Fantasy where heroes don't follow the rules
Image by Idella Cutler
Eloshonna races listed from the average shortest to the average tallest at the crown of the head in inches: falkon, ecthore, dwarf, droog, gryphon, pegasi, human, White Elf, Dark Elf, dusutri, dragon.
Unverified Race: Moon Elves
- On Kindredpology
Torc Thoraus buckled closed his bag.
“The falkon said no more?” his wife, Kessna, asked, seated in the chair across from his desk, legs crossed, pulling at her lip.
“Nothing more. But it’s no cause for concern, darling.” Though true, he had never been summoned to a Torc Council by a cleric.
By Cleric Shollomoon.
Sworn to serve the Goddess of Fate, Cleric Shollomoon never associated with the Kingdom unless some vague future would affect her own comfort if she did not. What future would upset the cleric’s comfort when she remained so detached from Kingdom troubles? The entire human race could fall into extinction, and she’d pull the covers over her head and resume her nap. Proven further when she planned this meeting to take place in Yl Elyuon — the most exotic of the three common-form cities.
But, being Fate’s Emissary, the Goddess of Fate likely sent her. Which further spiked his anxiety if the godhead needed to get involved.
Kessna stood as he approached. He kissed her, cradling his head in her neck, breathing vanilla. “I’ll tell you everything when I return.”
He shouldered the pack and walked out, navigating the castle corridors lit with the fresh sunlight filtering through the windows. The Knightlords emitted soft greetings. He took a detour, stopped in front of his daughter’s bedchamber door.
Thoraus considered taking her with him, but the falkon’s message stressed torc attendance only. Which further drove his worry into imaginative verdicts what the meeting would entail.
He walked on.
Five gryphons working under the Human Torc’s employ waited in a half-circle in the courtyard. One gryphon nipped at his rear lion paw with his large, hooked beak. All of them wore either saddles or carried bags and gear, fitted so as not to obstruct their feathered wings.
The stable hands turned away from their tasks and bowed. “Torc Thoraus.”
“Is everything ready?”
Thoraus mounted. The gryphons rose as one flock, three Knightlords occupying three of them, having discarded their steel armor for leathers to be lighter to carry. The early autumn sky burned orange, a ruby tint feathering the edges. Thoraus shivered, tying his cloak closed, and pulled the hood down.
They took two days reaching the Elven Realm. Gryphons didn’t need as much sleep as humans and stayed awake for longer stretches as a result. Having been long accustomed to sleeping in the saddle both riding and flying, Thoraus encouraged them to continue, as the falkon report from Shollomoon urged haste.
The entrance into the Elven Realm began at the mouth of a rocky canyon, heavy waterfalls pouring inside the canyon’s mouth. The gryphons flew over the chasm, the water’s thick rising mist enveloping them in cooling blooms. The forest, following the bridge, gushed on either side of the road, vibrant flowers contrasting with the lush, dark vegetation.
Falkons must have sent word ahead of his arrival because elf children ran out to wave as their shadows glazed over them.
Elves invented glass hundreds of years ago, and they’d fashioned it into bridges Thoraus did not trust to hold any weight. A horn bellowed from somewhere below from the marble cliffs surrounding the valley they approached. Houses, walkways, and stairs carved out of the marble cliffs crisscrossed and dangled like necklaces above the valley, flared with balconies protruding like platinum discs.
Enormous trees touched the tops of the high cliffs. Thick branches supported houses, reached by rope ladders and bridges from tree to tree.
The gryphons landed at the top of the wide, sweeping staircase reaching up to the city carved into the cliffs. Thoraus dismounted. An elf waited for him, reaching her hand to Thoraus who grasped it.
Torc Elyulara bowed her head to meet Thoraus’ eye. Tall and lean, elves often reminded Thoraus of trees. Gold trees, because of the metallic-like sheen of their long hair. She looked fantastic after giving birth thirteen days ago. Elves didn’t even look pregnant until their last month. They needed only seven months for gestation compared to humans who took nine.
