Chapter 3

Chapter 3

A Chapter by Analae
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written from a different POV than the first 2 chapters. New characters coming into play.

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Smoke rose in thick, black plumes against the night sky; tendrils reaching towards the stars as if they were going to force the stars to relinquish their claim of the heavens.  The acrid smell of burnt flesh and death filled the air as the ratapan of a horse's hooves cut through the silence of the night.  A lone figure leaned over his mount, the beast's sides heaving at the long distance it had ran and against the foulness of the air it was being forced to take in.  It's eyes were white but it continued to pound the dirt, sweat glistening against it's flanks; it's rider was almost prone against the saddle.

Ellion sat up, pulling back on the reins, feeling them slide through his gloved hands.  The horse thew it's head, skidding on it's hocks, slowing down as they reached the outskirts of the remains of the town.  He jumped off the horse as it danced about, snorting and eyes wide.  The moment he let go of the reins it bolted, heading back the way it had came, and Ellion sighed, pulling the cowl of his hood tighter over his head.  

Taking a moment he looked around, seeing armored guards moving around the camp.  Black armor, swords and shields, helmets, always in sets of two; fires burned in small circles and he could see large pots cooking over a few of those, food mixing in with the smell of death and his stomach lurched.  His hand traveled to his side, the to pouch he wore and to the small set of daggers set next to it.  He heard laughter and looked to his left, another fire, this one larger and a group of roughly twenty sat.  Women were in chains next to them, cowering and crying; the men rolled dice laughing lewdly as they decided the fate of their bounty by gambling.

Seeing his target, Ellion straightened himself, gathered his wits and darted off, scurrying through the camp like a mouse.  If anyone saw him they did not bother to acknowledge him and for that he was thankful.  He was terrified of where he was going and with whom he was having to face.  He ran through what was left of what looked to have once been a beautiful town.  Frames barely stood, now blackened and fallen; bones and bodies frozen in place, silent screams of those that had been caught in their beds.  Signs that a massive battle had taken place here not days before lay everywhere and Ellion was forced to run past and sometimes over as he made his way to the center of the camp.    He kept his hood pulled over his head, eyes down, intent of his final destination.  His leather boots pounded against the dirt, dust billowing up behind him.  Finally he saw the large tent in the middle of the camp and slowed his pace, collecting his thoughts.  He reached inside the leather bag on his hip and pulled out the scroll, took a deep breath and knocked on the main post of the tent.  

“Enter.” The command was issued, quick and the voice was deep.  Ellion took a deep breath and steeled himself before walking in.

When he entered he bowed low and waited, eyes trained at the floor.  He stared his boots, seeing the dirt on the dark leather and silver buckles of his boots.  He could hear the quill scratching against the parchment paper on the desk, the chains and leather creaking as the larger man finished his work.  Minutes stretched on and his neck hurt but he dared not raise his head but finally he heard the quill stop.  He felt his breath catch, his heart stop for a moment, his palms became sweaty as if he were a youngster listening in on something he shouldn't.  

“Now, What can I do for you?” Delone asked, looking up from his desk and papers and orders spread across it, hands folded in front of him.  He sat back against the large wooden chair, eyes scanning the figure before him.

The young man cast his hood back, and slowly stood and met Delone's gaze.  “Sir, I have the information you asked for.  I ran as quickly as I could.”  He slowly made his way forward, gloved hand holding the scroll out.  

The captain's gaze lingered for a moment before his large hard took the scroll and nodded with a  huff.  He stared at the young man again.  “Name?” He asked, unrolling the missive as the leather of his armor creaked.  His eyes started scanning the document briefly before looking back up, finally giving the young man in his presence some attention.

“Name's Ellion, Sir,” He gave a slight bow, watching the captain's gaze bore into him.  He shifted slightly, wishing he could disappear through the floor, knowing that the very mood of the large man in front of him would decide his fate.  

Delone studied the young man's face, eager, hungry to serve.  “Ellion, what is you position?” He asked, moving a clean piece of parchment in front of him.  He dipped his quill into the black ink pot on the right corner of his desk and set to writing. 

Ellion straightened his thin shoulders, his black cloak falling back over him, the dark star-shaped clasp holding it closed at his throat.  He cleared his throat, and swallowed the small lump forming there, wondering why he had not yet been dismissed.  He ran his hands over his black breeches, smoothing the road worn creases, dust assaulting his nostrils in the attempt to distract himself.  He let his gray eyes run over the desk quickly, shifted from one foot to the next.  “I am simply a runner sir.  A deliverer  of messages from camp to camp.” He answered.  “I also scout if necessary.”

Delone nodded, continuing his quill work.  He dipped the silver tipped quill once more into the ink pot then signed his name, rolled up the parchment and dripped wax onto the seal before stamping it with the signet on his ring.  He sat back, pushed his chair back and stood, running his hand through his short cropped black hair.  He rose to his full height towering over the lad and walked over to him, taking the scroll from his desk and handing it to him.  “Ellion,was it?” he inquired.

