Friday, November 2, 2012

Notebook: The Enchantress

I present yet another part of the Maric di Ascalon cycle. Chronologically, this takes place a few years after "The Swordmaster" and in collection will probably sit afterwards too. I'd also like to take a moment to point out that these are in no way final versions and a lot is subject to change. I'm just of the school of thought that perfection isn't everything; I want you, my dear reader, to enjoy the journey of writing these stories as much as I am.
Morgan Le Fay and the Lady of the Lake were both inspirations for this character.

The Enchantress

By Blake Tan

Cold winds encircled the restless band waiting by the edge of the vast lake, shivering despite the layers of wool and fur they wore. They were a ragged bunch, some still bearing the tattered badges of lords they had served or free companies they had fought for, but their eagerness was palpable, despite the supernatural chill that saturated the night air.

“Better be worth it, Quenton,” grumbled one of the mercenaries, shoving their prisoner onto his knees by the banks of the lake. “The bastard killed seven of ours before we could take him alive. Might’ve got more of us too, if not for Elgearne’s shot.”

The band’s leader, Quenton vyr Theiss, a broad-shouldered bear of an Ostian, gave the captive a solid smack on the back of the head. “He’ll be worth it; the king wants this whoreson alive. I reckon he’s in for a worse fate than a hanging or a beheading.”

“Think they’ll kill him slow?” another man asked, picking his crooked teeth.

“He did murder your prince,” said Elgearne, the silver-haired elf, slim and tall, leaning on his bow apart from the group. “It is likely Richard di Aquila will extend his revenge for as long as he can before the outlaw is granted the peace of death.”

King Richard to you, elf,” Quenton spat.

“Not my king, mortal,” the elf retorted, blue eyes like hazy ice sharpening into glacial spear-points.

Their prisoner mumbled something through his gag, further garbled by the sack over his head. Quenton cuffed him again. “Hold your tongue, you lousy shit, or I’ll cut it out.”

A fog rose from the lake, spreading over the banks like a colorless blanket. Even Gared, the man standing closest to Quenton, seemed blurred, wraith-like. Elgearne straightened, his knife-sharp senses aware of something the mortals could not begin to grasp. Like all his kindred, Elgearne had been born with an innate grasp of the magic that pervaded the spheres. It was in his blood, in all elves’ blood, though not all sought to perfect the Art. But the humans – they were blind to it, save for the hapless few born with the Talent, who were more like children playing with fire than the great mages they pretended to be. He nocked an arrow, peering into the mist.

Quenton noticed the change in the elf’s manner: the subtle shift of weight on his feet, the creak of the bowstring as the sinew was pulled taut. His hand went to the sword at his belt, paused, and instead went to the wire-wrapped hilt of the black iron blade on his opposite hip. It was rumored dwarf-made iron, tempered in the hot flames of the dragonforge, was impervious to spellcraft. The thick-necked Ostian hissed at his companions.

“Careful, lads,” he warned. “She’s coming.”

Uthor Morgansen, the gangly Eaddic swordsman in their company, scratched his ear, spitting up a glob of mucus. “You stupid lot actually believe in the Enchantress? I thought she was some kind of Ostian myth cooked up to scare your village brats.”

Gared shoved him. “She’s real, shit-for-brains! I seen her in Meridia ‘fore I was thrown out of the city guard. She’s the king’s wife.”

“Not his wife,” Quenton corrected his comrade. “His consort. They never married. But Gared is right – when she’s not in the capital, she stays here in Loc Caladhon.”

“I hear the locals worship her and sacrifice their children to her,” another man added.

“Bah! She steals the children, little girls especially,” Gared said. “A priest o’ Kynes told me that virgin blood can give a witch the look o’ youth if she knows the proper rituals.”

Quenton clutched the shield icon of Kynes, the Martyred Lord, hanging around his neck. It was a simple talisman, polished ebony with an inset garnet, given to him by the same Kynesian cleric, promising divine protection. While Quenton doubted it had actually played a role in his survival up to that point, he didn’t mind any additional safeguards, especially when it came to sorceresses.

“Be brave, lads. Steel is the best defense against sorcery,” he reassured the men, patting the hilt of the dragonforged blade at his belt.

“Aye, ‘cept when your sword melts in your hand or the witch turns you into a frog!” protested Gared.