The Knightlords dismounted in a flash of sun-glanced polished leathers and walked in a dignified order behind the two torcs, who talked in low mumbles with their heads bent.
Sunlight mirrored against stained glass windows on the buildings, morphing the airless beams into shimmering gold. They ascended the marble steps to the cliff buildings and more sylvan unrolled under Thoraus’s glance.
A different life thrived here, a life inviting more life to join it. Weightless, he decided, like nothing else mattered but the present day.
He panted by the time they reached the top of the stairs, stopping only when they reached a balcony.
The Elf Torc faced Thoraus, any thread of joy drained from her face. “All the torcs are here except for Clogen, but falkon report says he’ll arrive tomorrow night. He was notified first of the council. He’s been traveling non-stop for eight days now.”
“What is this about, Elyulara? Shollomoon summoned us here so you must know something.”
The elf looked away, but Thoraus caught the gentle pull of skin stretching her almond-shaped eyes. “Only that I fear history is repeating itself on my watch.”
Torc Clogen arrived last, having traveled from the Dwarven Realm – the furthest from Yl Elyuon. With hurried refreshment, the torcs gathered on the largest balcony clinging to the marble cliff, the dwarf still brushing road dust off him when they sat in a circle. Shollomoon stressed so much urgency, she bade Clogen to participate immediately and recover from his travels later.
Thoraus would’ve expected to be yawning at this late hour, but the anxiety in his chest he trusted all of them shared kept him restless. A female walked onto the balcony in gray robes. Unbidden, all ten torcs leaned back in their chairs as if increasing more distance from her.
Cleric Shollomoon eyed them all with equal measures of distaste. Her hair – always in a customary braid – fell smooth against her back tonight. Her white hair indicative of human age did not match her young face. She wouldn’t confess her age. She would also never betray her secret as to why she was the only one allowed to become a cleric to an Aspect God because, by divine rule, only Sovereign Gods employed clerics.
“Eloshian Torcs,” she began with eyes squinting with impatience, “Fate has sent me here with urgency to speak with you.”
Thoraus had frequented the same area as Shollomoon in the past, during the Holiday in Deep Winter and when she randomly appeared in Malandore and, on rare occasions, his castle, making Thoraus feel he was the one intruding. She had this uncanny habit of randomly appearing anywhere at any time, answering no one, pushing you aside if you got in her way. His Knightlords would find her walking the corridors, snooping in rooms, and then leave without explanation. Thoraus knew better than to demand one.
He’d been working on a word to describe her for so long now, and something in her tone tonight found it.
Apathy. And not the elven apathy of controlled emotions, rather, he got the feeling the world would blast into oblivion behind her, and she’d complain about the noise and keep walking.
“And under great duress,” she continued, “I inform you that a malintentive force has risen back onto Mortal Earth.” She clasped hands behind her back and paced the circle. “I have no time to ease you softly into this information, so follow along as quickly as you can. Before the R’th God Astorous vanished from Eternal Earth, he gifted a dream-making R’th to a baby. The baby grew into a malicious man who manipulated his Dream R’th to enable him to kill kindred minds instead. He earned himself a moniker called the Dreamer.
“The Dreamer believed one race above all others should be the King Race, claiming this race was direct descendants from the two Paragons and all other races needed to be subservient to the King Race. He started the Equality War with his theme. Due to the Dreamer’s R’th, he further subverted it and made himself immortal by living inside the Realm of Dreams. He attached his soul to an object lost since the Equality War. However, it has been found—”
“Stop,” the Gryphon Torc said. Whereas the Dragon Torc had transfigured into common to fit on the balcony, the Gryphon Torc maintained his born-body, his lion-like lower half resting on the floor, front eagle-like legs crossed. “What insanity is this? Calling us together, speaking of something I have never heard of in tones telling me to be warned.” His large, hooked beak swiveled to look at everyone in the circle. “Has anyone heard of this Dreamer?”
Murmurs of disagreement from every torc, even Thoraus, caused great strain on Shollomoon’s face.
