wolfwood twice now, faeriegirl ... with some days between. First time left me slightly irritated - I got the impression that the tale is put together of two different parts ... written in two different styles ... like you have taken the "puzzle" element for the story as a whole. The first section felt like an objective-clinical report - the second emotional and compassionate ... black/white against color.
The reread showed me that there are enough emotional element in the first part to make it fit together but the second half is the one I really enjoyed. Especially the part about Old Maggoty's thoughts is drawing me in.
You are at your best when you center on a rather small moment in life, shown from a single point of view. This gives you the opportunities to add something of your own, to show insights that were never worked out - and this I love.
btw: I've a rough idea for a collage ... might be a good thing nagging me occasionally
Yea... like I said earlier: I wanted to do the whole thing from Maggotty's POV... but Strongbow kinda interfered...
I'll probably try to rewrite it soon, when I find the time to do so
WOW ... ... reading Venom again ... WOW, Tenderfoot!
All I can say: It feels like a REAL part of ElfQuest - something that happened and was just forgotten to be told until now.
The background pic for your poem, Redhead ... maybe all to come for you this month
Nicely chosen pic!
This feels a bit like stealing ... but I asked for permission before trying myself on an altered version of faeriegirl's story. And she herself pushed me to post it here.
Based on HY #1 Wolfwood (the dialogs are quotes from the comic) ...
Heavily inspired by faeriegirl's contribution ...
Venom (another take on Wolfwood)
Timmain, the white wolfess, had brought them back ... Strongbow, barely able to stand ... Lashpaw tied to a barrow. The silent archer was covered with sweat, his eyes showing nothing but madness. Shenshen gasped in shock as he suddenly drew his knife, attacking his tribemates fiercely despite of his desolate condition. What was he envisioning ... demons ... with blazing eyes, sharp fangs and threatening weapons?
! THUDDD !
Unbelieving the gentle Sunvillager looked at the scene right before her eyes. Strongbow's maltreated body lay unconciously on the ground while Moonshade was towering above him, holding a huge club. How could his own lifemate ...!!! But the answer was mirrored in those desperate violet eyes. Strongbow had fought his way back with his sick wolffriend, infected by the venom in Lashpaw's blood himself. Through thunderstorm and lightning, through hostile territory - only to die here among his friends.
There was no help against the foaming sickness without a healer! The bitter taste of guilt rose in her mouth. Though Shenshen had developed remarkable skills in herbal treatment during the years since Leetah's abduction, she was unprepared for this. No one would blame her for this failure but the burden of responsibility weighed heavy. If she only could find a way ...
"What about the trolls?" The memory struck Shenshen like lightning. "Old Maggoty's teasing me for moons about her most secret potions!"
The desicion was made. Whatever price the trolls would demand would be paid.
It needed both King Picknose's order and Shenshen's pretended doubts in her knowledge to get Maggoty's cooperation. All but amused the age-old troll woman finally agreed to try her best. Shenshen watched the activities with a mixture of disgust, pity and fascination. Half standing, half hanging in front of a forge, Strongbow's arms were fixed to the ceiling, the mouth wrapped with cloth. It was incredibly hot, his bare body drenched in sweat. The wolf lay at his feet, tied in a similar way.
"All this sweat, and they're both done for! It doesn't make sense!" Maggoty muttered.
"This isn't about sense." Moonshade answered in a firm voice while tears and sweat mixed on her cheeks.
"Anything for family, eh? I guess I can fault you elves in all ways but that!"
The knowlegeable troll woman had had to brew her secret potion in front of them - and Shenshen had kept a very keen eye on it. She had seen enough to puzzle out the recipe by herself if there should be need again. The recipe wasn't all, tho. Intrigued she studied the golden, delicately designed tool - a hollow needle, as thick as an elfin finger and double the length, with a tiny bowl at the other end.
At Maggoty's command two trolls restrained Strongbow.
“Hold still, twit! This goes in, stays in and gets tended for as long as it takes!”
Jamming her golden needle-like instrument into a blood vessel at his throat, Old Maggoty poured the potion in. “hee hee hee... be cured or be killed... hee hee hee....”
When the troll healer turned to give the wolf the same treatment Shenshen's eyes stuck on Strongbow's face, captured between fear and hope. High Ones ... make it work! Endless, anxious times passed before the hazy brown eyes cleared - their glance meeting Moonshade's purple pools ... before he fell into a deep, healing sleep.
Yes, I really love Embala's piece Glad that I was part of the inspiration for this!
That was an enjoyable read, Haley - short but intense. You've caught the moment when a world changes beautifully. Only a short moment - with all it's conflicting fealings and sudden clearness. You even managed to open a window to the past and the door to the future without leaving this very moment.
btw: I love "Cloudlaugh" - awesome name!
I'm looking forward to your next contribution!
OMG Embala that collage is beautifull!!!!!!!!!!!
Finally, after two afternoons I'm done with the translating of my story. It took 28 pages. Don't know what to say, so you just have to read. Now I need a rest. Enjoy.
The Last Battle part 2
Chief Optarh, chief of the warriors walked with firm steps out the village, ignoring the sounds of the village behind him. The captains from each group were shouting orders, eleven captains who gave orders to their own group and to the group who was leaded by the wounded captain Toron who now had to be at their own without him while he and his best friend, Sturkas would be healed by Sunshine.
Now, while his tribe made themselves ready for battle, the chief had decided to divert The Dark Ones for a little while. Automatically he searched after his sword, then the dagger he kept hidden under his white tunic and then for the Sais who had previously hung on his wall and was now available on his belt. Then he laid his hand over his chest, felt the amulet under the tunic and closed his eyes for a moment and struggled against the tears in his eyes. The tears for his grief and anger.
When he opened his eyes and was far outside the village, he could see them. The Dark Ones. Dressing up in black, the ninjas were standing there and waited just for him. His eyes searched among them. Where was the creature that had wounded Toron and Sturkas? He couldn’t see it, and it wasn’t time for it either.
He didn’t take one of his weapons to protect himself against them. He just waited for their attack. The little patience from him had its price, and the enemy ran toward him, with their swords raised and surrounded him.
It was a little difficult for Hawkeye to keep the balance while he and Xin-Jing carried Toron, while Eros and Blindeye carried Sturkas together down the stairs into the cellar, a large room where they kept the elves who couldn’t fight and all the children hidden. This was the only place where Sunshine would be able to heal Toron and Sturkas since she was the only healer there for now.
Once the wounded elves were carried down, Moonlight began to look after the worst of the wounds with help from Starfire. Sunshine had never seen or healed such wounds as Toron and Sturkas had, they were bleeding from the scratching and had cuts from swords and bruises after punches and kicks, and none of them knew how long it would take to heal. Moonlight pulled her hand away abruptly once Toron groaned with pain and opened his eyes.
“My sword,” Toron whispered.
“Where’s my sword?”
He groaned again with pain and closed his eyes and started to tremble. So did Sturkas, groaned and trembled. Blood began to flow from their lips and Xin-Jing who knew them best realized that something was wrong.
“Healer. They’re getting worse. Hurry.”
Sunshine knelt by the trembling elves and put her hands on their chests. Just one touch made her to understand that this was more serious than they had thought.
“What you’re waiting for?” Xin-Jing cried.
“This is much worse than we thought,” Sunshine said with a trembling voice.
“There is poison in their blood.”
Optarh turned his eyes from side to side and just waited while the ninjas slowly walked toward him. He pulled up his sleeves and was ready to fight, and nothing could stop him.
It didn’t took less than a minute before the ninjas ran towards him and Optarh kicked against the first ninja to the left for him and then to the other to the right side. By grabbing the third ninja, he threw the ninja far away over him and struck two ninjas behind him with his fist and heard them fell on the ground before he again was surrounded by ninjas. But that didn’t stop Optarh, so he grabbed a hold of the black clothes from two of the ninjas and used his physical strength to push away the rest of the ninjas and then began to spin around with the two ninjas who began to cry. After to have spun a few times, Optarh threw one of the ninjas and caused that the ninja fell on top of some of the ninjas and spun a second time before he threw the other ninja to rest who was standing and fell to the ground, again. There were only three ninjas back against him now, so with a bit of running speed he jumped towards them and kicked two of them before he kicked the third.
With all the ninjas who lay groaning on the ground didn’t make Optarh to smile, this wasn’t over yet. He could feel that it wasn’t all the ninjas he had been fighting against; he knew that the rest of them were close. He only turned around and saw them. He pulled out his sword as he growled at them.
Lilac fought against the tears as she saw Alborn dressed himself in his armor in their bedroom. She knew it was his duty to protect the tribe and that it might cost him his life. But it wasn’t just Alborn she was worried about; it was also Xin-Jing.
Xin-Jing knew now the reason to why she couldn’t hunt or fight, but now Lilac feared that her only daughter now wanted to join the battle to avenge Toron and Sturkas. The two elves who had been involved to help her and teach her to chase and fight during her childhood and in the time, they became her ‘big brothers’.
Then Alborn was ready after dressing up with his armor and he looked at her with his green eyes that was a little bit darker into her green eyes to, but was a little brighter than his. When he embraced her, her tears began to run down his shoulder.
“High Ones be with you, my lifemate,” Lilac sobbed against his shoulder.
“And come back to me when it’s over.”
**When I come back my dear,** Alborn sent to her and hoped that the sending would calm her down since a sending couldn’t lie.
**Then the cellar down there will contain my most precious treasures.**
**I fear that Xin-Jing will go out there and fight. To avenge Toron and Sturkas.**
**And it will not be enough that they will survive after the healing. If she’s going out there, I will fight by her side. All the time.**
Lilac drew her lifemate closer into her and let the tears flow. She prayed to the High Ones to protect Alborn and Xin-Jing and the new lives in Xin-Jings belly as they gave each other one last kiss.
She looked after Alborn as he ran out to the others while she pulled a veil tightly around her. It wasn’t cold, but she felt cold inside herself.
“I know how you’re feeling it my friend,” Erla said behind her and put her hand on her shoulder.
“I also felt the same when Optarh and my daughter went out to their first war together.”
“But at least your daughter didn’t have children in her belly when she went to a fight,” Lilac said with a sad voice after a while as they went down to the cellar along with the elves who wasn’t supposed to fight.
