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    Yeoldebard
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

The Elf's Hunt - 8. Captured

Korinth'kriaske. The Cave of Death. Fifty years ago, a summoner had opened a portal to the Outer Planes, bringing forth an army of fiends. They struck the Do'Kalen Woods, planning to create a base from which the fiends would bring war and ruin to the Material Plane. The elven tribe fought back valiantly for eight months, their warriors bolstered by adventurers and even an Avatar of Lynestra herself. Still the fiends held the advantage, their numbers swarming the defenders and their source hidden.

When the first attacks had come, the tribe sent their children to Korinth to hide. It was there nearly a hundred young elves were slaughtered by another attack, by a lone witchwolf skinwalker. A dwarf cleric found the skinwalker and struck her down, but the skinwalker had done her work already. Only one child remained alive in the cave, Elluin Bryerieth.

Soon after, the portal vanished, as quickly as it had been summoned. Word came that the summoner had died in childbirth, part of a ritual dedicating her life and that of her child to the masterminds of the invasion. No one knew what came of the child, the ritual gone awry. The damage was done, an entire generation of elves meeting their end long before their time.

And when Elluin had transformed into a beast under his first full moon, the tribe whispered that he had been spared only to cause them more despair. After the loss of their children though, no one was willing to send him out of the village. So he grew up under the constant glares of his people, save for one elf, Arien Teylarth. It was he who first taught Elluin the secrets of spellwork.

But when Arien breathed his last, as all mortals must, the young skinwalker left his home, beginning his travels through the world. He worked as an apprentice smith under a dwarf from Buranil, learning the skill of enchanting weapons. There he recieved his sword, a blade he had worked on himself. And there he learned to store his spells on his blade, etching runic symbols deep enough to avoid them being disfigured by a strike.

A year later, he continued his travels, making his way to the orc shamans of the Ajinra jungle. There he fell in with a bladesinger by the name of Morath, who taught him to use his spells with his blade, becoming a more fearsome foe.

And finally he returned to Do'Kalen, to be greeted as a stranger. Slowly Elluin had worked to be accepted by his people, only to be shunned when it became obvious he still lacked complete control over his beast form. He had travelled to Cadara with the intent of starting a life as an adventurer. And now he lay in the tree of Korinth, the walls of the cave where he had been spared, listening to the ranting of another fiend.

He could see flickering light within the cave, the tefling lighting a flame over and over again. So he was a mage. It explained much. And yet his casting was not done with the efficient motions of a trained caster, but with the jerking motions of an amateur. Hope wasn't playing with the fire, he was learning. Perhaps the charm he had cast had been a mistake, an effort to break away from Elluin?

A magic that came within. Such magic was dangerous unlearned. He needed to follow this tiefling. Hope was dangerous to the world around him, no matter how good he meant to be.

Briefly the elf considered revealing himself to the tiefling. But he couldn't bring himself to do it. Not here, not now. No, he would continue to watch, and wait.

 

Hope woke with his cloak spread over his body. For once, he felt almost warm, though that sense of being watched persisted. Standing up, the tiefling closed the cloak around himself. He should be out of these infernal woods today, and onto Four Pines. Then he could deliver the purse tomorrow and be done with all this shit. Hells, if he made good time, he would just deliver it tonight.

He stepped out of the cave, blinking as a beam of sunlight hit his eyes. The river gurgled nearby. If he could just find it-

"Halt fiend."

Hope froze, scanning the area with his eyes. He gulped at the sight of no less than ten elves standing around him with unsheathed blades in their hands.

"You have trespassed upon our sacred ground," one snarled

Sacred ground? A... cave of death.... A tomb...

"I swear I touched nothing within," he said, holding up his hands pleadingly.

"Silence! To trespass upon the tomb of our fallen is to disrespect our ways, our lives-"

A hooded figure approached the elf, speaking softly to him. Hope strained his eyes, trying to see within the hood. The face within seemed familiar, but he had no idea why.

The elf turned to the figure with a scowl.