Elgearne let out a dry, humorless laugh. These humans would believe anything – but how could he really blame them? They were such short-lived creatures, it was a wonder they could even make the crudest shelter or temper steel. The mercenaries glanced at the lone elf; some, thinking perhaps that one of the firstborn would know how to counter witchcraft, sidled closer. He stepped away from the group, his gray elvencloak becoming part of the fog, and he vanished.

“Where’d the elf go?” Uthor grunted, glancing about anxiously.

“Leave him,” Quenton ordered. “If Elgearne doesn’t claim his share of the bounty, then it’s his own damn fault.”

Their prisoner wriggled where he knelt, pulling at his bindings, but Gared stopped him, putting the edge of his dagger against his throat. “I thought we told you to shut it.”

The prisoner tried to reply through his gag. Gared reached under the hood and pulled the gag free. “What’d you say to me?”

“I said,” the prisoner answered, clearing his throat, “I said, ‘I know, but I don’t speak dog.’”

Gared struck him with the hilt of his dagger. The prisoner grunted, falling over. A bloodstain started to spread across the burlap sack over his head.

“Have a care, mortal,” Elgearne’s voice emanated from the mist. “He’s no use to me dead.”

“Where’d you go, you pointy-eared bastard?” Gared roared, brandishing his dagger at the formless shapes surrounding them. “Quit prancin’ about in the fog like a coward!”

A chill passed over the sellsword, as if Aes was kissing him with her icy lips though his cloak did not move. Gared shivered, his arm falling limply to his side, numb fingers dropping the dagger. He looked around, seeing the rest of the band in similar states. Uthor had dropped to one knee, heaving clouds of steam with every breath.

“Wha – What’s happenin’?” Gared muttered, tripping over the words, his tongue heavy and sluggish.

The sellsword’s vision wavered in the hazy moonlight; he blinked. The mists parted like a vast curtain, rolling fog dividing to allow a lone figure to cross the lake. She stepped across the surface of Loc Caladhon, each step rippling out across the motionless water, as if the waves ceased their labors in homage of her. Her gown was silvery-green, embroidered with golden thread. Around her waist she wore a girdle so finely-crafted that it had to be elvish-made, and in the center of it, above her navel, was inset a lustrous, crystal-clear gem that seemed to swirl with color.

When she trod on the beach, Gared and the other men still standing felt their legs surrender to her majesty, falling prone. Uthor whimpered, averting his eyes in the sleeve of his tunic. The lady’s face was hidden behind the veil of her wimple so that only her bright green eyes showed, fierce with an ethereal fire.

“You have succeeded in your quest, Sir Quenton.” Even her voice was filled with power.

“Milady, beg pardon, but I’m no knight,” the mercenaries’ leader said. Unlike his comrades, Quenton resisted the sorcery, the weaving of enchantment that had been laid upon the rest of the band. He gripped the hilt of the dwarvish blade tighter, silently thanking all the gods.

“Perhaps not, but your victory this day may earn you the right. I shall speak to the king on your behalf,” the Enchantress replied, placing a slender, milky hand on Quenton’s cheek.

A mocking laugh escaped the prisoner’s mouth from where he laid. “I’m sure Richard will give you a keep and lands to call your own too. Gods, maybe he’ll even give you a wife.”

Quenton moved to silence the whoreson, but the Enchantress stopped him, putting her hand on his shoulder. He swallowed, bowing his head. She strode over to the prisoner, whispering an incantation, and the prisoner was righted up by an unseen force. The Enchantress removed the hood.

“Lucretia,” the prisoner spoke through bruised lips, “how nice to see you again. How’s the king? As impotent as ever?”

The Enchantress smiled beneath her veil, pushing his matted, curly locks out of his face to peer into those angry, golden orbs of his.

“Maric di Ascalon. Welcome to my humble home.”


The mindless thrall, his glazed eyes unblinking, shambled over to Maric’s cell. He still wore the crude iron owl of Horrgenhall pinned to his threadbare surcoat, but there was no man left inside that pitiful shell. His jailor set down the tray of steaming food and nudged it towards the prisoner.

Maric reached through the bars and sniffed the bowl of porridge cautiously. He smelled cinnamon and a hint of saffron. He tossed it back at the thrall, spilling hot gruel all over the ensorcelled man. His jailor didn’t flinch, not even as red burns began to swell on his face. The mind-slave picked up the wooden bowl, set it back on the tray, and slid it back to Maric.

“You might have misunderstood me the first time, but I’m not hungry,” he said to his jailor. “But, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d love to get out of this cell.”