Xin-Jing looked furious at Toron and Sturkas, her ‘big brothers’ who now were under a healing by Sunshine while tears of rage ran down Xin-Jings face. She couldn’t let it be. She had to do something. She had to do it for them she loved so much. She looked up at the stairs, the only way who led it to the fight and to give everything you had. She tried to run towards the stairs, but Hawkeye grabbed her wrist to stop her.
“Xin-Jing, you know all too well that you can’t be out there. Toron and Sturkas is under healing now and this is their fight, not yours.”
“Not my fight? Hawkeye, I have to do something,” Xin-Jing said hard against him while the tears still flowed.
“It’s not just because of them that I want to fight to avenge them, but I want to do this for you too. You, I and almost everyone knows it’s you The Dark Ones want. ”
“It’s because of your powers that they became stronger and need you alive to survive, and that’s what I want to prevent. I understood from the first moment when I looked into your eyes that you have magic that is stronger than I have ever known. Why you managed to control the magic in the forest and not in the village at first. Why you would answer our recognition in the nature outside the village. I deny that you must live in fear all the time and be guarded whatever you do. Do you not want to have your freedom, to give our children the love and peace, without to think that the enemy is looking for you? Being part of a puzzle that may never be solved? ”
Slowly Hawkeye released her hand. Felt everyone’s gaze behind him while he was desperate and unaware of what he should do. He didn’t want everyone to know that it was he who caused the war, that it was he who had to be protected when it may be able to cost the lives to other elves. He felt that a secret had been revealed, but yet it wasn’t everything. It was more who was going to be revealed soon.
“All right,” he said after a while.
“Go out and fight.”
Then he walked away from her and over to the walls, were some weapons hung, in case if everything went wrong and the enemy came down to them.
“But then I’m coming with you,” he said as he took down a bow and a quiver.
“B-but you can’t,” Xin-Jing said before Hawkeye interrupted her.
“It’s either that or no fight for you.”
“You are slippery,” Xin-Jing said after a while.
“No,” Hawkeye said.
“I’m like a clever fox.”
“All right. You win,” Xin-Jing said after a while.
“We fight together.”
“Don’t think you two are going to fight without us,” Blindeye said while he also took a bow together with Topaz and Daredevil.
“We actually have something to fight for us too,” Topaz said.
“The Dark Ones attacked us, so why should they get away with that unless we do something?”
Blindeye looked at Sunshine, then at little Himerish in Erlas arms. He knew better to not interrupt a healing. Then he looked at Starfire who hold a rag on Sturkas forehead that burned with fever and poisen.
“Starfire,” he asked and she looked up at him.
“Do you want to join?”
Starfire didn’t answer at first, but after a while she replied.
“I’m coming with them when they are healed. Right now, Sunshine and Moonlight need help.”
It was okay for them and the small group ran up the stairs and left the children and the Wise Council end the few elves who weren’t warriors. Starfire dipped the rag into a bowl with water before she putted it on Sturkas forehead again. Sunshine had been healing them for a while, but none of them showed signs of getting better.
She and Moonlight had begun to fear that would not succeed to save them, but both of them were wrong when the unconscious elves grabbed their hands unexpected. Torons hand holding Moonlights while Sturkas were holding Starfires hand.
“I think they’re coming back soon,” Starfire said after a while and stroked some hair away from his forehead and laid the rag on again to cool the fever down.
Optarh stood steady and looked at the fallen and tenderized ninjas while he regained his breath. He growled as he looked out over the forest, he knew it was more there and perhaps the creation Toron told about. But now he couldn’t fight alone, so he turned quickly on his feet and ran back to the village where all the warriors were waiting for him.
“There are still many out there. I haven’t seen the creature yet, but we must be ready now. ”
“Just put on tour armor, chief, we take over here,” Alborn said and held his sword ready. Optarh had to smile as he ran to his bedroom and dressed himself into the armor as fast he could. Since the day he came to this world, he had done much for the elves before he became chief and did more when he was chosen to be chief for them. And now they did something back for him. As soon he came back to the others, he saw that all the warriors were gathered at the gate, and was now ready to keep the enemy out of the village as they waited for their chief.
Optarh wished he could say something to them, give them extra courage. He looked up at the sky and just like the first war, the sky was red like blood, but this time was parts of the sky black. It indicated that there would be thunder, maybe even a storm.
He turned as he heard running footsteps, his eyes widened when he saw who it was.
“Xin-Jing, you’re not supposed to fight. You must think about your children…”
Optarh didn’t say more when Xin-Jing liftet up her sword and almost held it close to the chief’s throat.
“I don’t want to hear more about my children. Actually I have this right to fight, not only for my brothers, but also for my soulmate.”
“And we want to do something we too,” Topaz said and stood next to Xin-Jing.
“The dark Ones attacked us, a defenseless tribe. If none of your warriors had been with us, then we wouldn’t be here. We want to help where we can.”
Optarh looked at Topaz a short while before he pushed Xin-Jings sword away slowly. Topaz really was Karels daughter, a worthy leader after him if she could get a chance. And she was right in that they could help where they could. Optarh had after all sent to the other chiefs, but they hadn’t come yet. He could hear the enemy was about to approach, so he had to decide quickly.
“All right. You and all the archers can get up on the roof.”
Then he gave the order to all archers and they hurried up to the roof after they had helped to get some armor for them too.
Now the enemy can come, Optarh thought and were holding his sword and felt ready for this.
“Remember my warriors, even the mighty oak bends before the raging storm winds.”
Xin-Jing, Eros and many young warriors turned their heads and looked confused at their chief.
Optarh sighed loudly.
“Be careful, and do not be over confident.”
“Well?” Erla asked careful when Sunshine was done with the healing and gave a heavy sigh.
“Will they survive?”
“I don’t know,” Sunshine said after a while.
“They’re still fighting bravely against the death. They’re going to decide if they want to live.”
“What do you mean?” Starfire asked.
“The poison was spread in their bodies, much deadly than we know. Like it’s eating them inside. So the chance to survive is small.”
I hope they will live, Starfire thought while she looked at the unconscious elves. The wounds were gone and left with scars. She sighed and sat down on the floor and putted her chin on the knees.
High Ones help them, she begged as she closed her eyes.
Two souls had sunk into a dark pit, trying to escape from the pain that burned their bodies. Even with closed eyes they could hear the sounds around them, what happened around them. They knew that someone had carried them to safety to be healed. They could hear their ‘little sister’ wishing to go out and fight for them and her mate, even when they tried to cry end beg her to stop they knew she couldn’t hear them. Even the cold water on their foreheads by the two maidens they loved, recognizing their voices by their sides. They didn’t saw them, but they heard them and tried to reach their hands for them. They din’t know if they made it or not.
The sounds around them became weak and into a faint pleasant hum. The darkness around them seemed to ooze like melting tallow as they opened their eyes for a moment. There was fog around them everywhere; they felt better now than ever. The pain in their bodies were gone and was just standing there and let the thick fog caressed their bodies and wrap around their legs as a warm blanket. Yet there was still a feeling inside them who said it wasn’t time yet.
“Do you fear it?” a deep voice said nearby. Toron and Sturkas turned and saw an elf with dark skin, black hair tied into a ponytail on the top of his head and a glowing aura around him.
“Taking the steps into the great unknown?”
“Who are you?” Toron asked after a while.
“I’m Karel,” the spirit said in front of them.
“Former chief, and father to my daughter, Topaz.”
“What are you doing here?” Toron asked with a serious voice.
“The question should more be, what are you two doing here? Why are you here? Haven’t you two a fight to continue? Isn’t it someone you love who perhaps is waiting for you?”
“What do you mean?” Sturkas grunted.
“Is it something you know that we don’t know?”
“I’m thinking about two beautiful maidens who perhaps have the same feelings for you and want it to be more, like recognition. But if you not return, it will perhaps be nothing if you don’t protect them.”
Toron and Sturkas looked at each other and their eyes widened.
“The monster,” both of them cried.
“The choice is yours. Do you want to continue the fight, or give up?”
“We actually have something to fight for,” Sturkas said after a while and turned to Toron.
Toron nodded and both of them turned against Karel and just went. They didn’t know where, they just went.
Shoths and screams could be heard outside the village to the warriors with Optarh in management. As he ran, he swung his sword in an elegant bow and slaughtered three to four ninjas at once. It almost looked as if the warrior chief rejoiced at the ninjas shocked expression when they saw how the arrows and swords only fell back from his armor. This is what he lived for, to fight and protect no matter what.
Eros was fast as he held his nunchakus and jumped from side to side, back and forward and knocked down many more ninjas than he had expected. He had barely time to catch his breath before began to fight against more ninjas.
Alborn roared as he ran against a ninjas and pushed down two of them and met a third ninja against him, ducked to not be hit by the Bo Staff and immediately jumped and kicked the ninja. Just after him, Xin-Jing jumped elegant up on a ninja shoulders and kicked with her legs at the eyes. But soon she was pushed down by a another ninja and looked up at one of the ninjas, and she could have been killed if not Alborn had come to rescue his daughter and killed the ninja.
“Get up on your feet,” Alborn cried and helped her up again.
“If you get injured, your mother will surely kill me for this.”
And as Alborn had promised Lilac, father and daughter were fighting together as equals side by side, sore and bruised after blows, but ignored the pain. All Xin-Jing had learned earlier about how she should hold and move with a sword, how to turn its unfamiliarity to her advantage.
The sky was filled with arrows and the elves on the roof could hear that it hit the ninjas. With forty archers from Optarhs tribe, they were combined with the elves from Topaz, they became to forty-four who worked together to shoot the arrows at the enemy.
“Sunshine should have seen me now,” Blindeye cried as took a new arrow and shot the arrow towards the sky.
“She would have called me a barbarian again, just like when we were younger.”
“What else can you expect?” Hawkeye said, teasing his brother.
“You were like a barbarian when we were younger.”
Optarh jumped high into the air and kicked into a ninja and pushed many more far away from the village. He stopped when he saw a faint shadow, and then he slowly looked up toward a big monster. It was red, large and shaped like a lizard and a dragon with dark wings and the teeth and claws was bigger than Optarh had imaged.
“Oh, High Ones,” Optarh whispered with a trembling voice. Then the monster lifted up one arm and struck the chief with a blow.
