I trudge through the mud, the rain pounding on the back of my head. My brain is cluttered with bits of memories, flashbacks, and pieces of stray thoughts. I just want to forget. I need to forget. The rain pounds harder and harder, so hard I fear it will pound its way into my skull and rip my brain to shreds. I form a slow motion image in my head, of what it would look like, if the rain was able to break my skull. The strands of water being thrown from the clouds, aimed at me, hit me over and over until they get their wish of gaining entrance into my mind. Mother used to say that the rain came from sad people that had to leave earth because Mother Nature needed their help. I hope she isn’t one of those people. The sound of guns echo through my ears, along with the image of the icy grey people. I’d seen them before. They had shiny silver bands on each of their wrists, a chain linking them together. Their skin was a light grey that shimmered in the light. They were muddy, and they smelled horrible, the stench made me pinch my nose and turn away. Their eyes were dark red, much like the color of blood, there was a rather large black hole in the middle of their eyes, with streaks of black coming out of it beneath the glossy finish.
Pa saw me staring and scooped me up with one arm and hugged me tightly, he was so strong.
“Pa, who are these people,”
“They are dark elves. They are evil. You are forbidden to speak to any of them,” He tilted his head so that him and I were staring directly into each other’s eyes “They will try to steal you from your family, try to make you bad, but you’re not bad, are you?”
I shook my head, a smile crawled onto my face.
“Your happiness is contagious, Arvailia.” His mouth twisted into a giant smile.
I jumped out of his arms and began to tip toe off, but I still had one more question so i turned back around,
“Pa, where are the soldiers taking them?”
“To the dungeon.”
“What do they do to them down there?”
“Nothing really, it is just a safe place for them to be, to keep the people of Mare out of harm's way.”
“Oh, okay” I trotted to my room.
I shut my eyes tightly, it hurt so much to remember them. The dark elves hurt me, and my family. They needed to pay for what they have done, but what can I do about it? I am only a little light elf, nothing compared to them. Before I could even open my eyes, my foot slammed into the side of a tree stump, and before I knew it I had a mouthful of mud.
I turned to crouch next to the stump. It had very few rings in the middle, showing it was young, and a glass like finish to it. This can’t be a real tree, I thought.
I used every last ounce of strength in me to try to lift the stump, and just as I had expected, it moved. Even a seven year old could figure that out, not a very good hiding place, I thought.
Below the stump was an opening. I couldn’t see much inside because it was so dark, but there was a rusty, metal ladder leading down. Maybe it’s a shelter? I thought.
I gripped the first bar of the ladder and slowly turned around, placing my foot two bars below my hand and placing my other foot a bar below that. I looked along the bottom of the tree stump and found a handle, I grabbed it and slowly pulled it over the hole, trapping myself inside. It was now pitch black and I couldn’t see anything. The bars were slimy and cold making me shiver. I trusted my feet to ascend carefully, hoping I wouldn’t slip and fall to my death. After what seemed like forever, I felt the familiar texture of dirt beneath my feet, I stumbled forward in the dark before I felt a cool, metal door merge with my finger tips. I moved my fingers along the sides of the door until I found the handle, I threw open the door, revealing a room lit up by a single lantern. A musty, dirt smell flooded my nostrils, making my nose scrunch up. The room was surrounded entirely by stone, keeping the dirt and other outside elements, out. I surveyed the room, checking for traps and such, just like my father had taught me. It was a very small room, and it had barely anything in it. The only things in the room were a tiny wooden table with four equally as tiny chairs surrounding it, that is where the lantern and many empty clay jugs reside, and a carefully carved pedestal that held a small pipe. What could this place be used for. I hesitantly entered the room, walking towards the pedestal. The pipe was average sized, it had intricate designs engraved into the metal, the mouthpiece was in the shape of a triangle. I slowly went to pick it up when suddenly behind me there was a deep and quiet, raspy voice.
“What are you doing in here? Don’t touch that!”
I quickly spun around to look at the owner of the voice. He was shorter than an average elf, and was nowhere near as delicate looking. He was buff and very, very hairy. He had a long, black beard that matched his shoulder length, nappy hair that looked like it hadn’t been brushed for years. His eyes were like darts, piercing into mine.
“Who-who are you?”
“ I should be asking you the same thing, what are you doing here? This is private.”
“Well, come on now, spit it out.”
“I’m sorry, I just sort of came across this place, i didn’t mean to-”
“Who sent you here? Thieves get nowhere in life ya know,” He said as he dashed towards the pedestal and snatched up the pipe. My eyes widened as I stumbled backwards, trying to get out of his way. He stared at me, his mouth made a straight line as he threw the pipe into his satchel. I pushed myself against the wall, wanting so desperately to become the wall, anything to get away from his scold, that’s when I began to cry. When he saw this, his facial expression changed.
