Okay, I know this is a little different. This is not really a blog post--it's a chapter to a book I'm working on. This is a fantasy story that I am actually hoping to make into a trilogy. You are not obligated to read, and if this isn't your kind of thing, I understand.
I just thought I would put it out there in case anyone was interested. If you do continue reading, I would love to know if, after reading chapter one, you would like to continue reading.
I may publish the story one day, but until then, i thought I would share it with anyone who might be interested, :-)
CHAPTER ONE: THE TWILIGHT COUNCIL
In the dark days of Caradonia, during the reign of King Larkin the Tyrant, two men and two women were gathered together in the shadow of the twilight. The woman who appeared to be the eldest of the two addressed the silver bearded man who was foremost in the group walking through the forest.
“Aelfric,” she said, “What are we—”
“Hush, Ursell.” Aelfric cut her off. “We can speak of nothing here. You know this. The forest has ears and we cannot tell which side it may be on.” Nothing further broke the silence until the group came to a clearing where a figure slightly smaller than a human man stood with two white, winged horses.
The full moon shone brightly on this figure, which was clad in a green tunic with very fine threads of silver woven into intricate designs on it and a fragile looking coronet upon his head. He had a youthful face, light colored hair and pointed ears.
“Caunion, my friend,” Aelfric said, stepping forward. “I thank you for your assistance.”
“I was only able to procure two of the winged horses,” Caunion replied. “The species is becoming more endangered every day. I hope you are correct in your assumption that the reign of the usurpers is coming to a close. We are wearied of battle and our underground cousins are becoming increasingly difficult to keep in check.”
“I think you ought to know, Caunion,” Aelfric said, “Your son-in-law was murdered by a band of manticores and your daughter is about to give birth to a child—children, we believe.”
“Do not speak to me about that undutiful wretch,” Caunion said contemptuously. “Elves who are foolish enough to consort outside of their race deserve no better than to sink in the consequences of their folly. It is regrettable that my own daughter has gone down that path, but she, or even I, cannot be excepted from the laws of our people. She chose to leave her natural home to consort with a human, so let her live among humans. And what will her children be? Half-breeds, which must be considered a disgrace among our people.”
“It may be these very children you hold in such contempt that are fated to restore peace to Caradonia. I hope at least, that even if you will not acknowledge them as your grandchildren, you will aid them when the time comes. And as for your daughter—she may very well be in danger if Larkin suspects the identity of the man she married. Eranor may be the only place she will be safe.”
“If she had no child,” Caunion replied, “She might be allowed to return to Eranor, with proper signs of repentance. But if I own the daughter, I must own the half-blood children, and that is not possible.”
“I am afraid the children must be separated from their mother, for their own safety,” Aelfric answered. “They must be taken to a place where no one will find them.”
“She will no doubt be heart-broken by this necessary course,” Aelfric continued. “Indeed, her spirit may be so bitter she will be a danger to herself, if she is not properly watched. I beg you to take what I have told you into consideration.”
“I shall think on what you have said,” Caunion replied. “I must speak to my son.”
“I believe she may be found in a hut near the edge of the cliff. A poor dwelling, to be sure, for a lady of her noble origins. But we must be off. Caradoc will soon have come to give his report. I bid you good evening, my friend, and many thanks for your assistance.” Aelfric and his three companions mounted the winged horses, and each horse carried two passengers. Only, instead of galloping into the forest as most horses might, these horses spread their great wings and took flight up through the tree tops, past the edge of the cliff and over the great sea of Caradonia.
Up this band flew until they came to a stationary cloud in the starry sky—the only cloud which was not moving. Indeed, this cloud never moved, had never moved nor changed in any way in all the history of Caradonia. What was more surprising than the never-changing situation of the cloud, however, was the fact that when the riders dismounted from the winged horses it was not into empty nothingness, as one might expect, but onto solid ground.