Optarh screamed as he flew backwards and crashed right at the gate and landed on his back into the middle of the village. He shook his head and crawled up and tried to regain the balance. He could hear screams around him and saw that several elves had met the monster and they also had been thrown into the village. Keeping the enemy out of the village didn’t held longer, now they had to fight inside the village.
The skyfire lightened across the sky, and then a raindrop fell straight down into the left to Optarh. He just blinked it away and gave an order to the warriors.
“Drive them back.”
The silence in the cellar was oppressive, the children clung to each other, Sunshine was sleeping, her head rested in Moonlights lap, Himerish didn’t sleep well in a hammock, Lilac who prayed to the Hogh Ones in silence with Erla and Starfire was near to get a nap while she watched Toron and Sturkas.
Then they started to move, gasped and groaned and opened their eyes slowly as Starfire had been aware of what happened and hurried to Toron and Sturkas while she gasped.
“What?” Sunshine said sleepy and lifted her head. Everyone gasped when they saw Toron and Sturkas stand up from the floor.
“Where’s everybody?” Sturkas asked.
“Out and fighting against The Dark Ones,” Starfire said.
“And the monster?” Toron asked.
“That’s what we don’t know right now, but Xin-Jing decided to fight and…”
“’Little sister’ is out there?” both cried at once and ran to get their swords.
“When this is over, we’re going to kill her. She can’t fight while she is with cubs.”
“Wait,” Starfire cried at them while they ran to the stairs. They stopped and looked at her.
“I’ll join you.”
Then she took a bow and a quiver and joined them up the stairs.
High Ones protect you, Moonlight thought as she saw Toron run up the stairs.
Xin-Jing had lost her father out of sight, but she knew he was alive. But it was one thing she remembered that her father once had told her while she fought against a ninja;
“No matter how many friends stand by your side, you’ll stand alone in the moment of truth.”
She hadn’t understood what he meant by that, but she began to believe that she near to understand. A fist in her face made her to lose her balance and landed on her back and was without weapons while she looked up at the ninja. Quickly she searched for a free weapon, and there, a few meters away from her were a free sword. She jumped elegant aside as the ninja tried to end her life and she jumped to the sword and grabbed it and defended herself again. While she was fighting she hear a cry from her father, first low and became higher when he almost flew to the side and crashed at the ninja she was fighting against and landed on the ninja. The sight of her confused father almost made her to laugh.
“Nice landing, father,” she said as she helped him up.
Skyfire tore across the sky while the wind blew and the heavy raindrops nearly blinded the archers on the roof. A deafening roar from the sky almost made the elves to creep along, but they were looking for what they heard. It was Hawkeye especially that almost got a shock when he looked closer, thanks to his sharp eyes.
“Oh, High Ones,” he almost shouted.
The elves were looking where Hawkeye pointed and gasped while others began to swear of what they saw.
“Try to shoot it down,” they heard Optarh shout at them from below.
“Before it plunges down.”
The elves on the roof did as he said when it began to fly toward them in a wild speed. They made the arrows ready and let the arrows fly against the monster, but they just flew past the monster and it began to dive down to them.
“Look out,” Topaz screamed.
“Get the shields.”
But the shields didn’t help much as it flew and almost made them fall of the roof. The monster swung back toward them, trying to get them down again, and this time it succeeded in getting one of them down. Hawkeye remembered the sharp claws against the metal vest and cried out in the wild speed downwards. He lost his helmet as he hit the ground and held his head with one hand while his head spun around.
“Ooowww,” he said, holding his left side. He was sure that he had broken some ribs, but discovered then that one ninja from The Dark Ones had seen him.
The elf must be alive, the ninja thought as he remembered the orders from The Dark Prince. The ninja began to run against Hawkeye as he tried to get up. Once he thought that he was finished, he saw the figure of Xin-Jing as she cried out to the ninja to stay away from her soulmate and pushed the ninja at the side to the ground away from Hawkeye for a little while.
After she had pushed the ninja, she grabbed her dagger and jumped on the ninja who lay on the ground and she was on top of him. The ninja began to fight with his free arms against Xin-Jing to not be killed by her. She was too busy with the ninja under her, didn’t hear the warnings from the roof that she had to get away from the monster that dived toward them, but it was too late. The monster took a hard grip around her waist as she screamed and lost the dagger and it began to fly up from the village while she tasted the blood in her mouth, which began to flow from the mouth.
“Xin-Jing,” Hawkeye cried when he saw his beloved in the monsters grip. He strained his bow as he took an arrow and let the arrow fly toward it, but the result was disappointing when it didn’t seem to hurt the monster as the arrow fell to the ground.
“Hey, get your claws away from our sister,” Sturkas cried from below once he Toron and Starfire had come up from the cellar and saw the fight in the village and then up against the black sky.
“Come on, we have to do something,” Toron cried and ran toward Eros, who had already knocked down two ninjas with his nunchakus.
“Give me foot.”
And Eros did as he said and did the same with Sturkas and soon the two warriors flew like arrows in the air to rescue Xin-Jing. In the meanwhile she had tried to struggle herself from the monsters grip, but the result was just that the grip went harder that she couldn’t breathe and was immediately unconscious.
Soon, Toron and Sturkas had get a grip at the claws and climbed over to Xin-Jing and tried to pull the claws away from her with all their strength. Hawkeye had became frightened when he saw what happened in the air and soon his rage began to rise and he growled as he held his hands together and began to concentrate with his magic. He didn’t care if he would get trouble for this later, because right now he could only think about his soulmate and the twins. His hands began to glow with green light and he closed his eyes while he ignored the fighting around him.
Suddenly the village started to shine and everyone could hear a heavy BOOM and then the monster screaming, followed by Sturkas roaring voice.
“Hey, warn us if you’re trying to kill us.”
Toron blinked his eyes, then they widened and he smiled.
“Hawkeye, do it again.”
“What?” Sturkas cried confused.
“It’s hurting the monster.”
And Hawkeye did as Toron said while the other elves were busy to fight against The Dark Ones. And there was another explosion, again and again and finally the monster loosened the grip and Xin-Jing began to fell down toward the village.
Optarh had slaughtered down a ninja when he looked up in the air and began to run before he jumped as he stretched out his arms and Xin-Jing fell right into them. She groaned and opened her eyes as they were landing, she was alive.
“Easy, you’re lucky enough to survive this,” Optarh said to her and then Hawkeye and Alborn ran against him.
“Get her down to the healer, quickly,” Optarh said when he gave her to Hawkeye and Alborn and both began to run toward the cellar. Meanwhile, Toron and Sturkas jumped down from the monsters back while it was flying with unsteady wings and crashed outside the village while Toron and Sturkas landed elegant on their feet.
“It’s great to see you two back,” Optarh said and stood in front of them.
“Soooo, what do we do with the monster,” Sturkas asked as he pointed out with his thumb against the monster who began to stand up.
“We have to take care of it before it goes to attack again,” Optarh said and all three ran against the monster with Eros behind them after Optarh waved to him and wanted him to help them. The monster couldn’t fly anymore, but that didn’t mean that it was defenseless if it didn’t use its claws to strike. Toron was the first who was beaten and he landed on the wet ground. Sturkas had tried to jump and kick and use his Sais, but he was soon beaten. Optarh had tried to attack with a different tactic with his swords and kicking, but the result was only that the monster grabbed his leg and threw him away, and Eros was only lifted up by his arms and was also thrown and landed at Toron who tried to get up and both almost rolled away from them. Sturkas tried again to jump on the monsters back and hit the back of the head with his fists, but was soon thrown down from the back and could have been trampled down if not Optarh had been quick to rescue his tribemate as he thrown his sword and made sure that it met one of the eyes to the monster.
The monster screamed and the sword immediately fell to the ground and the warrior chief grabbed it as he defended himself against the dangerous and deadly claws. But with one blow the monster had tore the sword from Optarhs hands. Now the warrior chief was without weapons.
“Chief,” Sturkas cried shocked.
“Get back,” Optarh yelled to them as he walked backwards with the monster against himself.
“Look out,” Eros shouted while the monster lifted the arm and were near to give Optarh a new blow. But Optarh had an idea and then he ran toward the monster and jumped and began to kick it hard as he could against the eyes of the monster and made it to fell backward.
“Give me my sword,” he shouted to the three elves. Toron ran toward the sword and thrown it to the chief who then lifted it up, and put it straight into the monsters head. It screamed before it fell dead on the ground.
Optarh tried to regain his breath as he drew back his sword and thought that now they were going to win. His eyes widened once he saw more ninjas in the distance.
Or are they going to win instead? Optarh thought before he growled and took out his sword again.
“Is it more of them?” Sturkas cried furious and pulled out his Sais while the elves from the village had won against the enemy inside the village and ran to their chief and they horrified that there was more.
“Get ready,” Optarh said and lifted the sword to sky before he sank it.
And again the elves were in war against The Dark Ones. Sword against sword, shouting and screaming in the thunder filled air mixed with raindrops that fell. But something they didn’t see right away in the distance were weak figures, then completely unexpected the sky was filled with arrows that burned with fire and hit The Dark Ones. Optarh hadn’t time to see so far as he was in fight against a ninja, then another. He could almost have been attacked as he turned to a new ninja, but then a figure took the ninja. A tall elf with brown hair and green eyes, fully dressed in a armor and wear a red cape like Optarh.
“You are greedy once you come out in the battlefield, Arthel,” Optarh cried as he looked at his friend thrown down another ninja and ended the ninjas life.
“My sword is thirsty, Optarh” Arthel said as pulled up his sword from the dead ninjas chest.
Then they heard a familiar voice and saw Erakhal jumped against a ninja and blow the enemy into the ground. Not long after Sharika was there too and began to fight too on the horseback, and soon the rest of the chiefs stood next by Optarhs side and saw their tribes worked together against the enemy.
“I must confess, my friends. It feels like the first war for many years ago,” Arthel said.
“And yet you couldn’t find a bigger sword than that, Arthel?” Optarh said with a teasing voice.
“Sword? This is almost my dagger,” Arthel replied and lifted up his big sword, bigger than Optarhs sword.
“Whatever,” Optarh said and looked against the elves who were fighting.
“Be ready to fight the last battle. Together.”