“You weren’t here to steal my treasure, were you?”
I shook my head, to afraid to speak.
“What are you doing here, are you lost?”
I nodded, not wanting to tell him what really happened.
I found out his name was Ordur, he seemed quite grumpy and mean, but once I got to know him, he really wasn’t that bad. He took me in, as if I were his daughter. He taught me how to hunt, fish, and he trained me to be warrior. It was nice, to feel as though I had a family again. The months turned into years. I kept my past hidden from him for a long time, until one day we were in the forest, hunting. I aimed my bow at a deer, I went to move closer and a twig snapped underneath my foot. The animal ran off and I was so angry at myself. My fists balled up and my face began to turn red, the leaves began to skid across the ground as the wind began to pick up. The trees began to sway violently and the sky grew dark. I un-balled my fists, the redness in my face faded away and the forest began to calm down. Ordur, confused, asked my how I did that, and before i knew it, the words of the past tumbled out of my mouth. He, although hesitantly, agreed to help me find my mother. We spent months watching Mare, figuring out a plan to get in and get out. We memorized when the guards changed posts, and when the gates were unattended. We searched around the property many times, making sure there would be no surprises. After months of planning, and waiting, the day finally came.
“You're sure she’s in there?”
“Positive, I can feel it.”
Ordur sighed, we exchanged a glance and then I began to walk towards ‘the Hole’ an unguarded, non working set of sewage pipes.
“Arvailia,” I turned to look at him. He opened his satchel and began to rummage through it, he finally pulled something out, it was wrapped in a raggedy cloth that was covered in dirt.
“ I wanted you to have this,” He held it out towards me. I take it and carefully unwrap the object, to my surprise, it was the pipe. The very same pipe he was such a stickler about me touching when we first met, it was his treasure, It meant everything to him. I smiled, knowing what it meant.
“Thank you,” I paused and he nodded. I wanted to say so much more to him, but I knew thank you would have to be enough for now. We continued on towards the hole, when we approach the familiar, disgusting scent hit me like a ton of bricks. It smelt of decaying animals and the outside cover had a ring of slime covering it, greenish brown water spewing out of the opening. I climbed in first, splashing in the water. I made my way through the pipe, Ordur following close behind. I tried very hard to touch the walls and ceiling as little as possible, since it was coated with layers of filth. We finally approached the gate at the end of the pipe, and I pushed it open, it crashed to the ground, we were in. Luckily this pipe, led straight to the castle basement, we were so close to the dungeon, only a couple doors away. It was very dark in the room, I stumbled to find a wall, I put my hands in front of me, and slowly made my way forward. After a few minutes of me slowly walking across the room, I felt something cool, and wet on my hands. It was smooth, with small dips here and there. It’s the wall. I took a deep breath in, and exhaled slowly. My breath was shaky and the memories of my family, and living in this castle were rushing back to me.
My fingers curled around the edge of the smooth wall. My index finger found a home in one of the small dips in the wall as I peered around the corner. My parents voices were hushed and hurried. Ma’s face was pale, her eyes were filled with water, she was crying. She looked very worried, but what was their to worry about? Pa’s hand caressed her cheek, whispering soothing words. She would smile occasionally, but the worried and dark look she had always returned shortly after. Ma must have felt me staring, because her eyes followed the wall until they landed on me. She quickly wiped her tears and smiled at me. Pa turned and looked in my direction, he smiled and grabbed Ma’s hand and they started to walk towards me. I came out from my hiding place and ran towards them, meeting them halfway. They knelt down to my level, and pulled me into a hug. I hugged them back tightly. Little did I know, that was the last time I would ever hug my parents.
I followed the wall to the right, and finally knocked my hand into the familiar feeling of a glass ball. I felt around the object that was mounted to the wall, When i remembered what my mother had told me when I was younger.
“This is much like a fairy light, just a bit different.” She said pointing at the light.
“How does it work?” My eyes were wide with curiosity and I was desperate to learn how to work this magical light.
“To turn it on, you have to say the magic words, Cheshire Marino.” After she spoke, tiny balls of light started to float up in the air of the glass, A few began to flicker, I thought they were winking at me.
“Whoa, that’s beautiful” I said.
“Yes, they are. There is one thing you have to remember when using the fairy lights though, they are not just lights, They are creatures that agreed to help you out, so when you want to turn them off, you must say “Thankyou” Do you understand?”
I pulled my hand away from the glass.
“Cheshire Marino,” I said, the creatures began to wake up, and float around, lighting the room. I sighed, they were just as beautiful as I remember.
“What is that,” Ordur said.