Not only was the surface of the cloud quite firm enough to walk upon, but it was home to a beautiful city of gold and white marble which shone with an ethereal glow in the moonlight. A few beings walked across the streets, going about their business. Some seemed little more than specters, and looked quite like small clouds themselves. Others took a more solid form, but still had a celestial glow about them.
One of these more solid beings, in all appearance a man, came forward to meet them. He was attended by two or three others, but they stood back.
“My friend,” the man said, addressing Aelfric. “Allow us to welcome you to our humble city. We have prepared some of our best rooms for your reception. And you may have the use of the round room for your council.”
“It has been a long time, Zephyrus,” Aelfric replied. “We thank you for your hospitality. Larkin has many spies throughout Caradonia.”
“It will be very difficult for any to follow you here, I assure you,” Zephyrus replied. “We are able enough warriors against manticores and griffons, I’m sure. And as for any common human, they cannot come here without a winged horse, and there are few of them left on the mainland.”
“Yes, even the elves had trouble procuring the ones we came on,” Aelfric said. “And they are more skilled than most at the practice.”
“We have been collecting them here in Arcelia,” Zephyrus said. “We have heard a report that Larkin fancies a set of horse wings for his collection. Naturally my people could not hear of such a repulsive undertaking without doing all in their power to prevent it. The poor creatures do not like being tied up, but it is for their own good, you know. When peace is restored to Caradonia, they will be allowed to roam free and in safety, as in former days.”
“It is my hope that the restoration of peace is not far off,” Aelfric said. “Only those of us who have seen better times understand how very bad the land has become. For many poor souls, it is the only way of life they know. Which brings me to our reason for coming here. We are expecting one more of our number. He is on a very particular mission for me at this time, but I have no doubt he will join us before the night is out.”
Once the four visitors were left alone in their appointed meeting place, Aelfric addressed his companions.
“Well, my friends,” he said, “It has been some time since our last meeting. The usurper Larkin’s great-grandfather was on the throne, I believe.”
“Yes,” agreed a man with a beard shorter than Aelfric’s and rather darker. “And since then, each successor to the throne has been worse than the one before. And there is not much promise in that young brat of his, either. Prince Garrick, as we are to call him. I hear he is the most spoiled child there ever was.”
“He is still royal blood, Rodric, even if he is not the rightful heir to the throne,” Aelfric said. “It will not do for any except the true heir to reclaim it. And as you know, there is none capable at this time.”
“I fear I shall not live to see the restoration of peace,” said she who appeared to be the younger of the two women. “My time is near. I can feel it. My only regret is that my eldest daughter, Vailea, is not present to succeed me, for I have not seen her since she disappeared a century ago.” For this woman, though she appeared to be quite young, was in fact nearing her 700th year, at which time she would fade away into the sea, for she was a water nymph and 700 years was her natural lifespan.
“But have you not another daughter?” Rodric asked her.
“Yes,” the water nymph replied. “But Nerina is not as capable a ruler as Vailea would have been. Nerina’s father was a Tyrachian.”
“A shape shifter?” Rodric asked. “But I thought their race was extinct.”
“And how could anyone be certain if they were extinct?” Ursell asked him. “If they may change into what they will, who’s to say they may not feign extinction?”
“Tyrachia is indeed now in ruins,” the nymph answered. “However, some did escape and now wander the earth. But their personalities are as unstable as their physical forms. And I am afraid my daughter has inherited that from her father.”
“Is there no other you may name as your heir?”
“Nature chooses the heir,” she replied. “The Scepter of the Sea will work properly only for the one it recognizes as the rightful queen. If Vailea has indeed passed on, then the Scepter will recognize Nerina as the next queen, and no other.”
“And the water stone?” Aelfric asked her. “Where is it?”
“The water stone is part of the scepter’s power,” the nymph answered. “It shall pass to Nerina, but she shall not know of the stone’s importance.”
“But the time may come when the heir of Meilyr will need that stone, as well as the rest of the elemental stones,” Aelfric told her. “He cannot fulfill the prophecy without it.”