The chiefs joined the fight, and with new hope, they were ready to end the war once and for all.
Interesting story. To me it has a very different feel than Elfquest, yet you kind of bring out the relationship by bringing in phases and parts from the original quest.
Feels like it's amping up to the dramatic conclusion.
dramatic conclusion coming up indeed!!
Very nice story, glad I finally found the time to finish reading it
Well, I guess you get to see my nerdy side this month! This is a little strange, perhaps, but have fun with this 'what-if'...
Small puddles of sweat had formed on the floor in Two-Edge’s workshop. His latest creation was nearly complete, and had nothing to do with games, riddles, or trying to figure out who he was. The project had started as a half hearted outlet to test out one of his newest inventions, but the project had absorbed his full interest as it fit who he was as a tinkerer....
Countless seasons had passed since he’d worked over the smoke-water machinations that drove his workshop, mining operations, and most other things. Much of the smoke-water had come from the Deepshaft, as he had no need for portable powered equipment. Trying to find more antagonists to play his games, he was traveling more often and at greater distances, and he was left with trying to find ways to make the massive smoke-water powered equipment smaller, and something to generate smoke-water that was also small.
At one point, he had created a large smoke-water powered monstrosity that had no purpose other than to take up space and move the small distance from one end of the workshop to the other. He could think of all kinds of destructive instruments that could be attached to it, giant picks to tunnel through the now empty domain of Greymung the dead, or through the winding passages and intricately shaped stone of Blue Mountain, but this too had been destroyed already. The behemoth could carry a huge circular blade and mow down the forest of the elves, but the elves had been run out long ago as the forest burned flat! There was no purpose at this time for him to progress with that hulk any further. Smoke-water required too much hand cut wood for fuel and generated too little power for all that effort by himself. Perhaps if he were to gather a team of humans to work for him…? The thought reminded him of his mother, and he immediately dismissed it.
Pushing all that aside, he had set to work on a smaller device, trying to pull more power out of smaller equipment. The old hulking mass seemed to lurk in the corner with its massive turbine fans, mocking him as he scribbled and tinkered.
Design after design was prototyped and dumped, and the whole fan concept was eventually dumped completely. What had started as a wind-turbine placed in a tunnel with ample steam flowing through it had been refined into something that worked so well even Two-Edge couldn’t find a mix of metal that would hold together at the speeds it ran. It worked better, and was smaller, but it still required huge amounts of water to be lugged around and boiled with large amounts of burning wood. It would just not do.
Frustrated but still intent on discovering the mysteries locked in the metals he worked with, he shifted his focus to finding a more portable fire. As this was a new line of thought, he found it easier for the ideas to roll around in his head by wandering his old tunnels. There was just something about the way they were laid out that fit how he thought, order and chaos in nearly perfect rhythm.
As he walked, he stumbled into an old pit from some random experiment he’d worked on years ago. The floor had a huge pit in it, filled with rotting wood chips. He could remember digging to this cavern, and trimming it up, but he couldn’t remember what he’d been doing here. He looked around the cave, holding his blazing torch out ahead of him. His head almost hurt from all the thinking he’d done as he wandered, and this distraction was welcome. There were nooks in the walls, small workspaces that held specialized tools. The ceiling held the gaping hole of a flume, and he realized that he’d intended this to be an enormous forge-Furnas for extra large projects! He’d abandoned it before lighting it, though, and the forge-pit held a slurry of decomposing wood and bark. It would have been grand to light this thing up! Why hadn’t he lit it? Something must have pulled him away and he’d just forgotten about it.
The room had braziers mounted on the walls all around, with old torches in each. With a smirk, he grabbed one and lit it, and though the muck in the bottom of the pit looked wet and murky, he tossed it in.
The torch slowly tumbled though the air and landed neatly in the center of the pit…
…and disappeared as the muck exploded into flame!
Two-Edge was blasted against the wall by the fireball, and nearly roasted alive as the sustained blaze began to heat the whole room. He dragged his bruised body back to the entrance and to cooler air, where he collapsed unconscious.
He figured it out.
He’d never lit the forge because he’d feared it would have been too hot to work in, but what he’d just experienced was nothing like what should have happened! Two-Edge had assumed the fire had died down rather quickly after he’d gotten to cool air, as the room wasn’t all that warm when he went back to check it out. Surprisingly, the liquid had burned and left the wood behind! Water than burned more than wood?
In a rush, the brain under his singed scalp readily absorbed the potential for this discovery and tied it into the current project. This new… fire-water… had the potential for shrinking the volume for the fuel needed to boil water! Not just that, but it had the power to push things as well, heating itself! It was conceivable that he could do away with the water completely, saving weight and space!
What had created this ‘fire-water’ to come to be? Could he get more of it? Turns upon turns of seasons of research finally revealed the secret to this mysterious substance. The wood itself created the liquid as it rotted, and he found that it was similar in make-up as when fruit rotted, but he found that the fire-water that came from wood was a deadly poison when he found a rat dead next to a small bucket of the stuff. One other thing plagued him: In order to get the wood to rot, it had to have water with it, but the fire-water wouldn’t burn with water added! He had to remove the water somehow. Initially, he found that freezing the mixture would separate the water from the fire-water, and with a lot of work it could be made to burn, but not with the fierce intensity he’d witnessed in the grand forge room.
Two-Edge eventually came up with a special distillery after studying out how the forge room had allowed the water to seep through mineralized deposits and the temperatures of the air flowing through the room held the fire-water in the pit. He assumed that there had actually been much more of the stuff at one time, and that it had taken a very long time for the conditions he came upon at that time to occur. He laughed nervously considering the possibility of there having been more at one time and the destruction that would have done to him and the area around if he’d come in during different conditions.
As it was, the eruption had destroyed the flume-work and vent to the outside, and nearly collapsed the cavern. Since it had been a natural structure, it had held up well considering the force he’d experienced. He did some quick figuring and found that it was indeed a far denser fuel than wood, though, and the payoff for the time he’d spent figuring this all out would be well worth it.
More turns of the seasons passed, and the patience his Troll’s half bore fruit as he completed a functioning prototype engine, using both smoke-water and fire-water in conjunction to run long periods without hauling around huge amounts of wood or water.
He just needed an excuse to try it out!
The machine was much smaller than the old steam powered beast in the corner, and was made of a lot more brightmetal. He had been bitten by a tinkerer’s bug, and pushed himself hard to finish the project. Even this half crazy inventor had lost track of where the finished result would end up, as the test bed for his engine had taken on a life of its own.
Four wheels that stood as tall as his waist, each driven by its own belt straight from the main shaft. Each one was able to move an incredible distance up or down to follow terrain. A sturdy but springy frame connected the wheels as well as the engine, the gears, the mainshaft, and a seat. Two-Edge had gone almost mad with coming up with new ways to apply things to the machine, and trying to come up with contingencies for what may happen when he finally did take it for its test drive.
It wasn’t his intention to drive this particular machine in his tunnels; he’d build a version that could haul a payload for that.
This was a machine for careening through the forest, taking on whatever got in his way!
The engine itself operated by using a bolt of skyfire to ignite fire-water mixed with air. He’d found that some crystals could be made to generate small arcs of skyfire if struck without breaking. It wasn’t as simple as all this, but this was the basic process. The fire-water would explode and push a large rod of metal, pushing the mainshaft. This rod was inside a sleeve of thin metal that was inside another, thicker sleeve of metal, this outer sleeve was where the heat from the fire-water cylinder heated the water and made smoke-water, both adding power and cooling the engine. Two-Edge had tried using just the firewater alone, but when he found the metal getting hot enough to glow before self-welding, he decided that cooling would be a good thing. When he found that the heat was enough to boil water, it seemed like a waste to just let the smoke-water release into the air, so he figured this system out to use that extra power.
After nearly a age of hard work, the engine worked well, it just had not had anything to actually do until building his forest traveling machine, and it was nearly complete.
A few days later, it was ready to try out. He started it up and did a few rolling tests, and then rolled it up the series of wide tunnels to an old surface entrance. For a strange moment, though, a section of the cave walls seemed to sparkle and glow as he passed. He paused, peering at the wall and noticed some strange crystals embedded in the stone, pulsating with the rhythm of the engine. They seemed to be glowing brighter with each pulsation, and though they had began as a variety of colors, they were getting bright enough to appear white, even bight enough to hurt his eyes. He set back and stared straight ahead, getting a funny feeling something was going to happen…
An enormous static discharge erupted, engulfing Two-Edge from all sides in skyfire as the crystals released a fury of energy! Unsure what had happened and fearful of it happening again, Two-Edge shoved the power control to maximum and rocketed out of the cave into the forest outside. A few animals scurried to each side as he roared past. He steered the machine with the control levers to dodge trees and rocks, and finally had to yank back on the power control to keep from wrecking. The machine was proving clumsy to manage and navigate at full speed, which was many times faster than Two-Edge could run. He brought it to a stop and gasped for breath.
He looked back at the cave mouth, fearing to see flame or smoke rising from it. Seeing none, he looked over his forest machine and assessed the damage to it. It appeared that a few protective parts had gotten scorched, but the fuel had not ignited and there were no other issues he could see.
He shook off the shock and looked around, deciding to continue with his trial run. It had held up so far, but the ride was a bit bouncy, and it rocked side to side fiercely, but all in all, it seemed to be able to move around with ease.
Seeing a game trail, he followed it and headed off up the hill. His machine seemed to roll easily over fallen trees, rocks, and through small streams, though he realized that if he tried to go through anything deep his entire machine would become flooded, the engine would be choked to death, and he would probably be stuck!
There didn’t seem to be too much in the way of deep water or puddles. The whole of the outdoors was bright and cheery, but the beauty was lost on this addled inventor, his main concern was how his machine was doing as it rolled through all this. He crawled past fallen trees, around or over rocks, and straddled small washouts, pushing the machine to its limits. Other than the controls being a bit unwieldy at times in tight spaces or around certain obstacles, he was pleased with how well it held up, how powerfully the engine pushed the contraption up one hill and then another. He’d been afraid of needing another hand to operate the power control, and it was very evident that something would need to change before he took it back out. As it was, trying to vary the power while pushing both steering levers was proving to be nearly impossible while braking downhill and getting caught in a dip in the terrain. The wheels themselves seemed a bit hard and would slide now and then just as he needed to rely on them. It seemed that the layers of leather binding were not as good of a grip surface as he had hoped.