“It’s a fairy light.”
“Aren’t fairies those annoying little things that go around biting people?”
I shook my head and smiled. I then turned toward the door and grabbed the handle, letting my hand become one with the cold silver. I pressed my ear against the door to hear for anyone on the other side. Once Ordur was by my side I whispered the magic words.
“Thankyou.” I let my words hang in the air and watched as their glow faded and they sank to the bottom.
“Wait where are they going.” He said. I chuckled and pulled on the handle, opening the door. It started to creak and so I went faster, and in one swift movement, it was open. There was a dim hallway in front of us, the only light we had was a torch at the end of the hall. I turned my head around to see Ordur, and I put my finger to my lips, and Ordur nodded. We made our way through the halls, silently passing guards and making sure to stay away from lights. After minutes of sneaking through the basement hallways, we came to large metal door with a single guard-guarding it. The dungeon. Ordur passed me and stumbled up to the door.
“Excuse me sir, do you know-” He slurred.
“You are not allowed down here, and shouldn’t you be working?”
“Could you just point me in the direction of the bathrooms?” he said. The guard sighed.
“Come on dwarven scum, let's go.” he stood up from his position and took Ordur by the arm and began to walk away from the door. I tip-toed over to the door and grabbed the handle and tried to pull it open. Damn, it’s locked. I threw my backpack off my shoulders and rummaged through it. I pulled out the pipe that Ordur had given to me, my mind started to wonder, what does this thing even do? I don’t have much time but I’m sure it is enchanted to do something. I put the cool, metal piece to my lips and breathed in. Instantly I faded into a light puff of smoke. I thought, hm this is odd, what good will this do. I looked at the door and noticed the bottom was above the floor a couple inches. Now that I have taken the form of smoke, I can fit under the door! I quickly slid under the door, and boom I was in. I hadn’t realized it before but I was holding my breathe and it was starting to physically hurt. When I let go of the air, I returned to my physical form.
“Sweet.” I mumbled under my breath. I walked up and down the aisles of cells, they were all empty except for the very last one. The one that held my mother. I ran to the cell door and called for my mother, who was sleeping.
“Ma! Ma wake up! It’s me.” I said in a hushed voice.
“Arvalia?” she said. I nodded my head, tears welling up in my eyes. We stared at eachother for a long time before I said,
“We have to get you out of here.” She nodded and pointed to the hook on the wall, which held the key to the cell.
I grabbed the key and shoved it into the lock and twisted it, unlocking the cell. I pulled open the door and she threw her arms around me, and I hugged her back.
“We can’t stay here long, we have to go.” She nodded again and we ran to the door.
“It’s locked,” I said. “But I have special item to help us out.” I took the pipe out of my bag and handed it to her first, she looked at me funny, and i nodded my head toward the pipe. She hesitantly put her lips to the elegant stem. She turned into a thick light puff of smoke. I put the pipe to my lips, and soon I was a puff of smoke myself. We went under the door and we both breathed out, turning back into elves. We cautiously peeked around both corners and when we thought the coast was clear we began walking back to the room that held the hole entrance Ordur and I had come out of. When the door was insight, I heard a low voice come from behind us.
“What are you doing down here, you can’t be down here.” he said. I slowly turned to face him, but when I did his eyes widened and he looked at my mother and then back at me.
“Prisoners are escaping!!” he began to run towards us. I looked around and saw a staircase leading upwards. I grabbed ma by the arm and bolted up the stairs. We were in the kitchen, I got a bitter taste in my mouth at that moment. This is where Elandria worked. I don’t have time for this, i thought. So I kept going, weaving through the aisles, just like i had done as a child. We rushed out of the kitchen door and ran down the grand staircase, out the Palace giant wooden doors and down the cracked stone steps. We ran into the square, by this point I had let go of ma’s arm, but she was still running right behind me. Ordur finally caught up to us and we exchanged a glance. A big group of guards came charging at us from the front gate, swords in hand. How were we supposed to get out of here?
Frantically I am turning and twisting every which way, trying to find a way to get out of here, my mind is racing, i can’t even finish a thought without another barging in. Suddenly a glistening stone catches my eye and I stop for a moment, the hole. Of course! The hole won’t be guarded or locked. We can get out of here. I take a sharp left turn and dash towards the hole. I approached the hole and Ordur followed shortly after, but my mom didn’t.
“Where is she?” I stare straight into his eyes, he whirls around, and then turns back to me.
