Fantasy where heroes don't follow the rules
Paragon Forgotten Chapter 11
Dwarves, affluent in addition to their instinctive, inflated nature, claim, among all other boasts, that they, aside from harvesting gems the size of dragon heads (unverified), also invented time. Their wrongful credit arrives from their invention of a light-sensitive metal plate that expands and contracts depending on atmospheric light output that they prematurely slapped their unimaginative trademark “time-plate” label onto and force-fed this misfortune to the innocent. Kindred could endure this indigestion, if not for the science proving the time-plate is little else useful than eating off of…
- Commentary on “The Eloshonna Year” by Kylyl Ayon, dated 13th of Pegasi, year 2,820
Image by Idella Cutler
The knightlord burst into Torc Thoraus’ office. “Torc, there’s an emergency needing your immediate attention.”
Thoraus looked up from his stack of papers and removed his glasses. Heart racing, he stepped into the corridor, walking in brisk step beside the knightlord.
“A Dark Elf came to the courtyard gate with a girl in her custody demanding to speak with you,” the knightlord briefed. “We don’t know what the Dark Elf wants, but she threatened to kill the girl if she did not speak with you this instant.”
“Undergod’s demons. Any idea what she wants? Who is the girl?”
“The Dark Elf has only so far expressed to speak to you. I did not see myself who the girl is.”
They hurried along the vaulted, carpeted corridors, falkons in his employ flying overhead as they delivered messages throughout the castle. Massive pillars and thick walls, though prettily draped, only masked the impenetrable fortress beneath.
They walked out the heavy double doors and down the shallow, rippling steps. Though still at the other end of the courtyard and outside the barred gate, Thoraus noted first the blue-scaled, four-legged atrocity bearing the weight of a black-cloaked Dark Elf. What appeared to be dense black smoke oozed up from all four of its hooves.
A girl was slung over the animal’s shoulders. Her fall of long black hair covered her head and burnt-gold face. She lifted her head and her hair parted, a red rash of fear and sorrow staining her wet cheeks.
Thoraus’s heart seized with a slash of pain.
“Ne…Neleci!” He sprinted the rest of the way across the courtyard which seemed to lengthen the harder he ran, his shoes slapping the stone path in sync with the knightlord’s heavy boots beside him. “Neleci!”
Five Knightlords stood outside the gate, surrounding the Dark Elf and his daughter. Why aren’t they killing the Dark Elf? Why aren’t they getting my daughter away from it? He would vault over that gate and kill the Dark Elf with his bare hands.
The gate opened. “Let her go!” he demanded in a monstrous, ragged tone. “Kill the Dark Elf!” he commanded of the Knightlords surrounding both Neleci and Dark Elf.
The knightlord running beside Thoraus ground to a halt and grabbed the torc with unbalancing force.
“What are you doing?” Thoraus fought to wrench himself out of the knightlord’s grasp.
“Torc, we can’t kill the Dark Elf. Look behind her.”
Thoraus did so. A second Dark Elf - a male - kneeled behind her, left hand hovering mere inches above the cobble street, palm glowing as red as flayed skin.
Kingdom clerics received R’th from their chosen god, but it appeared the god the Dark Elves worshiped also provided them with R’th since R’th can only be manipulated and gifted to mortals by the gods. If the Dark Elf pressed his glowing red hand on the cobblestone, the R’th within would call forth the sightless Darken Nation who would surge into Malandore and slaughter everyone without question and recede underground before another realm could respond in rescue.
A single press of his hand.
The female Dark Elf bearing his daughter spoke in accented Eloshian, unnecessarily stressing the ‘t’ or omitting it altogether. “Human Torc, this is my hos’age.”
Nothing in Thoraus’s fourteen years of rule prepared him for this encounter, not with a Dark Elf at his gate, not with his daughter as a hostage, and not with kindred witnessing how he’d handle his anxiety. He wouldn’t kill the Dark Elf because of her insurance hovering his red hand behind her. Pushing his emotions as far back as he could, he grabbed hold of the only tool left to save his daughter: diplomatic negotiator.