He came upon a clearing and rolled quickly over the smoother hillside. The ground was soft, but other than trying to pull at his wheels from time to time it was a pleasure to roll through. He was surprised to find a wide dirt path at the edge of the clearing that seemed to be rutted from heavy use….
He braked hard and looked at the path. It appeared to have wide pairs of tracks with strange regular patterns pressed into the half dried mud. The path was so wide though! The pairs of tracks were easily two or three stances wide, and you could almost fit three of his machines side by side on this trail! He looked back at his own tracks, and though they had barely made an impression in the soil and grass, they were distinctly visible, continuous just like the ones before him. These tracks were made by wheels! Heavy things with pairs of wheels! As he looked, he could tell that there had been several different patterns of tracks, denoting several kinds of wheels… which could mean only a few things: a war party with carts of equipment, or others with machines like his own but much larger!
Could there not only be some one that had come up with the same idea, but many? Is it even possible without having seen them? If this was a trail made by a war party, the battle would be immense, and just to fill this path or push the carts with Trolls would require thousands; and thousands again if it were humans!
Still, it seemed that this was an ideal path for his machine to take, and either way it would be entertaining to discover what had made the tracks. It seemed that many machines or carts would have had to have passed by over a period of time, but a few looked like they were not all that old at all. He turned his machine onto the path and accelerated.
The path was a lot smoother than what had just gone through, and he was almost able to run the machine full out at top speed. He quickly left the clearing and was surrounded by trees again. As it entered the trees, the path got narrow again, and began to get steeper. He slowed his machine down.
The path was still not all that difficult, and he began to worry less about his inventions and looked around at the trees. Here and there, small animals climbed trees or peeked out at him from clumps of roots. A larger animal streaked across the path, almost too fast to make out. Birds flew from branch to branch, minding their own business, just how Two-Edge liked it.
The engine was loud. Not enough to hurt the ears, but loud enough to drowned out most the sounds of the forest. Still, it seemed as though he could hear those birds…
The shrill call was almost loud enough to make out clearly, but he’d never heard anything make such a sound! It must be some unseen and very large bird!
The call seemed to cut through the air, very distinctive. He looked up at the trees, trying to make out a shadow or outline of a large bird. The trail had gotten quite steep, and he’d had to slow quite a bit as the roots crossed here and there, making the passage difficult. A patch of loose rocks allowed the wheels to spin, but he crested the hill finally, frantically trying to manipulate the controls as the trail twisted sharply to the right, wound through a series of close trees, and canted at a sharp sideways angle to move around a rock. He nearly broke a wheel off coming down off the large stone after tilting the machine almost halfway over. The machine chugged and strained, and finally rolled the wheel though the sharp stop at the bottom. He looked back at the large rock and smiled. It had been quite the thrill to make it over such an obstacle, risking a wreck and having to walk back!
It almost seemed that the air behind the stone flickered a few different colors, and thinking he was still shaking off the electrical shock from earlier, he shrugged and went back to conquering this trail.
It struck him funny, though, that the track he’d been following had also passed through here, and this supposed army had chosen to pass through the same tight squeeze with all their heavy equipment…. It beginning to seem to be far more plausible that there were others out here like him, but why had he never seen or heard of another tinkerer in all his travels? He’d covered every bit of area between the Frozen Mountains to Blue Mountain, to Greymung’s forest, and beyond! There was no sign of ANY other mechanization, or other beings capable of constructing such things! Could it be that there was a tribe of humans that had made some great leap in advancement? Perhaps another theft of his workshops? The tracks were just the proper size for a machine like his that could carry two humans side by side… Terror started to gnaw at his chest as he realized that he could be driving into some sort of human trap!
As luck would have it, a green metal monster roared out in front of him, brilliant flashes of light shining from its top, scaring Two-Edge as it uttered its war cry:
For a moment all Two-Edge could do is stare in disbelief as the new machine slid to a stop in he path, blocking his progress. All he could do was give the emblem on the door a glazed over, slack-jawed look of bewilderment, as a human’s head yelled at him from an opening above it.
“Stahp th’ V’hekl Nd trnn hof Yrr N-gen! hy wunna Ci Yrr lie-senz, rejust-raysion, Nd peruph uv Nsher-nts!”
The human opened the door and climbed down from the monster clad in metal, its blazing lights dizzying an already addled Two-Edge. The looming figure walked towards him with authority, not necessarily menacingly, but with definite purpose.
Two-Edge would have none of it!
He bumped the power control full on and yanked back on the control levers, throwing his own mechanical creation in reverse and sending him careening backwards. Considering he hadn’t taken any pains for rear view mirrors, memorizing the trail behind him, or taking his eyes off the human, he did quite well keeping the thing on the trail at the speed he was going.
He stopped and turned up the trail that the green monster had come from, as he’d put things together and realized that the human had been stalking him for some time, that he’d passed a point, perhaps back at the large stone, the human couldn’t with its metal monster, and it must have circled around to cut him off! That would mean that this trail was a faster path back, and back was where he wanted to be most!
He bounced and shook at top speed all the way back to the clearing where he’d found the trail. The little machine seemed to take the abuse fairly well, but as he turned off the trail and followed his tracks up the hill he’d come down originally, the soft ground sucked at his hard leather wheels, and the engine strained as he tried to push the thing up the hill back to the cave.
He worked at it, getting stuck twice, looking over his shoulder to see if the humans were following. The green monster had stopped at the point he’d pulled off, and a human was yelling at him. It was obvious they wanted him to stop, to go back, but it seemed ludicrous that they could expect him to actually come back!
He finally got back into the trees and followed his tracks back through the forest. He noted that the drive belt for one of the front wheels had gotten rubbed and worn in places, and looked like it would fall apart any moment. He didn’t even want to look at the back wheels. The other front wheel had strips of leather coming off, flopping as the wheel turned. His beautiful creation was coming apart in his flight from the humans, but just like everything else, it seemed that Two-Edge’s plans may be well planned, but were none-the-less ruined by others not playing by his rules.
The drive belt finally snapped and dropped on the ground. He hadn’t brought any spares, but as the cave should be close by, he wasn’t too concerned. He was just worried about the cave shocking him again. He was planning on just rushing past that part of the cave, before the crystals in the walls could start glowing…
The engine was beginning to sputter. He looked over at his container of fuel, flipped up the lid, and saw that the container had just a little fire-water sloshing around in the bottom of it! He might have to walk part of the way back home.
The machine chugged into the cave mouth and rolled in a little ways. Two-Edge eyed the cave walls for signs of the crystals, noted that they were coming up and shoved the power control full on. The machine jolted a bit to the side as the wheel without the drive belt was not pulling, but he got it under control and sailed passed the section of the cave with the crystals. They didn’t even glimmer as he passed.
He hadn’t gotten far when his engine ran out of fire-water. The tank empty, he knew that he’d have to return on foot. He’d wished that he could get the engine back to his workshop in one pass, but he was too frustrated to care about the vehicle. He’d leave it; he wasn’t going back out there again!
As such, the vehicle a complete loss, he vented his frustration almost gleefully as he cut the rest of the drive belts and wrecked what he could so the humans could not take it, even though it seemed that they had far better machines than this. He left the engine alone as he would try to come back for it some time with a cart. He thought about setting fire to the wooden frame, but he was afraid that the smoke would show the humans where his cave was, if they couldn’t read his tracks.
Feeling defeated, he left the hulk sitting there in ruins and made for home.
He hadn’t gotten far…
…the cave was not the one he had left!
Two-Edge frantically ran from one end of the tunnel to the other, recognizing the entrance, seeing his frantic trail as he had left it earlier, but the cave ended not far passed the point he had wrecked his machine. Indeed there were only the tracks with the shredded leather in the section between the machine and the crystals, but none further in!
Two-Edge nearly tore his beard out trying to figure out the puzzle of what had happened, how this could be! It must be a rock-shaper messing with his twisted mind, or he was dreaming all this! He came from this tunnel, got zapped, drove around for a while, got chased back, and the tunnel was sealed as though he’d never been here!
He even spend days combing the hillside for other tracks or signs of another cave, but there was none. This was the cave he had come from, even if this didn’t make sense. He was a survivor, and he wasn’t too upset about trying to make out a living here, but he had none of his favorite tools, his picks, his forges, his home! He was sure the humans would eventually find him as well, if he knew humans. What was he going to do?
He tried to calm himself, get himself to sit and think. He had gotten better at concentration, but having no one to help him focus was making things difficult. He ran though the events in his mind again. He came up the tunnel, stopped for a moment to look at the crystals, got zapped…
The puzzle was solved. After a fashion, at least.
The crystals must have… done something to move him to a different tunnel, perhaps with different humans, ones that had come up with their own machines! Where it had taken him was of little importance to him, just as long as he could get back, back to the madness that he knew instead of a new place to start over. He tried to think about what had happened, how the crystals had reacted to his presence. It would mean getting zapped again, but if that’s what it would take…
He walked to that section of the tunnel, rather timidly crept forward into the middle of the crystal-encrusted walls, and waited. He had heard of magic pools left over by Elfin meddling, unwitting traps that would ensnare unsuspecting passers-by, and it was his hope that it would work both ways in this case!
He stood there, surrounded by a countless number of facets, looking at their dark and lifeless hearts as they mocked him in their silence. There was no such glow, no skyfire, no return! He fell to his knees and wept, utterly frustrated and exhausted for the days of worry he had wrung himself through. He fell asleep.
He dreamed of crystals, glowing and pulsing, seeming to drum out a rhythm of light in tune with the beat of his engine, colors dancing, growing out to reach for him and take him away! The tendrils of light sought him out, and though he tried to hide from them in the shadows, the light wove a net so fine that soon there were no shadows to hide in, and he was caught…
He awoke, panting, and it seemed that he hadn’t slept long. He was kneeling, bent backwards against the floor. His knees hurt, and it felt like those light tendrils had wrapped themselves around and through his lower legs.
He brought his knees up into a more comfortable position and stared at the ceiling. Years he’d spent looking down from just such ceilings at his playthings, and for a moment he felt the weight of what it must have been like to be one of those playthings. Before the full significance of this thought could sink in, he fit a couple more pieces of the puzzle together: the engine had triggered the crystals! He only had to… bring the engine over and… run it… without fuel….