“She was right here,”
Before I even have time to process the situation I sprint back to the square. I stop dead in my tracks when I see the guards surround her. She falls to her knees in defeat, her head droops. They put her in cuffs and try to get her stand, when she doesn’t two guards grab her arms and pull her up. She struggles and fights back, she breaks the chain on the handcuffs and uses her magic to throw the men every which way, crushing them with rocks, into walls, on the ground. Streams of water and fire swirl around her and taunt the group that once thought she was a weak shell of a person. But she was so much more. She was the royal mage, best in all the land. She was my mother. When they all are either dead or ran away, she looks up at me and smiles, but it wasn’t just any smile, it was a smile of relief and strength and most importantly, love. I began to run towards her, wanting so desperately to be in the comforting arms of my last remaining family member. But i was cut short when the blade of a fine silver sword pierced her body. My vision became blurry, I slowed, and fell to the ground as I watched in horror as my mother’s lifeless body fell to the ground. My voice pierced through the air, the ground began to shake vigorously, and the wind began to howl. The man that killed my mother covered his ears with his hands, but it was no use, his ears, nose and mouth trickled blood as he fell to the ground. I clenched my eyes shut. The memories rushing back.
“Stay here Arvailia,”
“I said stay here.”
I stamped my foot on the ground and ran to the kitchen to find Elandria. I went up and down the aisles, dodging the workers and food carts searching for her. My eyes scanned the room over and over, but there was no sign of her. ‘She must be out in the vegetable garden’ I remember thinking. I dashed for the door and ran down the steps of the grand staircase and out the door. I ran down the palace steps and to the little metal gate that lead to the vegetable gardens, and there she was. Before I could lift the little hatch to open the gate I heard an old woman scream, I twisted my head so fast I thought it would fall off my neck. There at the main gate was a group of dark elves, and they were talking to Pa. I noticed a rope hanging off the top of the wall, I followed the rope to the top of the walls to see hundreds of dark elves lining the tops with guns in their hands. Confused I asked Elandria what they were doing. Her smile faded and her skin grew very pale.
“Come on Arvailia, let’s go back inside.”
“But I want to help you plant the car-” Before i could finish my sentence, a gunshot pierced the air, and one of Pa’s best soldiers fell to the ground. The people of Mare frantically ran in all directions as the dark elves came in swarms. I ran searching for Pa, when a rather large dark elf picked me up by my collar.
“Look what we have here,” He said. I screamed as tears streamed down my cheeks.
“Put her down,” I heard Pa say.
“What if I don’t”
Pa drew his sword, and the elf put me down, I scrambled to my feet and ran for Pa. Ma grabbed me by the shoulders and wrapped me in her arms. Pa and the elf fought for what seemed like hours until the elf knocked Pa’s sword from his hands and put his sword to Pa’s neck. Two elves grabbed Ma by the arms and dragged her off towards the palace. I was screaming and begging them to let her go. Then Pa called out to me, and told me to run as fast as I could into the woods. The elf then took his sword and stiked Pa once, killing him instantly. I screamed, his body lied limp on the stone path, a pool of blood formed around him. Some of his blonde hair became dark, and his face no longer had that comforting smile, now it was cold and lifeless. I then turned and ran.
I came out of the flash back when I heard a slow, daunting clap come from in front of me.
A tall dark elf stood before me, he wore the old king of Mare’s crown.
“Simply astonishing,” He spoke. “I remember you, yes, your Shaloria’s daughter, she was such a good mage, a shame she’s dead.” He poked my mother’s body with the tip of his foot, making a “hm” sound, as if unimpressed.
“Yes, she was good mage, but she was weak. Couldn’t handle most of the tasks she was given, couldn’t torture anybody or anything, but you, you could handle that, couldn’t you? I mean after all you’ve been through, you seem to have kept yourself together quite well.” I clenched my teeth, staring at him.
“Who are you?”
“Who am I? I, my sweet child, am Kahi, King of Mare and ruler of all dark elves.”
“Why did you take over Mare?”
“Because, your kind spit on us, killed us , tortured us, it was only fair to do what you have done to us.”
“Not all of us did that to your kind, i know for one my father never did harm to your kind, and you slaughtered him.”
“Yes, he was an amazing leader, could have used him,” he paused, it was a dramatic pause, as if just for effect, “now I’ll give you one last chance, join me.”
“And if I don’t?”
“You will end up like the rest of your family, but i don’t want that for you, because your potential is much greater than the others. I want you by my side.”
“There’s not really much of a choice is there.” I said. He chuckled and shook his head.
“You’re a smart one aren’t you.” he said. I stood up and stepped towards him a bit.
“I’d like to think so.”
“Now let’s not get too cocky.” He said, a smirk forming on his face.
It fell silent. We stood there staring at eachother. Out of nowhere, I heard a rushed whisper come from my left. I turned my head to see my mother. I quickly moved my eyes to where her body was still laying. I looked to my left again, she whispered the words em bron ge to. I didn’t know what that meant.