The thrall stared at him dully. Maric shrugged, turning away and pacing across his cell. It was small, barely large enough to take five steps before hitting damp stone. In the corner there was a bed of straw and a bucket that smelled like the cell’s last tenant had died of rotgut. Maric pulled the ragged remnant of his cloak tighter around him, sucking in the pallid air.

“Enjoying yourself, Maric?”

He whirled around to find Lucretia of the Lake standing on the other side of the bars, her veil undone, a radiant smile beaming at him. The Enchantress had not aged a day since Maric fled Meridia a decade ago, leaving a trail of bloody knights and fool guardsmen behind him. She was every bit as beautiful as he remembered, and still as dangerous as ever.

“The accommodations aren’t what I expected, especially not from the legendary Lady of the Lonely Tower,” Maric replied, looking around the cell. “Where’s the sorcerous fire lighting the torches? The wailing of your tortured victims echoing down the hall? It’s all a bit ... mundane.”

“You shouldn’t believe all the stories you hear in the tavern,” Lucretia said.

“Right. I was very disappointed when I found out that the Beast of Mordenfield was just some lord’s bloodthirsty, mutant dog instead of the hellhound from the beyond the spheres like the fat innkeeper swore,” he said, shrugging. “Of course, it didn’t matter what it was exactly. The damned thing still ripped apart half the village children before I finally found it and put it out of its misery.”

“Spare me the stories, Maric. You’re as much of a legend as I am – a lowborn sellsword, an outlaw, escaping the king’s justice for near a dozen years. A merchant say you were at one place, but another man claims he saw you elsewhere. A soldier says he saw you die, another tells it that you wrestled Janus’ reaper until he let you go free,” the sorceress said. “Is any of it true? Any of it at all?”

“You shouldn’t believe all the stories you hear in the tavern.”

The Enchantress laughed, her pealing voice bouncing off the stone walls. “At least the years have done nothing to dull your wit.”

“The wit is the sword of the mind, and I’ve never been one to let my swords be anything but sharp,” Maric replied. “So, what is to be done with me?”

She waved her hand and the iron bars rippled, bending apart with the supple grace of branches, and she stepped into the cell. A spell arrested Maric before he could react, his muscles petrified, and he was lifted off his feet and slammed against the far wall. Lucretia came close enough that he could smell the lily blossoms in her dark raven hair.

“Richard’s bounty on your capture is almost a hundred gold pieces. That’s enough coin to buy a lordship in any kingdom in the Northern Realms,” Lucretia said. “There isn’t a single man in Osternmark who wouldn’t risk their life for such a prize – even if it meant fighting you.”

“So that’s it? You’re in it for the gold?” he asked, barely able to choke out the words. “What’s a sorceress need with that much gold?”

“I am no man, Maric.”

“Oh, well, I never questioned that.”

Lucretia pursed her lips, leaning in to whisper into his ear. Her breath, warm and sweet, a tempting comfort from the smell and cold damp of the dungeon, tickled his neck.

“I want you, Maric di Ascalon.”

He coughed, struggling against his magical restraints. “Me? I don’t see what you’d want with a dirty sellsword like me. Don’t you already have a king?”

“And what a splendid king he is. I could not ask for a better husband – he’s a powerful ruler, his subjects tremble for fear of his wrath, and he is loyal. Richard hasn’t taken another woman to his bed save for me for nearly twenty years. It is a pity that we cannot marry in truth. Oh, what would the lords of Osternmark say if their king, even a king as fearsome as Richard, were to take a sorceress for a wife!”

Lucretia stepped back from Maric, a wicked smile on her face. Her hand, her touch tender as the kiss of a feather, slid down his filthy tunic until she stopped at his groin. White fingers delicately, lewdly worked at the lacing of his breeches.

“I am always in need of great men in my service,” she whispered, “not thralls, not these mindless husks, but a man.”

“You shouldn’t keep breaking your toys then,” Maric retorted. For all her beauty and her alluring proposition, he felt more like a field mouse being toyed with and stalked by a cat. Except this cat was a lioness. A sorcerous lioness.

“These men aren’t worthy,” Lucretia said. “Thieves, rapists, murderers – the whole lot of them. Even the noble knights sworn to serve the realm are no better. But you, Maric, you are like a prince, like a god among savages.”

Maric blinked. “I’ve done my fair share of thieving and murdering. I’m no better than any lot of soldiers. There’s not a single drop of noble blood in these veins; my mother was a whore in Arsuf.”