His hopes sunk with the realization that he had no fuel, no distillery to make more, no assurance that wherever he was the wood would work the same… He felt no worse, though, as he’d just thought he was stuck here anyway. He went and checked the machine anyway, just in case there was something left in the fire-water container.
There wasn’t. In fact, any moisture that had been in the tank had dried up in the last day or two of him searching for answers. With the slight wish that there was something other than a running engine or a full tank required to make the crystals work, he pushed the thing back up the tunnel so it was in middle of the crystals. Nothing happened.
Hoping now that there was enough in the pipes for the engine to start, he cranked on the starter handle. He spun the engine over more than enough to start, but there wasn’t a sputter of life in it.
But the walls held a pale glow.
He dove into the work of cranking the thing some more, and cranked until he was exhausted. The colors showed a bit more, but he couldn’t get the thing to run fast enough to charge the crystals to send him home. He collapsed on top of the cold engine, gasping for air.
For a few hours he played with the engine to see if he could make it easer to turn, but as he wasn’t sure what the relation was to the engine spinning and the cave glowing, he kept it together, for the most part. He opened all the shutters on the cylinders and found that it was still charging the walls, and easier to turn, but not enough so to make it all work, so he thought about it a bit.
After some figuring, he realized that though there was no fire-water for fuel, he could still heat up the water in the engine and make the steam half work! It would turn then, perhaps enough to get home? He checked it’s tank and found it had been empty since something in his mad dash from the humans had torn a hole in the bottom. He switched the two containers and went to gather water.
It took him a great deal of time to lug water from the nearest creek at the bottom of the hill to the cave, while avoiding all trails and paths the humans might be lurking in. It was obviously their lot to stay on the trails and keep out of the woods, as he had thought someone would have found him by now. It was night time as he lugged the makeshift bucket up the last rise. ‘Strange,’ he thought as he looked into the sky, ‘one moon?’ He would have just figured that one was hiding, as one or the other would sometimes do, but his moon looked big! The three dark blotches were unfamiliar as well, and he felt that though he hadn’t spent much time looking at his home skies, he should know what the moons looked like! He thought of them, and felt alone, as lonely as that single moon he could see.
He went in and dumped the bucket into the container, ready to dig in for the next half of the job. He went back out under the alien sky and collected as many dry branches and other burnables as he could find and dragged them in to the cave as well, and began to build his engine’s funeral pyre. The water would feed in alright, and if he heated the engine, the water would boil into smoke-water, and turn the engine, charging the crystals and taking him… he didn’t want to think about any other possibility than to go home!
Looking around, as though some other option would jump out at him, he lit the tinder and stepped to the side, hoping that this one shot plan would work.
The flames grew, engulfing the engine. He turned the crank a little to see if it needed a nudge and got nervous as it wasn’t taking off on its own. Though the flames were hot, he continued cranking on the engine, looking up at the crystals as if hoping that the sacrifice by fire of the engine would be enough. He nearly jumped when the engine sputtered and kicked the crank out of his hand and started to spin like mad.
The crystals flared their multicolored light at him from all directions, and those tendrils of light he dreamt of seemed almost real. He let them carry him away as the tunnel flashed skyfire once more….
Two-Edge awoke next to a pile of embers and a mound of slag that used to be his fire-water engine. The crystals in the walls themselves appeared to have burned as well, as they were apparently not there anymore. The engine was still cooling after melting when the water ran out. As such it was starting to crack in places, and one of the crystals Two-Edge had put in it to ignite the fire-water showed through. A part of him wondered if he could have rigged up something to just use these crystals to activate the tunnel, if he could have saved the engine, but he wasn’t sure if he was even home, or if the whole thing even worked!
He ran out into the night and looked up at the sky, searching the stars for a familiar pattern, anything he could hold onto, but the overcast skies only threatened to rain down on him, they provided no solace.
He ducked back down the cave and passed the pile of slag, ran down the tunnel to see if anything else had changed, something familiar, something… like the gargantuan smoke-water beast sitting in the corner of his workshop in front of him, across from his forges, next to a bed… a bed, like so many, that he rested his head from time to time, a place he could feel at least somewhat more at home.
He laid down and slept, dreaming of forge-fires and caves, and about how he hated what the forest held.
Meanwhile, two forest rangers in the northern cascades on Earth were still talking about the day they had tried to chase down the SCA fanatic in a costume riding a contraption that looked like it belonged in a comic book....
Love the new version, Embala! (added it to my thread already )
And will read your story in a bit, Hammer ^^
Wow, that was a long story Trollhamer!!!! and it was a good one
Wow Embala That strongbow collage is beautifull, Amazing!!
Wow! Trollhammer awesome job! I'm not a big fan of Two-Edge, but wow, I just may be after that really long story. I liked the time-traveling/cross-dimensional traveling. It added a little bit of sci-fi that I really liked, and I also loved that you told the process of how he made his machine. It showed his thought process and how he came to his ideas and his conclusions, which I really liked.
Awesome story, Trollhammer! Loooved the last paragraph too
What am I saying, loved the whole thing!
Embala - I really like the new, darker version of venom. Gives it a much more ominous feeling, giving a better idea of being in Strongbow's mind.
Trollhammer - Being perfectly honest, I liked this Two-Edge story a lot better than your other ones. As a scientist, reading it required a bit of willful suspension of disbelief, not for the technological advances he had, but for the speed in which it was accomplished (although, I suppose that's the genius of Two-Edge. What took human kind a couple of hundred years I guess would be no problem for him.) It also kind of gave me a little more appreciation for the attraction of off-roading as more of an intellectual challenge and not just people out tearing up the scenery.
That's a great story, TrollHammer!
I like seeing more of Two-Edge the tinkerer ... insted of the riddler, the inventor ... instead of the game master, the adventurer ... instead of the haunted child. He seems almost whole and sain in his own world of creativity and technical advancement, almost happy testing his new toy. And then the world itself bites back ... throwing him back in mistrust and hiding - poor Two-Edge.
The twist with the "real life" element is great!
... now I'm wondering whether these crystals were shards ...
Will say - it feels strange elfquesty
I don't expect an explanation about these crystals - they could be anything. It's just that this story - as unusual, technical and sci-fi influenced it is, as much it feels still like EQ. I automatically was thinking further on *... what could this have been ... crystals - space/time travel - Shards! ... hey, it fits*
Thanks for liking the collage, WolfMoonSky and TrollHammer
Glad you can see the change of mood I intended with the collage revision, jeb - seems to work then!
Could someone please kick the muse fairy back here? And as you're on it, please tell her that I do not apreciate that she sends me into other challenges without my constent.
Thank you ver much.
You shouldn't kick her! *offers muse bait*
*lays out muse bait trail* should do it gently indeed! And THEN kick her butt!
*Throws herself at the muse fairy* Aha! Gotcha!
Thank you very much for doing that. I'll turn to work at the Jan grab bag, when I've finished the current challenge this thing has got me into at Fiction Press.
^^ Yay! Looking forward to your stuff already! ^^
*gives more muse bait to Startear* here, you can lure her back yourself now, too!
*Takes muse bait gratefully* Thanks, I'll probably need it later.
Okay Muse Fairy, time to go *drags the muse fairy to the writing place*
*startear's muse* "HEY! Watch the wings! Ok, ok, I'll work fer ya!"
So it appears that motion gifs work in banners now, is that so in the body of messages or avatars? That opens a whole new world! Especailly for a way to put up 'video' of animation.
(this story segment describes a period of time near the end of the Lodestone series, which was posted in the December Grab Bag. For clarity, it is suggested that you read those three parts before continuing with “Lodestone: Dark Revelations” or wait until the story is reposted in “TrollHammer’s Story Forge in the coming weeks…
The conversation between Two-Edge and The Dark, after the rescue of Wartfoot:
“So, you succeeded in your quest, just as you had hoped.” stated the Dark as though this should be some kind of revelation. Two-Edge sighed and muttered how it hadn’t been in the plan to haul back a near ‘dismembered corpse’. He let it all out, blaming the shadows for Wartfoot’s state. He rambled on and on, venting his frustration. For hours he stood arguing with the seemingly empty room until he’d nearly exhausted is little remaining energy, and collapsed in a heap in the middle of the room. Sprawled, he stared at the ceiling, black on black.
“It would seem that you might do anything to make up for this predicament that your student is in, though it is through no fault of your own.”
Two-Edge just laid in the dark, listening to what his ages old companion had to say.
“You have asked many times what or who I am, and I offer what I know to you, but it comes at a price! You like to play games, turning the players against their own worst traits, but you do not test yourself! How selfish is it to try someone for their selfishness while not confronting your own? Therefore, you are presented with a challenge: I will let you know what I know, but I will perhaps never return. I will take your student with me and he will be whole again, perhaps better than before. I will take your other student and restore him as well, but neither of your students can return! Therefore, your test, your game is to decide if companionship is worth more to you than your student’s wellbeing. The game is tied, in exchange for your students I will use what I have to heal their bodies, and leave you lonely but with the knowledge of why I can do this.” The shadows fell silent, waiting for the Master-Smith’s answer.
After sitting alone weighing everything for hours, Two-Edge withdrew from the shadows of his room, which had become the conference chamber for The Dark for so many years of his life. He remembered little of his youth, rarely searching these memories due to the torments he’d received, but he could remember when the Voice had come to him the first time. He’d almost thought he had imagined it, and indeed he couldn’t be sure that he wasn’t still dreaming it! If he was just making things up, then what would it matter if he agreed to let Wartfoot go to get some answers? He nearly stumbled into a bit more sane reasoning as he pondered this, and in some way fled out of defensive reflex, pushing the line of reasoning from his mind.
None of that mattered, anyway. He had been presented with another game, a good game, a gain and a loss either way! On the one hand he had to weigh his belief in The Dark against the fate of Snubnose while on the other he had to weigh his comfortable companionship against his companion’s comfort! Well played!