“Em bron ge to,” I said under my breath. A huge thick streak of light came from the sky only moments later. Lighting. It struck Kahi, burning him. He flailed, and screamed, a horrifying scream. I covered my ears, and closed my eyes tightly. I felt a strong hand grab my arm, I looked up and saw Ordur. He was saying something, but I couldn’t understand what he was saying, he started to pull me away from the square. We ran to the hole. As I was stepping into the sewage pipe, I tripped on the cement and fell, splashing into the brown water. I lifted my head from the water and somehow managed to push myself up quickly and keep running. We took multiple turns until we reached the gate, leading to the woods. Ordur arrived first and threw open the gate. I quickly followed, practically jumping from the hole, and landed on the ground. My feet didn’t stop though, they kept going, they didn’t give in until Mare was long gone. The pain in my lungs became unbearable, and I fell to the ground. I wrapped my arms around my knees and leaned against a tree. My vision was blurry and my breath was short. My lungs felt as they were going to explode and my heart felt like it had been ripped out of my chest. I began to cry, and so did the sky. I cried until I dozed off. When I awoke, I was back home, Ordur was making breakfast, whistling as he did so. For a moment I thought, maybe what had happened was all just a bad dream. But when I looked at my arms and legs, I noticed they were covered in scratches, my chest still hurt, and my head was pounding. She’s gone. I sat up, and put my hand on my forehead, wishing the pain would go away. Ordur turned around and smiled his goofy smile.
“Good morning sleepy head.” he said. I smiled at him. He isn’t my dad, or my mom, but he’s all I have, and right now he’s all I need. He put some of his famous acorn pancakes on a plate, and handed it to me.
“Mmmm, my favorite.” I said. He chuckled.
“Thought you could use some pancakes, after all, you haven’t been eaten much these last few months.” I nodded, and smiled.
It took awhile till everything was somewhat back to normal, I still have nightmares, but they aren’t as bad. Ordur helps me when i’m having an ‘episode’, but I think the part i’m most grateful for is the fact that he doesn’t treat me any differently than he had before that day. Ordur and I focus mainly, on helping the forest, we plant trees, feed the animals, and drive out unwanted visitors. I am happy with life here, in the forest, sure I miss life back in Mare, but I can’t change what happened, so I might as well focus on the positive.
Precisely six months later
I awake to the chirping of the birds, and the crisp smell of rain of fresh rain from the night before. The sun peers through the window, shining on the dark wood floors. The window is open, letting in a slight breeze. The blue jay twins, May and Dandy, the Turnips, who are a family of rabbits, three squirrels named Berry, Jerry, and Carry, a raccoon named Juniper and my best friend, that is an animal, Vuyo, who is a deer, are sneaking in through the front door, heads tilted, staring at me with their big, gentle eyes.
“Well, Good Morning everyone.” I said.
They seemingly smile and begin to nod their heads, coming closer. The bunnies and birds and squirrels all begin to jump up onto the bed, snuggling up against me, stealing the warmth that my body is radiating. The deers and other bigger animals are nuzzling against my face and shoulders. Vuyo, begins to gently pull on my nightgown, urging me to get up and follow her. The other animals began to get up and sprint for the door, while the deer and a cave bear began to push me up and off of my bed.
“Alright, Alright, I’ll go.” I began walking to the door, when Vuyo stops me, by blocking the doorway. In that moment I realized how weird it was, being followed by all the forest's inhabitants. Animals hadn’t followed me when I lived in Mare, then again, animals never made it past the walls of the city. Ever since that day, when Kahi died, the animals have been coming around, and I somehow feel drawn to them as well.
“What now?” I say.
She nods her head towards the kitchen table, where a beautiful gown lay. How did I not notice this before? I walk towards the table, admiring the beauty of the dress. The dress was a shade of dark green, with yellow flowers, and glass beads sewn together, forming a belt like appearance at the waist, and long flowing sleeves. The dress was soft, made out of cotton and velvet fabric, the dress was long, stopping just above the ankles, and had flowers and suns embroidered in yellow at the bottom of it. I quickly changed into the dress, and found a pair of flats sitting beneath the table. They were the same dark green with the same patterns. I slip on the shoes and hurry toward the door once more. Vuyo moves out of the way, letting me pass. When I stepped out onto the front porch, the smell of rain hit me harder than it had in the house.The air was light and cool, the sun warmed my face casting a shadow behind me.
I always wondered what it would be like to be a shadow, my mother used to tell me that shadows were the bad part of people, and if you were vulnerable, the shadow would engulf you and you would become a shadow. But my father would always tell me that in order to live successful life, you must befriend your shadow, treat it will respect and kindness, nurture it, take care of it, and it will be good to you in return. I was always careful not step on her, or call her mean names, or anything of sort. Dad even helped me come up with a name for her. We decided, after weeks of talking about names, on Echo. I make sure not to forget about her, and make sure she knows I care about her, and so I smile.