“Then you may tell the heir where it is and he may claim it when the time comes,” she replied, growing irritated. “Until then, I believe it shall stay where it is.”
“It will not do for it to fall into the wrong hands, Inia.”
“No mere human can wield it,” Rodric said. “Nor any of the elemental stones. Not unless he is the chosen one.”
“Larkin cannot use them, it is true,” Aelfric replied. “But he may have them concealed from the true heir if they are in his possession.”
“Can he breathe under water?” Rodric asked. “Can he walk on fire? I cannot suppose the stones so easy to gain possession of.”
“Do not forget we are in dark times, Rodric. We do not know who our friends and enemies are. There are many treacherous creatures throughout the land. Some work by deceit, some are openly rebellious. Larkin has many spies among almost every race.”
“I cannot suppose the pyrons would have any dealings with Larkin,” Rodric said. “They are simply too proud to overlook the fact that they are seen as lesser beings by many men. I feel quite certain that it will be very difficult for anyone to claim the fire stone from them.”
“And I can assure you that the nymphs will not surrender the water stone, even after I’m gone,” Inia added.
“Perhaps the stones are better left where they are for now,” Aelfric said finally. “I can speak for the elves. The forest stone is safe with them. I believe the elves, the sylphs and the nymphs are loyal to the line of Meilyr. The wraiths follow Larkin and they are no small force. The manticores and trolls might be persuaded to follow Larkin with a little effort and the black elves and the pyrons are loyal to no one.”
“The black elves and the wraiths have no stone,” Rodric objected. “Nor do trolls and manticores.”
“The wraiths do not have a stone,” Aelfric admitted. “But they have something more dangerous. They have the amulet of Ragnvald.” A few of the others gasped. “I think I need not tell you what it would mean if Larkin discovered how to release Ragnvald from his banishment.”
“There would be no Caradonia left for the chosen ones to save,” Ursell breathed. The tense silence that followed this comment was interrupted by the door of the council chamber opening. An old man walked in, holding a baby. All eyes immediately turned to this personage.
“Well, Caradoc?” Aelfric asked the newcomer, evidently disappointed. “And was there only one child after all?”
“Two were born,” Caradoc replied. “This one, I took, but the other is—gone.”
“Gone?” Aelfric frowned. “How so?”
“I found the girl, as you said I would, in a hut on a cliff overlooking the sea,” Carodoc said. “I arrived too late. Some of Larkin’s men were patrolling the village nearby. When Meridwen heard them coming, she hid one of the children in a chest to conceal the fact that she had borne twins. They entered the hut and one of the guards kicked the chest so that the child began crying. Two of the guards carried the chest to the edge of the cliff and threw it to the sea while two others restrained her from pursuit. I arrived just after they left and she told me what had happened. Naturally she was reluctant to part with this child, but I made her see the necessity of it.”
“How came these men of Larkin’s to find her so easily?” Aelfric asked. “Do you suppose Larkin has made the connection?”
“I’m not certain,” Caradoc replied. “But I discovered that Meridwen’s little maid told the soldiers her mistress had borne twins. I have struck her mute for her treachery. Mute until the throne of Caradonia is reclaimed by its rightful owner.”
“Did you not look for the other twin?” Aelfric asked. “Did you discover what had become of him?”
“I searched the shore and enlisted the help of the mermaids, but no trace was found,” Caradoc answered. “But if these children are the ones of the prophecy, as we have reason to believe, then we cannot doubt his survival. And perhaps it is better, after all, that they not be raised together. For we know what the fate of one of them must be.” With this final thought, the others cast each other looks of foreboding.
“Caradoc,” Aelfric said finally. “You must take this child away and raise him.”
“I, Aelfric?” Caradoc asked, surprised. “I am an old man. Not fit to care for a baby.”
“I have faith in you,” Aelfric said with a patronizing smile. “He must be taken far away from here and raised in a way that will not attract notice. Yet he must be trained in all the skills necessary to one of his destiny. It is up to you, Caradoc, to see that he is raised up to his full potential.”