Exile's Return

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The greyish-purple night sky was soft and pale against the silhouettes of evergreen trees standing stark and black against the storm, each branch and needle sharply defined, ramparts upon ramparts of them flung up against the wind and rain possessing the mountain night. Sporadic upthrusts of naked rock gleamed dimly in the shadows, echoes of a dawn that would not come for many long hours. All the animals of the high forest were huddled in their dens, seeking shelter’s warm refuge. Only two creatures were foolish-or desperate- enough to face the storm’s untamed fury, bent almost double against the driving rain as they pressed onward into the hidden heart of the forest.

Sheets of rain billowed around Ahilra and Daren, painting mysterious runes on night’s dark canvas. The furious deluge blurred the sharp contours of the surrounding mountains as the peaks soared up into the cloudy sky, like watercolor paints running together on a sheet of paper.

“Ahilra.”

Daren’s voice made her stop and look at him.

“We need shelter. We can’t stay out here any longer,” he said, voice hoarse with exhaustion and pain. Ahilra had been thinking the same thing. As he spoke she spotted a particularly dense clump of firs against the twining fog rising from the valley. She turned towards it, supporting Daren with one arm. Above them a single star glittered in the eastern heavens, hung glimmering above the crest of a jagged ridge. The ridge itself was silhouetted against the silver-white glow of the full moon shining through ragged cloud-shadows. The sheer, wild beauty of it took her breath away, even in the desperate situation she now found herself in.
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Rain had not yet penetrated the thick, layered branches of the firs, slow drips collecting on the upper branches. Ahilra gently lowered Daren to the needle-carpeted forest floor, forcing her weary muscles into compliance. Swiftly she reached up and unclasped her dark green cloak, bunching it beneath his head for a pillow.
“Don’t, you’ll need it,” he murmured. She shook her head. “Lay still,” she told him quietly. Wet tendrils of her dark hair straggled around her face. She sat next to him, glad of the darkness that concealed the worry in her face. Lightning flashed above the mountain’s shoulder, throwing the trees and rocky gullies into harsh contrast with its hot silver-white hue. Only seconds afterward thunder roared its fury to the heavens, echoing into eternity off the rain-wet flanks of the mountains. Ahilra could feel the vibrations under her feet as the earth trembled with the thunder’s power. Shivering, she looked around for anything that could give them a bit more shelter. A fallen pine lay nearby; the half-elf took its branches and propped them between the trunks of the firs that faced into the strengthening wind, blocking the flow of cold air from their camp. That done, she sat next to Daren again. Her slanted ocean-blue eyes surveyed the surrounding landscape for any danger, then drifted closed as she leaned back against a rutted tree trunk. She felt drained and flat after over a week of constant running and hiding.
They had to get out of the wild, she knew; Daren couldn’t stay out here. The closest human settlement was Braedor, three days away on horseback. Ahilra sighed in defeat. Daren wouldn’t make it that far. They had to go somewhere nearer, which left only one option. But that meant going back- back to the pain, back to knowing everyone around her wished she had never been born. Back to her home-Adh?ra, fabled city of the elven kings.She knew she had no choice. It was go back and face the elves and her shame, or let Daren die. She had lived with it all those years growing up; she could stand it for a bit longer to save the first person who had seen her for herself.
Wearily, she forced her tired eyes open for a last check of the surrounding landscape, then lay down and went to sleep.





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Aidyl said...
Jul. 16, 2010 at 12:14 pm
I liked the first part a lot, you have some amazing descriptions! I could really picture what was happening in my head. Good job and keep writing!
 
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