She turns to look my way, coming up from the floor boards, seems to smile a huge smile, and waves at me. Then she faded back into the ground, becoming one with the wood beneath her, once more. I continue walking, following Vuyo and the other animals, Echo traveling by my side. They lead me through the forest, passing the giant Niko trees, a tiny lake, and oceans of flowers. They lead me to a curtain of vines, lanterns placed on either side. Vuyo nodded toward the vines with her antlers, and did a kind of smile. I put my hands together, pushing them through the vines, and then parting them, and stepping through the opening I had just made. There was a little clearing, where a long wooden table sat, filled with all sorts of foods, acorn pancakes, berry castello, tree nut soup, and so many more. I stood in aw, while May and Dandy, carefully place a crown of daisies, roses, and violets on my head. The sun came through the trees, the sun's rays dispersing every which way. Ordur popped up from beneath the table, smiling.
“You made it!” he took the back of his hand and wiped the beads of sweat off of his forehead.
“Did you do this?” I looked around me, admiring the fairy lanterns placed in the surrounding trees, the lights twinkling. All sorts of animals began to enter from the tree line jumping around, smiling.
“You like it?.”
I smiled. I looked at his face, the wrinkles in his forehead had deepened since we first met. His black beard now had strands of grey, and his dark hazel eyes have been replaced with a more vibrant shade of green. His smile lines were more prominent than they had been, and his skin had a sort of glow to it.
“You didn’t have to do all of-” I swung my hands back, gesturing towards everything in front of me, “This.”
“Oh, it was nothing, really,” he said. He pulled a chair away from the table, and gestured toward it. I walked on the stepping stones he had placed on the ground, leading from the door to the table, and sat down, he walked around the table and sat across from me. Thoughts began to circulate through my brain, and they were all variations of what he was about to tell me. I could tell by the look on his face he was about to tell me something, and I didn’t know if it was good, or bad. I didn’t know what else to do so I began grabbing food from the platters in the middle and slapping it onto my plate. After Ordur and my plates were full, he turned his head to look directly at me. Minutes went by, and he still silent.
“Is everything okay?” I finally said.
“I think it’s finally time, to tell you.”
“Tell me what?”
He sighed, “About my past. How I ended up here.”
“Ordur you don’t have to-”
“Yes, I do. You deserve to know.”
He was finally going to tell me, after the months of silence, I was going to know how a mountain dwarf ended up above ground in the middle of a forest. I was quite, I had lost my need to eat, so I just stared at him, waiting for the story.
“It was in April,” he began, seemingly debating whether to continue or not.“A mere 16 years ago by now. I remember tip toeing down the hall, making sure not to wake mom and dad. It was the break of dawn, the sun was sneaking up on the moon, like a lion stalking its prey, casting rays of light across the land in its wake. The sky was still a grey-blue, while strings of yellow, orange, and red crept through the trees, preparing to rid the land of the night. I pushed on the heavy wooden door. The room was dark, except for the light peering in from the hallway. Inside, the walls were colored yellow, with sunflower designs all around the room. There was a giant bay window to the right side of the door, through it, you could see the vastness of our front yard, painted with the purples, reds, blues, and pinks of the flowers that Runa planted the year before. On the left side was a bookshelf, that was rather skinny, but went from the floor to the ceiling, and it was filled with books. To the right, up against the wall the door was on, there was a wardrobe, full of the most beautiful gowns. But not the flashy, overdramatic kind, they were elegant, with hand embroidered patterns of flowers, suns, moons, and stars. The bed resided across from the doorway. The sheets were made of the finest silk money can buy. They were a light, milky, lavender color, with a kind of marble pattern. I crawled a few inches into the room, my knees skidding across the dark wood floors.
“Runa,” I whispered, opening the door a little more.
“Ordur? What are you doing?” She said, as she sat up, shielding her eyes with her hand.
“Come on, it’s time to go on an adventure!”
“Does mom know?”
“She doesn’t have to, we will be back before she wakes up.”
She hesitantly threw her legs off the side of the bed and used her hands to push herself off of it and walked toward the door. She suddenly stopped dead in her tracks.
“Promise, she won’t find out?”
“Really, Runa?” I rolled my eyes.
“I am serious, I can’t get in trouble, that’s your thing,” she giggles and begins to walk towards the door once again.