The Gryphon Torc looked back at Shollomoon with large, blinking, yellow eyes. “No one has heard of this man and yet, if this Dreamer was so evil — according to you, was the single hand that started the Equality War — then how did his actions or name not carry down in history and we are just now hearing about it if it be real at all?”
“A fair question,” the Dwarf Torc voiced, along with several others.
“A woman whose name I keep knew the Dreamer during the Equality War.” The stress squinting Shollomoon’s eyes bolstered her patience, but Thoraus knew she didn’t have enough tokens to spend on it to last her the rest of this meeting. “After the Dreamer attached his soul to this object, this woman buried him so no one would find him, and then scoured every realm to scrub away every mention of him to prevent anyone from continuing his goal of making one race king over all the others.” Her tight posture tightened more. “Every realm but the droogs, Dark Elves, and dusutri. We suspect whoever found the Dreamer must have consulted their historical archives, but the problem remains,” she continued with slow aggression. “Fate wanted me to warn all of you that the Dreamer will continue his goal in making one race king over all the others. As he did in the past, he will use violence if we defy him.”
Thoraus struggled forcing the Dreamer into a reality he could digest. Learning about him in the same breath as his rumored villainy sounded unrealistic and far away, affecting another planet, the torcs asking questions with the same energy as if solving a riddle.
“What race did the Dreamer favor?” the Falkon Torc asked, talons clutching the marble banister.
Shollomoon looked at each of them. Thoraus watched the indecision to answer cross her face. Her eyes glinted with thousands of secrets no mortal would ever know. “We don’t know.”
“Why doesn’t Fate tell us where the Dreamer is so we can capture him? She sees every potential fate of everyone alive, right?”
“She sees fates, not minds. The Paragons prohibit anyone entering a mortal’s mind without invitation and the Paragons themselves emplaced an impenetrable block to prevent it.”
“Wait.” The Seadweller Torc raised a webbed hand. “You said yourself the Dreamer killed kindreds’ minds. If he can’t enter minds, how did he kill them?”
Shollomoon stopped pacing, tensing as she folded both arms, looking at the torcs, looking away, back, and for the first time since Shollomoon had been alive — Thoraus thought — she stuttered. “The—the Dreamer broke through that block.”
Sticky silence followed.
“How is that possible?” The Seadweller Torc straightened as if facing a tidal wave. “You said the Paragons — the creators of this world and life itself — emplaced a block to prevent minds from crossing.
How did this mortal, who not only, apparently, made himself immortal, figure out how to cross this block put in place by minds unfathomably more powerful than his?”
This bold question earned the support of everyone, and they burst into chatter and accusations.
“Silence!” Shollomoon cut in with more edge than a sword. “The Goddess of Fate is aware of this phenomenon, but she didn’t send me here to explain every nuance to you. She sent me here to warn you that the Kingdom could shatter because of the Dreamer’s goals to tear apart our equality structure.
You can either trust me, Fate, and my sources or don’t. I don’t care. Your choice won’t affect me either way. I’m here because Fate requires me, because she’s concerned and won’t permit my leave until I prepare you, and to explain the only way to kill the Dreamer.”
The torcs looked either at their feet or the sky.
“We’ll listen,” the Ecthore Torc said, his wolf-like snout swiveling. Like the Gryphon Torc, he laid on the balcony floor in his born-body, his long ears twitching away bugs attracted to his gray fur.
Shollomoon’s nostrils flared. “My information to prepare you will upset you and leave you with more questions I cannot answer, so I ask that you cling to your silence until I am finished.” She inhaled and released it. “I talked about the woman who buried the Dreamer and attempted to destroy all records of him.” Another inhale. Release. “She is also still alive.”
This new reveal unsettled restless feet, accompanying sighs and murmuring.
“She is working with Fate to stop the Dreamer. She does not know where the Dreamer is or who found him, but she knows the Dreamer is gaining strength which only happens when he feeds off dreams. I’ve already said the Dreamer made himself immortal, but she says there is a way to kill him.” Shollomoon spun her gaze around them as if filtering through the knowledge she did not want to betray. “Only the R’th God Astorous can kill him.”