He sensed that it was not necessarily just this decision he needed to consider. There was something foreboding and ominous about the finality the Voice had placed on the decision to be made. It was as though The Dark had something to lose or sacrifice in the process of saving the two students. Looking back on it, Two-Edge remembered other times that it seemed to cost The Dark to come to his aid. This was not something he could easily grasp, as he’d not known a time that anyone would risk anything to come to his aid until his students stood up for him. This couldn’t be! He was not worth saving unless it served the helper! Mother had proved this time and time again!
“ggghhhaaaAAAHHHHRrrr!” He grumbled in frustration as the game played in his head and the thoughts looped around, feeding on themselves. He punched the mirror again, something he’d grown quite fond of, as he entered the living chambers. The dented and scratched piece of metal clanged again to the floor once more. Somehow he found some bit of twisted joy setting it back up some times, knowing that it’s only purpose at this point was something to hit.
Wartfoot’s voice had gotten stronger. “That ol’ dung-head of a king frustrating you again?” he pried, knowing that Two-Edge would randomly rant about things not being how they should be and a random guess filled the space and could get to the issues far faster than waiting for him to speak up on his own. “Why don’t we just cave-in his throne-room?” he added chuckling.
Two-Edge sat at the stone table next to his comrade, staring at him a moment. Wartfoot’s injuries had healed over, but Trolls, it seemed, did not grow back like a snake-tail! This poor ruined creature that sat before him was a paradox like himself, keeping on going, even thriving after this world had taken many small pieces away! The pieces his mother and other had taken weren’t so… visible.
“What would you choose, to be whole or to be with me? It is a puzzle for which the solution is not revealed to me...” he cast his eyes down at the table, the visage of gruesome torture becoming too great for even his fractured mind to behold.
“What a silly thought! That I could be made whole again and walk and see and get into more mischief! It would be nice to feed myself again and not be such a burden. Even so, I’d much prefer to learn more from you here than to leave! If a healer-Elf has offered to help, have them come here, I need not leave forever, right? Even if I must go to them, why could I not come back?”
Two-Edge discussed what The Dark had said to him, and Wartfoot’s empty eye-sockets wept with tears of hope and sadness. Two-Edge worked what he could into words that twisted in rhymes, and it took some time to get it all out so Wartfoot could understand. It wasn’t that Two-Edge intended to make it difficult, but when he was flustered his thoughts and words broke into such near-nonsense. Wartfoot waited and prodded for clarification when he needed it, but when he finally got around to the unbelievable part that Snubnose could be saved too, only the rope that restrained him held what little of him that was left from falling to the floor.
“Two-Edge, my friend, have you been hitting the wine? You swore you had no taste for the stuff, but I swear you must have drained GreyDung’s casks! We need to talk about this grip on reality you seem to have trouble with…” he trailed off, noting the silence that hung in the air. Two-Edge was not even breathing as the emotions washed over him, feeling the fool to mention such lunacy, the hope that it may be true, the despair of what it would mean to lose his companion, and the torment of knowing that the same companion was in a much worse cage than he’d ever been held in! A sob leaked out as he collapsed in a heap on the table.
“I am sorry, Teacher, I did not mean to jeer! It seems so unbelievable that this could be a possibility!” Wartfoot’s crackling voice tried to soothe the torment Two-Edge was going through. Two-Edge shuddered for a while utterly hopeless in the search for an answer that made any sort of sense. He finally calmed down enough to babble out his own misgivings about the situation, and how this Voice from the shadows had aided him in the past, how he could not be certain this was not his own mind playing games with him, or if there was something really there, some creature that had been his companion all this time. It seemed to Wartfoot that there was at least enough to it that his Master believed it!
“Master, it seems to me to be obvious! If this Dark can make me whole again, perhaps bring back Snubnose, how and why would it keep us from returning? If all else fails, we can fight our way back! If the Voice lies, or isn’t real, then what has been lost? If we can gain Snubnose, we should at least try!”
A part of Two-Edge knew this was the proper course, this was the best way things should be, assuming, of course, that The Dark was real and could do all it promised. He didn’t even ask if this was what Wartfoot really wanted, as he knew the answer, it was still up to him!
He trudged back to his darkened chambers with heavy feet and an even heavier heart. He pondered if there was any way he could work the situation to his advantage, some twist he could turn, some leverage he could gain over this tester. He knew too little, though, and knew that there were, in fact, three options available to him. The third option would be an attempt to entrap The Dark, risking that he’d fail and both lose this change to save his students and retain the companionship of the Voice in the shadows. Not only had he never found a single passage used by the mysterious intruder, he could not even sense when it was nearby, even when speaking. How could he catch what he could not find? It could even be watching him now, and would see any such trap long before it was ready. He would fail, and it would be a choice like any other, with the exception that it would prove he was the most selfish creature of all, trying to hoard his own treasure. He knew what to needed to be done.
He moved in to the chambers with a bit of a different purpose that the usual self pity, but he was still grim as he sat in a dusty chair for the discussion. He tried to remember the last time he’d sat in this chair, instead of in a heap on the floor, but the memories were dim, and the dismal task at hand blotted what he could remember out. “Voice…, are you there?” The usual query sounded hollow and final as his low voice rumbled. “We have a bargain to discuss.”
“I am here.” The Dark stated simply.
Two-Edge shifted uncomfortably, the starkness of The Dark’s statements threw him off. “You say you can restore my Students but to do so they may not stay here, if this is so, how do I know if it is true? I would not know if you killed my remaining Student or kept your word! Why can they not stay here, if you are a healer, or return when restored? You would hold them against their will as the price for their existence? What purpose would this serve?” His words were provocative, but his voice held some part of resignation, as though this was an expected formality in this game.
“You must trust me.” was the only reply.
The silent moments passed as Two-Edge hoped for more of an explanation, though he knew there would be none. Frustrated, he erupted from his seat and shouted at the walls, “You expect me to cast my Student at shadows? Shall I save some trouble with the smell and find a vast pit to toss him into? I cannot see you, I cannot touch you, and you have refused to explain yourself, yet you expect me to leave someone’s life and my company in your hands? Where are they to put them into? Am I indeed mad enough to consider you real? I would sooner trust an Elf I could see than the empty nothingness of my own ramblings! You must prove to me you are real!” He presumed that some of the spittle must be hitting this unseen opponent, if it were even there. He doubted more than ever that there was anything but a blank wall in front of him.
“If, as you say, I am not real, then it will not hurt to hear me out, but to hear me out you will lose me forever. If you choose my aid to restore your friends, you will know all that I know before your student will join me on a path to restoration. You will still be able to refuse if I cannot convince you I am real, but if you lack faith in me and keep your student for yourself I will never return to you. As such, perhaps I will take your other student to restore him anyway, but either way I may never return. You must choose to understand, or speak to walls for the next age! This decision is one you can delay for a time, but you cannot run from, and you must commit to your decision once it is made.”
Unable to breach the wall of the game through thought or trick, things lay as they were, with the full weight of the decision resting in Two-Edge’s hands. This was his game, and he would receive no reprieve or aid as he chose. Feeling defeat either way, his voice rumbled once more; “if that is how it must be, that must be how it is. Explain yourself, then. When all my friends and voices are gone I will be alone once more, as I had been for so long before now!” In one last defiant sneer he added, “Perhaps I will find some peace without all this company around to torment me!” He said it, but didn’t feel it.
“Your feelings and quips aside, you have still made your choice. It will be so.” The door shut behind Two-Edge, sealing him in, or sealing out whatever could have possibly found his lair. He jumped and whirled, heart pounding as he remembered the Troll’s treachery. He dug out a Glowstone from his pouch and raised it high to see around him as he tugged at his hammer with his other hand.
There was little to see. After leaving Blue Mountain he had dug this room as his quarters, with a simple slab for a bed and a chair and a table. He had placed a fur of sorts on the slab to sleep on, and there had been a Glowstone in a stand on the table, but the stone had grown dark and the fur had crumbled to dust long ago. There was a forgotten bowl on the table lined with small piles of indefinable powder, and a cup that was sure to be dry. With exception of a small path from the door and the place Two-Edge usually crumpled in a heap to seek aid from The Dark, dust layered the room. His rear had left an imprint.
“Calm yourself, Two-Edge! You are used to maintaining control of everything but your decisions. This is a decision you cannot run from, or change your mind as it fits you. You will hear me out! Seat yourself again, if it suits you.”
He relaxed slightly and lowered his ready hammer. He peered around him to see where the Voice could be coming from. He’d assumed that The Dark was like himself, cutting clever holes in the walls to speak and hear from, or entries hidden in the scratches of the walls, but not even his keen eyes could spot even a possible gap anywhere!
“Dim the light a bit, if you will. I have spent most of my life in darkness and prefer it,” said the Voice.
Two-Edge dumped out the old Glowstone from the holder and placed the one from his pouch in it. The stand was one of his typical hand-carved stone creations, and had a sleeve that could be adjusted to block some of the stone’s light, allowing him to sleep while still being able to keep from stubbing a toe on something in the dark. He’d long since given up on such things here as usually he entered the room quite carelessly when he was distraught and never unless this was so. He adjusted the holder until he could only make out the outlines of the bed.
A shadow moved down from the web-covered ceilings. A form dropped to the floor behind the bed without a sound. When the creature came to rest in a crouch, the only interruptions in the dark form were two squinting, wide eyes that seemed to glow in the dim light. Two-Edge could not make out what it was, but he got the sense that this… thing was almost more animal than anything else. The only slight sound was a rustle of long fur.
The creature spoke. “A assume you can see me in all this light, and can see that I cannot call any race as one that I belong to! And yes, I am old! My body fails me more and more as the time goes passes on, and I cannot remain much longer. This, and more, is why you may never meet with me again in this life after this!” It rocked back to sit on the floor behind the bed, peering over it as though it could shield the creature from everything going on. It was clearly uncomfortable being here. Two-Edge was amazed by what little he could see: that this was an actual being he had been speaking to! His gaze into its eyes was broken as he noticed motion in the webs and silkworms above The Dark. A small winged creature emerged and hung from the webs upside down and looked back at him.
The Dark looked up in the direction Two-Edge was looking and turned back to explain, “This is my companion through the ages, and the reason I could remain to aid you and others for so long. It seems that it and other like it can spin a sort of web that can sustain the body indefinitely, though few can do anything while wrapped in this web. I met him some time ago as I wandered this world, trying to find my place in it.
