The Races, Book 1: Wyr Elvani
Chapter 1: Opposites Attract
The Quiver and Scythe was a popular destination on the Ringroad, used by bards, trackers and local farmers for generations. Dexander was a travelling bard and minstrel, making a few coin here, some spare change there. It was here, sheltering from a storm that he would learn his most prized story, his piece de resistance. As it was he held his sodden robe around his shivering frame and ploughed on towards the Innlight. When he found himself outside the tavern, he shook his head and body before stepping inside. He had hoped to be in Cemmne by nightfall, but the weather and the unnatural fog had put paid to that plan. He made for the bar, smiling wideley at the Fox Canin barmaid.
"I'll have an ale, please." he said
"Right away, sir." she said, heading to a huge barrel behind her and filling a tankard with the dark liquid. "That'll be two bits, guv." she said, holding out a hand. He paid her and headed for a table by the fire. The only other occupant was a wiry Wood-elf with an eyepatch and a huge bow made from bone at his side and a wolf at his feet.
"May I sit here?" Asked Dexander
"Go for it, Human. 'Tis your land not mine." The Elf was unfriendly at the least and intimidating at most, he carried an air of power and unmistakable confidence.
"What's your name, tracker?" he said, trying to be friendly "I'm Dexander."
"Yer an insistant youth, ain't ye? My name's Anyrell of the Wyr Furei'la." He nudged the wolf with his foot "And this old bag of bones be Red." The Elf had long white hair and a single silvery eye, he had some white stubble and numerous scars on his face and arms. His body was toned, dispite his age, and he wore a leather vest and britches.
"May I ask something of you, Anyrell?"
"Ye may ask me whatever ye want, talk is free. It's the answer that may cost ye." he said, leveling his grey eye at Dexander.
"Do you know any stories?"
"Isn't there a bard here ye can torment?" laughed Anyrell
"I am a bard, but I find the best tales come from the mouth of one who has lived them." said Dexander coolly.
“An' what makes ye think I've lived much more'n a farming life?”
“Because you have a scar on your arm clearly made by a sharpened blade... and the woodelf name 'Wyr Furei'la' means 'Wood Guard'. If those are not the hallmarks of an eventful life, I don't know what is.”
"Alright then, I have a story for ye, one I lived myself. But I'll have to charge ye... as I say, it's usually the answer that costs." he took a deep draught from his ale and coughed a little.
It was a fair few years ago, I had blond hair and both eyes, I was taller and built like a bear. Although the years have been kinder to me than they have to my old companion, but I'll get to that. I lived in Yara'ei, a treetop settlement in the Western Woods in The West. I was just of age, without even my first winter's stubble, and I wanted to fight. I, like many of my kin, was convinced that the Wyr Elvani empire would live agian and the Humans would get theirs. But I was a farmer's boy, destined for the tree service and without even the knowledge to hold a weapon. But then they came. The Shadow-elves have always hated us, always wanted the woodlands for themselves. Twelve of them came through the village, burning and killing... I watched as my father ran onto the gangway and asked them to leave. They cut him down and started moving towards the house. I was terrified... there was nowhere to hide and no weapon in sight, so I just looked out of the window as the three of them came towards the door. It was a miracle, it was the first of many times my puny life was saved by this force. An arrow flew from the woods, piercing one man through the neck. A knife twirled from the other side and a spear came from behind them... it was over in seconds. I stayed inside as five people came from the shadows. One was a female Barbarian, pulling the spear from the corpse, next to her was a male, removing his arrow. Behind her was a woman with shining golden skin and bright, burning eyes, removing her knife and slipping it into her sheath. behind him was a tall brown creature with black markings and huge horns, wearing a robe. And next to him was a huge ashen creature, built like a bull with numerous horns and tusks adorned with many piercings, he wore tribal armour and carried a scythe.
"Good kill, Kolthak... but you loaded it a little, the death would have been clean if you had taken that little more time. Well done, Naiyri. We'll go to their camp now, finish the job." said the female Barbarian, her pale skin shining in the light of the fire all around her, to the male and the Golden skinned one. she looked around sadly "It's just a pity we were this late..." as they turned I did the stupidest, but most important thing of my life.
"Take me with you!" I called from the window, the male moved so quick I never even saw what he did... one moment he was walking away, the next he was facing me with his bow pulled back, aimed for my hiding spot.
"Peace, Kolthak... he means us no harm." said the tall one in the robe, his voice crackling like fire. "Come out here, child." he said, holding out a hand, long and clawed, beckoning me towards him. I walked out of the door to my home for the last time. The Barbarian female stepped towards me, her spear ready.
"Who are you?" she asked
"I am Anyrell, son of..." I looked at the body nearby and set myself. "Son of none."
"What can you do?" she asked, kindly, as she lowered the spear.
"I can learn." I said simply, the tall one in the robe laughed a crackly laugh.
"A wise answer young one. I say we take him, Razzhri'di." he said, bowing respectfully to the female Barbarian.
"By the gods lower your bow, Kolthak!" snapped the female, evidently the leader. "My name is Kymeira, and you are welcome to join us."
"There is nothing for me here." I said.
"Good, Kolthak will teach you the way of the Barbaric hunter." The male Barbarian tried to protest "Look at him, Kolthak! He has the build, he just needs a teacher!"
"Why can't Malrog or Riddex teach him the way of the warrior?"
"Because Malrog is teaching Riddex the ways of the warrior. I will hear no argument!" she waved a regal hand "Remember, Kolthak... you take victories when you can..."
"... and defeats when you must." grumbled the male, his huge shoulders drooping. "We should take him to the camp." he said, quietly. as he walked over to me and smiled falsely "Follow me, lad." He followed the others to a camp on the forest floor, taking me to a tent made from skins and hides. He reached in and handed me a fur bedroll. "You'll sleep in this until you can make a tent for yourself. Don't worry, though, this fur comes from a Firebear I hunted myself at coming of age... happy times... but anyway, it'll be warm and cozy for you." It was then that I saw him, a Shadow-elf with a long blade and a dagger, edging towards the camp.
"Shadow-elf!" I yelped, loud as my lungs could go. Kymeira leapt from her tent and held her spear ready. The elf stopped and cocked it's head, red eyes searching me.
"Anyrell, this is Riddex, he will be your peer with us." I wanted to kill him... bite him... burn him. He was the one who killed my father in my eyes, as guilty as the one who did it. He held out a grey hand, smiling.
"It's a pleasure, Anyrell." It was then I looked at his face and saw, below his left eye, a brand in the shape of an eye with a line through it. The mark of slavery. The Shadow Elves were originally the slaves to the Wyr Elvani Empire, and some still followed that teaching. This Person had been through a lot.
“It is an honour to meet you, Riddex.” I said, as my anger melted away. It was as if I knew at the time that he would become my most stalwart ally. As it was we sat by the fire and ate stew, talking like old friends. It got to the point where even his bloody eyes no longer unsettled me.