“Asahel the Elf-King named you elf-friend,” the Enchantress shot back. “Aev’vai. No mortal still alive can claim such an achievement.”

“Wrong place, right time,” he said dismissively.

Lucretia grabbed a fistful of Maric’s tunic, yanking him toward her. “I need a man like you. Your loyalty, your skill, your spirit. With it, I can accomplish goals I could never hope to with a tool as brutish as the king. Richard is my hammer; you would be my dagger, my weapon for more delicate ends.”

“And what ends are those? You plan on making yourself queen of all the North?”

She laughed contemptuously. “Nothing as modest as that, my dear Maric.”

“What then?”

“Imagine,” the Lady of the Lonely Tower said, her green eyes growing dreamy, “imagine a world where women could be free.”

Lucretia stepped away from her prisoner, crossing her arms, her head tilted, losing herself in her thoughts. “Long ago, I was just a girl. Like all girls, I loved my father. But I was the bastard daughter of a Dionite priest sworn to celibacy. He sold me to pay his debts and so he could pretend I never existed.”

“The Dolgrim Morag used me as a whore in their brothel in Salianburg. All I could hope for in life was to live long enough to become a withered old crone shunned by my neighbors. But then, Morcar the Mage stepped into my brothel. When I serviced him that night, he saw the spark of the Talent in me. He spirited me away, promising to teach me the Art so that I could become a powerful sorceress in my own right one day.”

“But Morcar was also a man. I was his apprentice, but also his very own personal whore. I studied sorcery with him and bore the burden of a lecherous old man slipping into my cot every night. When I learned all I could, I slit his throat after he spilled his seed on my belly.”

Lucretia held open her arms, as if to embrace the air. “I perfected my Art, claimed Tol Llenavir, this place the elves once hid their power, and now I have a king dancing to my whims.”

She turned to him, her eyes ablaze with mystical power. Her voice, infused by her magic, filled the cell, layered voices like many voices speaking at once.

“I will reshape this world. I will right the balance. Vile man will submit to woman, and we will be free,” Lucretia of the Lake proclaimed.

With a flick of her wrist, she released him from his restrained position against the wall. Maric slid down into a sitting position, rubbing his wrists. The Enchantress, the ethereal glow fading from her eyes, knelt before him, wrapping her arms around his head.

“You are not like them, Maric. You have in you a gentle heart, beneath the scars, beneath the pain,” Lucretia whispered. “Join me, please, and we will avenge what was done to your beloved Liriel.”

Maric tensed at the mention of his long-dead wife, the immortal elf-maid ripped from his arms by the violent appetites of men at war. The sorceress felt his reaction, stroking his matted hair, hugging him. He wriggled loose.

“I think I’ll pass,” Maric said.

Lucretia grew unnaturally still. Silently, she rose, stepping away from him. Then, whipping her hand, she slashed his face with her uncurled fingers. “I offer you the world, dog. And you think you can just reject me?”

“I like my women simple and, preferably, not crazy and not a sorceress,” he replied.

“You have one night to reconsider your answer,” the Enchantress said coldly. “If you persist, you will find I have other uses for you.”

She gestured to the mute jailor, unmoving on the other side of the bars. “I had hoped not to waste your skill or your mind, but I will not hesitate to break you, if I must.”

Lucretia of the Lake turned, leaving him in his cell, the bars returning to their original, rigid shape, and disappeared up the stairs out of the dungeon. Wincing, Maric touched his face, where her nails had left bloody lines. He turned to the empty jailor.

“Charming woman.”


The jailor doused all the torches in the dungeon, plunging Maric into complete darkness. Without even the trifling heat of the torchlight, the prison felt more oppressive. The damp air grew damper, the cold stone grew colder. Shivering, Maric rubbed his hands together, breathing into them. The husk stood, statue-like, in front of the cell, dull eyes staring straight ahead.

Suddenly, the enthralled jailor slumped forward, like a marionette freed from its strings. Maric shot up. Even in the near-total darkness, he recognized the familiar figure standing in the thrall’s place – tall, slim, his shape blurred by a gray elvencloak.

“About time,” he said to Elgearne.

The elf thrust his hand through the cell bars. “Do you have it?”

“Let me out first. I’m not going to rot in here while you run off,” Maric replied.

Elgearne knelt, rummaging through the dead jailor’s pockets. After a few precious minutes, Maric expecting more of Lucretia’s pets to come running down the stairs, the elf found the keys, jangling them as he unlocked the door. Maric almost leapt out of the cell, sucking in the air of freedom and realizing it still tasted exactly the same – piss, sweat, and shit. The elf stopped him with the point of a white dirk held threateningly over his heart.