"You wish to defend the fiend? I would expect nothing less from a skinwalker," he spat. "He will be punished according to our laws. You are banished from Do'Kalen. You will be escorted from the woods, and should you ever step foot within our home again, you will find yourself dead on the spot."

Hope bowed gratefully. He wasn't ready to die yet. A pair of elves approached him, binding his wrists behind him. They dragged the tiefling toward a horse, the hooded person sitting on the animal already. Nearly throwing him onto the horse's back, an elf slapped the horse, the animal moving.

They were silent as they walked through the forest, Hope trying to figure out how balance on the horse with his hands tied behind him. It wasn't long before his gut was aching, his muscles protesting from the unusual exercise.

A thought sprang to his mind as they followed the river. He was able to make a stick burn. Could he burn rope?

Twisting his fingers until they were touching his bindings, the tiefling focused on heat. He heard a quiet sizzle, and moments later, the rope fell away from his wrists.

Now what? He needed to get out of the forest, and presumably that was exactly where they were heading. At least his hands were free now, but there was really nothing else he could do. It was easier to balance on the horse's back though, now that he could move his arms.

Letting out a huff of breath, Hope resigned himself to waiting.

 

He had saved the tiefling's life. Why? Why would he do this? Just because of some orphans? Soon Hope would recognize him; it was inevitable. What would he do then?

The smell of burning hemp entered his nose, and Elluin scowled. He should have seen that coming. Hopefully the tiefling realized Elluin was the only thing standing between him and death.

"I didn't know it was a tomb."

He sounded properly remorseful. Elluin was glad. At least he hadn't meant to intrude. The elf had figured that when he remained near the entrance of the cave. He had watched the tiefling all night, making sure nothing within the cave was touched. If it had been, he would have killed the fiend right then and there.

Elluin couldn't talk. His voice would give him away immediately. But there were other ways to speak for a mage. His fingers spun in the air, a rune lighting on the blade beneath his cloak. A voice emanated from his hood, loud and feminine.

"You were lucky I was there to speak for you."

"Thank you," Hope said behind him.

He could see the edge of the woods not far ahead. There they would dismount and he would send the horse back into the forest.

"You are going to Four Pines?"

"Yes. I should have gone around the woods, but it is important I get there quickly."

This could work. He could summon a horse, they could ride together and he could still keep his identity a secret. Elluin could learn more about the fiend, and finally get to the end of his inner turmoil.

"I know your hands are free."

He could feel the tiefling's discomfort at the statement. Good. He hoped.

"I promise to behave."

It wasn't like the tiefling had much choice.

They reached the edge of the woods and Elluin dismounted, conjuring a small cloud of smoke over his face. He summoned a horse, the other one already heading back into the woods once Hope had slid off. It would return to the tribe, to home.

"I will escort you to Four Pines. We will ride as far as we can."

"Why are you doing this?" Hope asked as Elluin lifted him onto the horse.

Mounting behind him, the elf took the reins, kicking the horse into a trot. They bounced with every step, their bodies squeezing together in the saddle. Elluin hadn't realised how close they would have to be for the ride. He ignored Hope's question. The elf still had no idea how to answer it.

"Why do you need to get to Four Pines?"

The tiefling was silent for a minute. Elluin was tempted to ask the question again, but he knew Hope had heard it. The spell would have put the words directly in his ear.

"I need to deliver something. If I don't, some people I love will get hurt," Hope finally said. "I know you, don't I? I mean, you wouldn't hide your face or your voice otherwise."

Shit, he was way more perceptive than Elluin had thought.

"So, did the Guild put you up to this? Track me to make sure I delivered?"

What guild? He only knew of the crafter guilds, Mages' Guild, and the Adventurers' Guild. None of them would turn to coercion just to deliver something.

"Yeah. We had to make sure you weren't running off with it."

He would play the part then. Already Four Pines was in sight; he wouldn't have to do this long. It was for the orphans, he told himself. If Hope got in trouble, they would be in trouble. For now, he would keep the tiefling alive.

Copyright © 2020 Yeoldebard; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Not sure Elluin should have lied about why he was tracking Hope, have a feeling it will come back to bite him.  Well this chapter did answer some questions about Elluin's past.  

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