I smiled, and when she was close enough, I grabbed her hand and we began to do a sort of-tiptoe run down the hall. We must have looked like wild monkeys trying to flee the zoo. I tore open the front door and practically threw her out of the house. I followed shortly, shutting the door behind me. We sprinted through the tall grass and gardens of violets, roses, daisies, and Runa’s personal favorite, sunflowers. We continued until our lungs gave out and our legs couldn’t continue. The giant Niko trees towered over us. Sap was strewn across the dark wood, capturing bugs, if they dared come near. The sight was so charming and beautiful, I hardly even realized Runa had stopped walking. I turned to look at her, her chestnut brown hair softly flowed in the breeze, and in the sliver of sunlight that had escaped from the horizon, her eyes gleamed, they were as green as the leaves of the trees that surrounded us, yet they were softer, kinder. I smiled, and waved her to come with me, reassuring her that it was okay. She smiled back, and soon she was back at my side. It was the best feeling in the world, to have someone to be able to protect, love, care for, and go on adventures with. I remember the day Runa was born, I remember the way she felt in my arms when I held her, my baby sister. We strolled into the forest, exploring everything we could. We climbed the trees, played with the baby birds and rabbits, and we even had a very intense mud fight. It was the best day I had in months. Runa was picking the dandelions, all i could focus on, was how happy she looked. Suddenly, Runa turned to me, her smile had faded and she was paler than snow.
“Ordur, I think-”
“I think something is wrong,” she barely got out those last few words before she fell to the ground.
“Runa!” I sprinted over to her. “It’s okay, you’re okay, everything's gonna be okay,” I picked up her limp, yet heavy body, she was on fire, sweating uncontrollably.
What just happened? She was fine just a minute ago.
I carried her, through the woods, and back to the village. Mom was on the front porch, waiting for us. When she saw Runa’s condition she threw open the front door, and called for dad. Dad took Runa from my arms and told me to go find Beras, the healer of our village. And when I returned we waited for Beras to arrive with his things. He rushed in, not saying a word to any of us. We stood in awe, watching his hands work quickly, he set his leather folded portfolio, on the ground and unrolled it, grabbing her wrist and he put his left thumb on her veins. His right hand the scanned the portfolio his fingers moving slightly, searching for something. He snatched a glass bottle out of its slot. The bottle was small, and it was engraved with circles, three of them, made into a pyramid type structure. I didn’t know what it meant, but now was definitely not the time to ask. He propped her head up and in a slow, calm voice, he said, “Okay Runa, I need you to slowly open your mouth for me.”
She nodded slowly, and her mouth began to open. He smiled, “Good, that’s good, you’re doing great.”
He brought the bottle to her lips, and began to pour the lavender liquid down her throat. She began to cough, and then Beras’ smile faded, and he quickly pushed Runa onto her side, and the liquid came tumbling out. Dad’s eyes became glossy and before I knew it, the tears began, he could no longer hold them back. Mom began to sob, stepping back until she was leaning against the wall, where she slumped down. Dad covered his mouth in horror and then knelt beside mom, throwing his arms around her. Something is wrong, I thought to myself.
“What’s wrong?” I practically screamed.
No, no, no, this can’t be happening, not to Runa. Beras began to brush her hair with his finger tips. He smiled at her, his hands shaking, and tears began to well up in his eyes. I knelt down next to her, and put her hand in mine. A knot formed in my stomach, and my throat went dry. She’s dying. She’s leaving. She must have picked up of the sudden sadness that filled the room, because she gripped my hand as tight as her weak body could manage, and she looked into my eyes, and smiled.
“It’s okay,” She whispered.
I shook my head, my vision became blurry, and the room began to spin. Beras began to hum the melody to the mourning song. This whole thing doesn’t seem real, Runa has to make it, she can’t die. Water filled her tear ducts, and the realization of what was happening must have sunk in.
“sem bhor ges teo.” Beras finally spoke. Did he just say that? No, Her fight is not over, you can’t say that it is.
“No, no. Do something Beras! Please! Do something! Save her!” I grab him by the shoulders and shake him violently.
“I’m sorry.” his voice cracked, you could hear the pain in his voice.
Runa’s hand once again found mine, and we sat there in silence. Beras reached into his portfolio and pulled out a small jar, filled with pink, crushed up pieces of what I could only assume was Dyro. That was the moment everything started to sink in. I remembered everything I learned about Dyro in school. It came from a plant in the forests of Ysolvandia, where Runa and I had been not even two hours ago, and it was discovered about 300 years ago, so it is relatively new. Since many dwarven villages live around the Ysolvandia Forest, it is a very popular and prefered choice of death. It is also popular among humans, because dwarves have been trading Dyro for silk, beads, and dyes for about 100 years. When someone, has no chance of beating an illness or something of the sort, they can choose to take Dyro, making their death, quick, painless, and easy. Runa nodded, and so he continued to pull the biggest piece of dyro out of the jar, and place in on her tongue. It quickly disappeared, sinking into her tongue, attacking her taste buds.