Fear pounding in his throat, he charged into this conflict with six words. “Why have you taken her hostage?”
“To gain god-whoring Kingdom compliance.”
God-whore…the only reason the Dark Elves refused invitation to the Kingdom, pursued violence, in fact, because the Kingdom worshiped many gods, but the Dark Elves only worshiped one.
“Compliance?” Thoraus would not take his gaze off Neleci who pled silently with her own.
“My kin want ‘o walk safe above ground. I ‘ake this god-whore as my hos’age. She live in my realm one year-”
Neleci screamed, wriggling hard enough to unseat her until the Dark Elf grabbed a fist-full of her long black hair, her sobs drowned under the Dark Elf’s compassion-less voice.
“-she stay alive, only if you hurt no more Nigh’ Kindred when above ground.”
“It’s your kindred who come above ground who hurt us!” His diplomacy melted with every tear Neleci shed in desperate hope he would talk his way through this. “Killing us for our religious beliefs different than your own.”
“That no’ our goal with hos’age. We promise no hurt any in your mouwi Kingdom so long you promise like.”
“You don’t need a hostage for that. I make that promise right now. I swear it by penalty of death.”
“Word no’ enough, Human Torc. Need all Kingdom ‘o obey, so will be your power alone ‘o convince them. I know she your daugh’er. I ‘ake her as my hos’age because with her in my custody, I know you convince all Kingdom ‘o stay their hands against Nigh’ Kindred for the safety of daugh’er.”
What should I do? What should I do? No time to think, figure out how to pull his daughter out of Dark Elf custody without sacrificing the lives in Malandore by the red hand hovering inches above his street. The truth tore into him deeper than a dragon’s claw, shredding open a trench so wide not even the Paragons could close it.
He was going to lose his daughter.
Neleci’s tearful gaze widened as she realized her doom.
“Take me hostage,” Thoraus said.
“No, torc.” The knightlord who’d come into his office bringing his terrible news stepped between him and the Dark Elf. “The Knightlords won’t allow it.”
“It’s my choice!”
“Too many obligations rely on you, an obligation you swore to uphold when you took the title. Leaving your title without the proper instructions for your replacement will destabilize the Human Realm.”
“You will all die as traitors to my realm if you stop me!”
“We serve the interests of our realm,” the knightlord reminded with impossible patience. “You forget we do not serve the interests of you.”
Rabid with hate rivaling the Undergod, Thoraus leapt forward, reaching to grab his daughter’s bound wrists and pull her into the safe embrace of his arms. The knightlord reacted faster and grabbed his middle, swinging him around, a second knightlord dashing to assist.
“The red hand!” the knightlord shouted in Thoraus’ ear. “If you attack he’ll kill everyone in Malandore!”
Why do both Paragons allow this evil R’th to exist? Encroached the question as Thoraus’ reached for an answer, a cure, a blame. Did the Paragons create it? Why? The beings who created Mortal Earth could have created anything, and instead they created hate, and death, and fear.
“Don’t take my daughter!” Cursing both Paragons a moment before, he begged their favor now. They granted no favor, but a reminder: The Dark Elf didn’t have to ride into his realm between the hostilities of those who’ve killed her kin for less offense. The Dark Elf could’ve killed Neleci and brought her body back as a warning instead of a threat. Maybe the next torc would think of better words convincing nations to drop ancient hostilities.
An audience had gathered in front of his gate and watched his display, but he didn’t care, reduced to begging because the Paragons had created that, too.
“I will bring daugh’er every month,” the Dark Elf said above the blood pounding in Thoraus’ ears, “So you see her health and know we keep our promise.” The Dark Elf drew a black dagger from her belt which strangely did not reflect light and held it to the girl’s throat. “No follow us.” Using her knees, the Dark Elf turned her animal around.
“I want to talk to my daughter! Let me talk to my daughter!”
“Father! Help me!”
The Dark Elf’s male companion mounted his own identical animal. The pair galloped unmolested down the street. Out of Malandore.