“The aman’crys,” Elgearne said, pressing the dagger.

Maric held up his hands. “I’ve got it, I’ve got it. It wasn’t easy, mind you, but I got it.”

“I heard it all, human. You took your time with it – I was afraid you were going to mate with the witch in that cell,” the elf said, his angled brow curling with disgust.

“It’s delicate work, Elgearne. It’s been almost two hours and she hasn’t noticed it yet,” Maric said, reaching into a pocket sewn into his cloak, “though we do have to get out of here before Lucretia actually tries to channel any significant amount of power through that fake gem. She’ll find out and it won’t be pretty.”

He produced the soul gem, the aman’crys the elves called it, plucked from the sorceress’ girdle and replaced with a worthless bit of rock. Well, it hadn’t been totally worthless – Countess Carolyn di Montavere would surely miss that particular diamond. Maric had removed it from her wedding band.

Elgearne gently took the crystal gem, its depths swirling with color. He closed his eyes for a moment. From what Maric had gleaned aman’crys were memory stones once used by the elves before their Fall to preserve the life force of their dead. They were highly prized, sought after by mages for their properties in augmenting their own magical power. Maric thought the whole affair a little disturbing; let the dead rest in Janus’ halls, not imprisoned in some rocks so sorcerers could use them.

“This is truly it, the aman’crys of Tol Llenavir,” Elgearne said, opening his eyes. “Now, my kindred can be one with the People again.”

“Glad you’re pleased. Now, can we get out of this place? I’ve spent too much time here already,” Maric said. “I might even get a cold.”

The elf nodded, pocketing the gem, and then flipping the white elvish dagger, handed the weapon to Maric. “A good blade and a fitting gift for an aev’vai.”

“I had two of them.”

Elgearne grinned sheepishly, giving Maric the other dagger. “You are correct.”

“I never liked being unarmed,” Maric said, strapping the knives to his belt. “Always felt like being naked in a blizzard.”

As they went for the exit, Maric paused, wrinkling his brow, looking at the elf. “Wait, how long have you been here?”

The elf shrugged. “I enter unnoticed by the mindless ones when they dragged you in. I have been in meditation in one of the far cells since.”

Maric stared at him wordlessly.

“So you’re telling me you could have stepped in at any point? You could have snuck up on Lucretia and smashed her over the head and we could have just grabbed the gem and went?”

“Your instructions were clear,” Elgearne replied. “I was not to interfere until the sorceress departed. I did protest when you initially proposed the plan, but you quite vehemently insisted that I would ‘mess it up.’”

Maric sighed, shaking his head. “Next time we plan on robbing a mage in their tower, feel free to improvise.”

“As you wish,” Elgearne said. “In truth, I did not think this ploy would work, but you have proven yourself both cunning and trustworthy, Maric di Ascalon.”

“Don’t go telling every elf that. Next time I run into any of your wandering bands, I might find myself helping out a dozen pointy-ears,” he replied, “and one is more than enough.”

They reached the top of the stairs, skipping over crumbling stone and vine-covered walls, and pushed open the door to the tower’s main chamber. The torches here were still lit, illuminating a broad space of latticed stone, dotted with elegantly curved spires. Piles of rubble and ruined furnishings, perhaps decades if not centuries old, littered the room.

Both elf and man sensed movement in the shadows, their blades emerging just as a score of men, their empty gazes unblinking, myriad of weapons brandished, came spilling out of the dark. Elgearne became a blur of motion, his curved elvish sword a flurry of slashes and cuts, mindless thralls dropping around him two at a time. Though he could never be as fast as the elf, Maric held his own, even with only the paired daggers at his disposal.

He ducked clumsy swings, countering with deadly stabs, dancing around his foes. While the thralls were numerous and unthinkingly fearless, they fought mechanically, stabbing and chopping. Maric slipped past a spear meant for his gut, splintering it with a jab of his elbow, and then slashing across the wielder’s wrists, forcing it to drop its weapon. He smirked, turning around to find another foe, but the wounded thrall, not feeling pain, seized him, wrapping corded muscles around his neck. Blood dribbled down Maric’s front as he fought against the husk’s unyielding strength.