“It’s okay big brother, you did all you could.” Runa said.
“No, it’s my fault you’re sick, we never should have gone to Ysolvandia. It’s my fault you got sick.” My voice cracked and the lump in my throat grew.
“No, don’t blame yourself. I don’t want the last thing I hear to be that.” She shook her head, becoming even more pale than she already was, and blood began to trickle from her nose, the dyro must have just kicked in.
“I can’t lose you Runa,”
“You're not losing me, I will always be here.” she pointed to my chest, where my heart resided. My heart beat the inside of my chest, trying to escape, trying to jump out and run and run and run until it could no longer run. Her eyes became distant, her body became cold, and just like that, she was gone.”
“After that, the village was devastated, everyone loved Runa. My parents arranged for me to to be married, a couple months later to Nuraddona, but I just called her Nura. It was awkward at first, but then we began to connect, and well- you know how those stories go. We had a daughter, Vatelyn. I had a family again, and I was happy, almost as happy as I had been when Runa was around. We lived in the same village, in a house right next to my parents house. I feared for Vatelyn, so she was quite sheltered, she was never allowed to go into the Ysolvandia Forests, or leave the village walls without a parent, or play after dark. A week before Vatelyn's 4th birthday, they came. The dark elves. They destroyed our village, kidnapped our women, and killed our kids. They killed many of the men, unless they agreed to come with them to become slaves. I grabbed Vatelyn and Nura and we had planned to escape out the back gate, but it was blocked. The only way to leave now, was through the forests. I sprinted for the forests, but when I got to the edge I realized that Nura had been left behind. I watched in horror as a tall dark elf wearing a jeweled crown grabbed her and was trying to shove her into the back of a cart. The screams, they were unbearably loud. Before I could even comprehend the situation, three dark elves surrounded Vatelyn and I. One of them leaped for Vatelyn, and in one swift moment, he struck her with his knife, and she was gone. Instantly.
Before I knew it, other one grabbed me by my hair and whispered, “I’m sorry.” and then bashed me in the head. I awoke several hours later, they were gone, but the damage was done. The village was completely destroyed, fires still burning, hundreds of bodies were strewn everywhere. I looked beside me and saw Vatelyn. Her cold, lifeless little body. I couldn’t bare the sight. My head was pounding, and my vision was still slightly blurry. I remembered Nura, and sprinted for where the cart was. She too was dead. I cried until I could no longer cry, and I screamed until my voice gave out. I carried Nura to Vatelyn, and held them for hours. Shortly before sundown, I dug a hole and laid Nura in first, and then I put Vatelyn in her arms. I carefully place the dirt back into the hole, and then I walked through the village one last time, and I walked through the gates, and I didn’t look back until I reached the city of Recha. I couldn’t stop thinking of that elf though. I also didn’t know what I was going to do, I had no home, no money, no family, I had nothing. I did somethings in that city, that I am not proud of, I stole, and I was a cheat, I even murdered people.”
“Ordur,” I begin, but again, he cuts me off.
“That’s why I took you in, you were an alone and scared little girl, just like Vatelyn,” he paused, “Just like Runa. And just like me, you had nothing. I didn’t want you to end up like I did. I hated the city, I still do. I was afraid of what would happen to you. And now here we are.”
His cheeks were stained with tears, and his eyes were red and swollen, his voice was shaky and his lip wavered. I didn’t know what to say, so I got up, walked around the table, and threw my arms around him. His body shot up at first, but then he relaxed and soon returned my hug.
“It’s okay,” I said, stroking his head, trying to calm him down. He shakes his head, stands up and walks out of the entrance I had just come through just moments ago. I wait a few minutes, and then decide to go after him. I run to the vines and quickly part them and go through them. I scan the woods in front of me, and I don’t see him anywhere. I search the woods aimlessly, calling out to him. I give up after about hour of searching, if he really wants to be alone, who am I to interrupt that? I go back to the house, and sit on the floor until sundown, when Ordur returns. When I heard the sound of his boots against the wooden porch, I shot up, my body filled with both joy, and worry. He slowly opened the door, and stepped inside.
“I think I will be heading to bed now.” He says, avoiding eye contact, and throwing off his boots. He stomps towards his bed, hops onto it, tossing and turning before finally, laying still. He fell asleep shortly after. My shoulders begin to droop and a sadness rolls over me, I get into bed. I keep thinking about the story he had told me today. I remember all the things I was supposed to do today, that never ended up getting done, but as soon as the sun disappears beneath the horizon, I fall asleep.