“I’m not listening to this madness anymore.” The Dwarf Torc stood from his chair. Though a beard covered most of his face, his cheeks blazed. The torcs threw corner-eyed glances at each other. “I was willing to believe this unheard of, obscure man might have a glimmer of truth, but you’ve gone too far telling us this Dreamer overcomes the minds of Paragons, there’s a second kindred who made themselves immortal, and now only a lost god can kill the immortal Dreamer. Next time, write this story down and send it to me by falkon. I’ll have it bound into a book and given to the nursery for some fun reading.” His heavy sabatons clacked against the marble balcony as he walked off.
Shollomoon watched him, void of emotion. She looked back at the remaining eight torcs. “Anyone else?”
Thoraus sympathized with Dwarf Torc Clogen but remained in his seat because Shollomoon cared too much about her personal time and would not have gone out of her way to summon the torcs and then meet with them to tell them a grossly unverifiable story unless Fate forced or threatened her. That came with its own credibility.
No one else moved. The distant roar of the waterfalls reached them through the night.
“Continue,” the Ecthore Torc said.
“Astorous is the only one who can kill the Dreamer.” Shollomoon resumed pacing the balcony with an air warning she would keep talking despite further questions, statements, or interruptions. “However, Astorous can only kill him if the Dreamer has a body, which he doesn’t have right now. He’s only a soul which he attached to an object. But the more Dreams he consumes the stronger he’ll become and then he’ll be able to create himself a body.
“Astorous needs to wait for both this woman and the Dreamer to gain a body and kill them at the same time. Don’t ask questions as to ‘why’ because I won’t answer them. This is for your situational awareness only. You only need to trust that this woman and Astorous will complete this task at the exact moment they can. Now, what are your questions?”
“What is the Dreamer’s reach?” Thoraus asked. “Can he influence dreams across lands? Several kindred at once?” The more he asked the more he thought of. Dreams, apparently, wove an eternal spread of possibilities.
“The Dreamer can only influence dreams on one kindred at one time and only in proximity of them. As he gets stronger, he’ll be able to reach out further.” She looked around for the next question, but no one else spoke. Thoraus saw that the others either believed nothing she’d said or the questions they wanted to be answered most were the ones Shollomoon couldn’t (wouldn’t?) answer.
Satisfied no one asked anything else, Shollomoon nodded primely. “The torcs need to concentrate on making sure the Dreamer does not cause contention between you and the realms. The Dreamer favored one race above all the others. While he still had a body, he fought to make one race king over the other races, killing everyone who refused to accept his claims. Do well to trust he’ll try again. Do not despair when you find out what realm he favors. Instead, focus your efforts on locating the Dreamer and put him away in a place where he cannot feed off anyone’s dreams until Astorous is ready to kill him. Fate pleads with you all to stay united in this.” She spun and stalked off the balcony in abrupt departure beneath the steady gold glow of R’th light.
The torcs rose, stretching, speaking of hot baths, steaming elven food, laughing, and anything else unrelated to the dark news brought to them tonight.
Thoraus laughed with them even while a hot nub of anxiety twisted in his chest. While the others shrugged off the possibility of the Dreamer favoring their realm, Thoraus felt obligated to own it. Ten years ago he thought it an isolated case when a human man whose name he would never forget, decided humans were the “pure race” — whatever that meant — and attracted other like-minds to motivate that belief.
He kidnapped a falkon. Put her in a cage alongside the caravan road with a note explaining this would be the fate of those who did not worship their human kings. Since the falkon suffered no permanent harm, the kidnapping punishment dropped to disinheritment — forever disowned from the Kingdom and all nine realms with a “kill on sight” order authorized for anyone to take.
And now, hearing those same echoes tonight not only verified the validity of Shollomoon’s story but stoked the hot fear inside Thoraus that his realm, the humans, had found the Dreamer.