Maric elbowed it in the gut, knocked his head back to break its nose, yet still it wouldn’t release him. He choked back his anger, his fear, struggling to find control within. Despite the crushing embrace, the lack of air in his lungs, Maric stopped fighting, stopped struggling, and surrendered. Like water, he slid out of the thrall’s grip, slipping onto the floor. Then, he kicked his attacker in the knee, snapping bone and tendon. Before rising to his feet, Maric planted his dagger into the thrall’s brain, twisting it until the husk of a man stopped twitching.

Realizing the fight was over; Maric exhaled and saw the face of the thrall he had been grappling with, recognizing him as one of his captors. It was the stupid one, Gared, and despite their earlier conflict, Maric pitied the man. He whispered a prayer for him to Janus.

Elgearne, his cloak and supple mail splattered with blood, wiped his sword on the coat of one of the dead men. The elf saluted Maric with the blade before sheathing it. They would be out of this place soon.

“Maric! How dare you?”

The strident, flanged voice filled the chamber. His immediate reaction was to run, follow where his feet would take him until he collapsed of exhaustion, but Maric found his feet rooted to the ground, unwilling to move in spite of his willing for them to sprint. Elgearne found himself in similar conditions, paralyzed by some spell.

Maric looked toward the voice, sighing. So close, they were so close. Lucretia of the Lake, her eyes spitting green flame, swathed in aetheric energy, stood at the opposite end of the chamber. Beside her was Quenton vyr Theiss, scowling at them, and his hand at the sword on his belt. Maric’s gaze was drawn to that sword, his sword.

“How dare you?”

Both Maric and Elgearne flinched at the harsh, raw power of her ensorcelled voice, though Quenton seemed unfazed, gripping Anguish by the wire-wrapped hilt. Man and elf were both driven to their knees, clutching their ears with their hands. Warm blood dripped down past Maric’s fingers.

“I will not give you the mercy of death, dog,” the Enchantress wailed. “You and your elven companion will serve me as empty, mindless vessels for the rest of your miserable days!”

She opened herself to the mystical energies of the Aether, the tremendous vastness of power that spun all the spheres, channeling it into her. The gem in her girdle hummed, resonating with the magic, glowing white-hot. Lucretia’s eyes shot wide open, her face twisting in a snarling rictus, and then she was gone.

One moment, the Lady of the Lonely Tower stood, barely containing the sorcerous power she had gathered unto herself, and the very next, she was not. Only a surprised-looking Quenton remained, blinking as if doing so would banish the illusion. When he finally realized that Lucretia was gone, he roared and charged them. By then, Maric and Elgearne had composed themselves.

The Ostian’s bear-like strength and savage fighting style served him little against Maric di Ascalon. When Anguish descended on him in a mighty swing, Maric sidestepped the blow, spinning past Quenton. He reached around the Ostian’s neck, white blade flashing, and Quenton’s blood spilled onto the tower floor. Anguish clattered to the ground.

Maric bent down to retrieve his weapon, a faint rush of delight playing down his arm as he touched the hilt. Like finding an old friend. Elgearne strode over to the dead Ostian, kneeling next to him. His fingers pushed past the gruesome gash on the man’s throat to find the Kynesian icon. He tore it from Quenton’s neck.

“I suspected he had some talisman protecting him from sorcery,” the elf said, inspecting the amulet. “Little did I know that it was this piece of superstitious jewelry.”

He cracked the wooden shield, discarding the bits of ebony to reveal a crystal-clear shard embedded in the heart of the icon. Maric whistled.

“So we came here looking for your aman’crys and we end up finding two?” he exclaimed. “Guess the fortunes were with us today.”

Elgearne offered the shard to Maric. “This is but a piece of an aman’crys. Likely it was shattered by humans seeking to exploit its power. It is of no use to me or the People; the memories within are forever lost. But, it may be of use to you. Consider it a gift.”

He dropped the crystal shard into Maric’s palm. It was heavier than Maric expected, and warm, as if cooling after being dropped into an ore smelter. He nodded gratefully to the elf.

“Thank you for the gift, val’aev,” Maric said, addressing Elgearne by his title. “May your spirit give light to the sphere.”

“And yours as well, Maric di Ascalon,” Elgearne said, bowing low, lower than an elf would ever consider bowing to a mere mortal. “May your gods protect you, aev’vai.”

They parted ways beyond the great gates into Tol Llenavir, Elgearne setting his course northward for sacred places unknown to man, and Maric found his path – the same, dusty road he’d traveled for many years –and he let his feet take him where they willed.

No comments:

Post a Comment