“Indeed, it is also the reason why your other student can be saved, as it appears we may have gotten to him in time to preserve him. Trolls, it seems, are quite different than anything else I have encountered.
“Elves are borne of flesh and spirit, and while usually the spirit can live on without the flesh, it still needs a home. For those who have descended from the first-comers who are known as High-Ones to some, the crystal structure they came in is the only thing that can properly house their spirits once freed from their flesh. The creatures like my companion are also made of flesh and spirit, but it seems that the bond between the two is so tight it is inseparable, and they remain as they are for all time. The humans and animals from this world are bound to it, and whatever they are made of stays with the ground they came from, and as the Elves above hold in part for both this world and the crystal structure, they can choose what they are bound by. Trolls are another matter completely!
“Trolls have no home! They are bound by nothing! To understand this you must learn where we have all come from, and learn what I have learned!” The Dark paused, its voice sounding slightly labored as it recounted its memories. Two-Edge was slowly coming to feel that the quiet, crackling voice was male, though it appeared even The Dark didn’t even know what to refer to his companion by.
Two-Edge sensed that there was little to be afraid of and sat down, ready to listen to what his companion had to say. This was an aspect he hadn’t considered. Troll souls? What nonsense and wonder was he in for? The Dark seemed to imply that Trolls and Elves shared some connection ages before he had been conceived by his mother and father. Perhaps it was not so strange a thing for mother to be able to do. Puzzles and marvels!
The shadowy beast began again. “I do not remember where I came from, or who I was before I went on my journey, I lost myself at some point. However, in a sense I may have found myself as well. I have had a full, content life, and have no regrets as I near the end of it.
“I know I am some sort of half-breed, and that I share a past with Elf, Troll, and these like my companion.” He bobbed his head toward the hanging creature above him. “As for my attendant, it is one of an eight or so, and used to find its place as the memory for the group. It used to sing, and used to have a name, but as I found it near the beginning of my journey I have forgotten it as well, and it has fallen silent. I fear it has fallen into a dismal state, and I fear for what it may do when I am gone.
“As we traveled, eventually seeking out our past, we observed many wonders, many clans spread over the world: Warring clans, others that have been wiped out by humans, and others that have divided since. Some you have come across yourself in your travels. Some have secured artifacts from our original home, and some have forgotten where they came from. Others have blended with this world, but the Trolls again have stubbornly refused to claim anything as their home! They reject the crystal structure, and though they seem to crave their caves and caverns they are restless, seeking to fill the void in their hearts with treasure and labor. A few become so greedy they bind themselves to their tools or their gold, or to their throne, as in the case of your nemesis. In this they have some kind of anchor for their souls, but many are lost to oblivion when they end their path.
For those few that find some contentment in places other than their hoard, amazing things can be accomplished. Those that have found a home within can be bound to their flesh, such as my companion, and survive many trials. Others, such as your Students…” he shifted, as though uncomfortable with the thought, “…can bind themselves to others, joining their fates with whom they choose.”
Two-Edge set back in the chair, and breathed deeply. He did not comprehend what this creature was telling him. “What does this have to do with you leaving with my Students?” he demanded.
“Trolls have no magics, as the Elves do. There are no shapers of flesh or stone among them, so injury and death claim many who do not have anything to cling to. Before coming to this world, however, the first-comers were able to work their skills on the Trolls to make them strong and long-lived. Even so, they plotted against them, working their own mechanisms into their vessel with which they would be able to achieve these changes themselves without magic.” Two-Edge found himself intrigued that such foolish, bumbling creatures as the Trolls could attain such machinery and then become the greedy things they were now, with seemingly no creativity or advancement of their own.
“I was able to extract these devices and others before the current breed was able to pillage the structure. They were able to filch some Elvin trinkets, but the true Elvin treasure is intact and secure, awaiting the day they regain their home. The Trolls have proved they would use their devices to harm others, and so I have hidden them far away. These machines can restore your Students to their full health, but though I may reach that place with them in tow, I perhaps will not be able to return, at least in this life.” He fell silent, solemn but not brooding.
Two-Edge could not restrain himself from asking, “Why do you not turn these machines on yourself, and restore what ails you!?! There are many solutions to this issue, I will come with you!”
“NO! You must not! You cannot know the location, as your heart is so full of pain! You would be no better than the Trolls themselves with such terrifying devices at your disposal! You are not ready!” It was the first time The Dark had ever raised his voice, or even posed any sort of opinion to Two-Edge. The sheer absoluteness of the statement struck Two-Edge as though it were a physical blow, and he slid the chair back, as though to dodge it. “As for me, not only is my journey complete, but somehow those machines will not work for me. I made the attempt long ago, with no result. My purpose as your aid has come to an end, however, and I sense there is nothing more I can do for you. From here on you must find your own way. You have espied the path you wish to take for now to find your purpose, for good or ill. When you have resolved this matter inside, you may be ready to seek new knowledge, but for now you shall be barred as sure as you have restrained your heart!
“Your students will stay with me, if you let the one come with me. I will take the one called Snubnose wrapped as he is if not. I have just this one last objective before I am finished. If you leave the other with me, he shall be restored as well, but as I cannot guide them back and neither can be shown the path, they will have to find their own place. As you can see, I will not keep them against their will, I am just powerless to return them.
“Perhaps one day they will find their own way!” the figure said to bring his speech to a close.
“Perhaps they may, or so you say.” Replied Two-Edge, “but how are they so more greatly worthy? Would they not become what you fear?”
The Dark remained silent for a moment before responding, “Be glad, Two-Edge. You have made an excellent Teacher of Trolls! You have groomed them well, as their hearts have become pure!
“Among the Elves, thoughts can be heard among all or some. It is a skill they have honed and maintained, but only a few can touch souls, and fewer still can hear their own hearts, much less others. I have become gifted to listen to hearts, to see what others cannot see in themselves, the part that they may be blind to. Those who are helpless and distraught can call out with their heart and I can hear them, and I aid them as I can. This is how I have come to you in your times of need. I can see these two and know you have taught them well, beyond anything you may have hoped. I hope you will see them again some day.
You can see why I feel this is necessary and how it should be! They are alone in their plight, and they call to me even now! They are the last two I can aid, will you allow me to finish my work?”
Two-Edge sensed that The Dark already knew his answer. He could not argue with this without becoming the beast he fought! He wished he could cling to this hero, the one who could tell me who he really is! “Before I let you go with them” he said almost begrudgingly “tell me who I am! You say you can see it, my heart I fight with and push away! Put me at peace! Pull me from this mire mother pushed me into! Who am I, WHAT AM I?”
The form now seemed to have a small sad smile. “You know these answers yourself but push them away for your games. You do not wish me to tell you the truth, but what you wish to hear. Fear not, for I will not lessen the pleasure of your Game by telling you things you do not wish to know.
“As for who and what you will become, no soul but time can solve that riddle.”
*hugs Two-Edge much* poor guy.... He's a good guy in disguise
You write him soooo well!!!!
I enjoyed and I'm joining faeriegirl - feeling with Two-Edge so much. I hope we will see him whole and sain (and alive!) at the end of the Final Quest.
You revealed The Dark without revealing his identity. Now I don't know whether I'm displeased because part of my curiosity stays unsatisfied ... or whether I'm glad you have something to our imagination. Guess I'm like The Dark remaining in the shadows, making my thoughts play with possibilities.
A beast-like elf of no specific race, tied to the world - you know what I'm thinking of? Even the line about "loosing his self" makes sense. That would be a surprising solution for another torn creature!
As for the mentioned Troll device - cannot help to picture the sarcophagus from Stargate
I could go on and on about my thoughts on the whole thing, I've been over it and over it with myself as well. There are a couple reason I've left it open, partly, as you mentioned, to leave it up to the reader (I enjoy the frustration myself at times as well), and partly because I've rough outlined a few other stories that may touch on things later. I had forgotten about the sarcophagus from Stargate, but yeah, that's funny! And Embala, I have a hunch you might have stumbled on the origional thought I had for the Dark's background, I just haven't figured out if it's going to fit yet, so I haven't commited myself to it yet.
Thanks again for the complements! Did you also see the tie to this month's entry?
Of course I do
but as I get it so far ... and especially with my suspicion about the possible identity of The Dark ... I have a slight problem with the timeline - well, it's more a black hole ...
Every cloud has a silver light – part 2
Short blonde hair fell on his forehead and Treestump stood absolutely still while he stared. Both his hands hung at his sides, twitching as if trying to break free from his will and snatch the screams out of loose air. He blinked, but said nothing. What was there to say? He could only stare, along with all the others that had gathered in the stable. And while they stared, wheaten bangs were quickly colored with dark brown wet stripes that draped the drenched forehead, hung in front of the eyes unopened. A yell tore its way out of his throat. His face pale and his teeth clenched, he looked like he would fall over any second. Pearls of sweat ran down his face, dripping from his chin and onto the ground below, doing nothing to ease the pain.
A strangled gasp escaped his lips and he unconsciously tilted his head backwards, crying out in pain. His pale hands, now stained with blood, twitched and trembled, their grip on the ground gave him no solace, and he gritted his teeth. His arms shaking from exhaustion, he tried to push himself up, but quickly abandoned the effort. He jerked away from the pain, only to have it increased. A truncated scream was wrenched from his throat and he fell back against the wall, his breathing ragged and shallow.
Breathe in. Breathe out. In. Out. In. Out.
That was all he concentrated on now. Breathing. How much longer he would be able to do that, was a thought he pushed to the back of his mind.
Everything was dark. A black pool of loneliness. A need to fight back took her, bu
... that's awesome, Tenderfoot! You have love and secrets, emotion and suspense, hope and dispair - two battles for life, one full of emotion, the other as cryptic as it can be!
You can't leave us back with TWO cliffhangers - no, you mustn't! And I want to know who this elfen family is ... once more I have no clue ...???
*wipes brow* finally got around to reading this!!
And you make me want to quote Embala!!! You mustn't leave us like this!!! Not with TWO cliff-hangers!! Poor Woodlock... Let him live through it!! And the little girl... Whoever could she be??? But let her live, too!!
This was awsome Tenderfoot!!! Loved everything!! And you make me want to quote Embala and faeriegirl!!! Two cliffhangers!!
Very good story! I am really enjoying this fleshing out of Woodlock and Rainsong.