Ellion fought to remain planted where he stood as the giant of a man approached him.   His eyes trailed over the armor, black as night, the massive sword that was easily as long as his own body that hung at the captain's side; the bright green eyes like emeralds set in the stern face that was glaring down at him.  He looked at the hand that held the scroll and slowly reached out and took it.  He saw the stubble that decorated the scarred chin as his eyes forced their way up as he heard the command that was barked at him.  He jumped in his boots, holding the missive tightly.  “Sir?” He asked, having misheard the instructions, and swallowed, waiting to be struck down.

Delone scowled slightly, hand on the hilt of his sword.  “Walk with me.” He stated, voice calm.  He walked out of the tent, pace quick.  His boots resounded loudly, the metal absorbing light instead of reflecting it.  

Ellion swallowed, tucked the scroll into the pouch on his hip, thanked the gods above that he still lived and trotted quickly after the captain.  He had to double his steps for every one the captain's.  Soldiers stopped in their steps and saluted as he passed then resumed their duties.  Others moved to avoid crossing paths all together, keeping their heads down.  Delone continued his trek through the camp stepping over carcasses like they were stumps, sometimes even stepping on them, a sickening crunch resounding through the air.  Ellion grimaced at the crunch at heard Delone laugh as he obliterated a skull under this heavy boot.  A shiver ran down his spine as he continued forward, trotting along, eyes forward, not wanting to look down.  Not long before hand he had realized that the dirt was no longer brown but the color of iron, stained from the blood of the victims the commander now crushed underfoot.  The scout tried to breathe through his mouth, trying to avoid the smell that assaulted him from all angles.  

Delone finally slowed his pace and stopped on the outskirts of the decimated town, looking out at the barren wastes his soldiers had created with a smile.  He crossed his arms in front of his chest and took a deep breath, almost as if relishing in the odor around him.  Ellion stopped beside him, eyes ahead looking out at the charred remains of the forest.  “My lord?” He asked, confused as to why he was out here.  

“You will head through the forest.” Delone replied, his voice carrying a calm cadence.  “Once through, you will head north.” He rolled his left shoulder, his neck popped and he stretched slightly.  

Ellion nodded, peering through the darkness.  He would be happy to be away from all this death and smoke.  His lungs burned, his eyes felt like they were going to erupt from their sockets from the onslaught of unclean air around him.  He remained silent, shifting from one foot to the other, tightening the leather armor over his shoulders.  

“You will then continue until the road splits.”  Here Delone unfolded his arms and turned to face the runner. “You will take the left fork.  Watch for soldiers and of course, as I am sure you know stay out of sight.” He stated.  “You are captured, you will not be looked for.”  He studied the young man's features, figuring him to be in his early twenties and still wet behind the ears of war.  “You will continue on until you reach another town like this one,” a chuckle escaped his lips,  as he gestured around him, “though it will not be as big, nor as grand.”  

Ellion looked up for a moment, caught up from the instructions to the fact now that he knew where the next missive was going.   He was always more afraid of facing the wrath of whom he delivered to than anyone who could capture him; he knew this fear was backwards.  He was brought out of his thoughts quickly as the cadence of the captain's voice continued.

“You will go straight to Warret.” Delone took a breath.  “He will probably send you straight back before he gives you a reply but you will not leave without one.” He turned his full gaze upon the smaller man.  “Do I make myself clear that if you return to me without an answer your job will be considered a failure and you will have wished that you would have been captured along your route?  Also, might I also state that fleeing or trying to hide will also result in a more severe punishment?” He asked, his voice not changing in tone or rhythm, as if he were still having a normal conversation. 

Ellion met the captain's eyes, which was hard enough.  He could feel the emerald gaze burning into his very soul.  He swallowed the lump that threatened to strangle him and choked out a “Yes Sir.”  

“Go.” Delone ordered and quickly Ellion pulled his hood over his head, made sure his equipment was in order, and bolted for the path he was to follow.  He was ready to be away from this accursed place and the quicker the better.  Delone watched for a moment before turning and disappearing into the camp once more, heading to grab a pint of ale before going to see what spoils would warm his cot that night.

Ellion ran until his lungs felt like they were on fire.   He slowed his pace, his heart pounding in his ears.  He counted his breaths, making sure to keep moving, to prevent his limbs from becoming painful.  He had a long way to go and had let his emotions get the best of him.  He had never wanted to get away from a place so bad before or had put so much intensity behind the first stretch of the run before.  He knew he had to pace himself if he was going to keep a steady pace.  He chided himself and slowed down to  a steady trot, looking around.  He could barely see the smoke reaching the top of the trees and the smell was gone.  For that he was utterly thankful.

He started to look at his surroundings, knowing that he had to be aware of what was around him.  He was internally conflicted and upset that he had come this far without correcting himself on this.  His very life relied on his awareness of his surroundings; hiding spots, water, if he left tracks, and if there were tracks already on the road.  Now that he had gathered his thoughts he noticed that very little light was getting through the boughs of the trees, even though there were no leaves.  The gnarled branches blocked the sky and he sighed, moving from the road and studied the base of one of the trees.  

Noticing that they were all of the same type, what to him looked to be oak, and all looked to be fairly sturdy he started trying to find one that he could climb.  He would have to find a place to hide for the night before all light disappeared and sleeping on the ground was out of the question.  He would not have spent the night in the city if he had been given the option and was happy to be given the option of the copse of trees.

He used what remained of the slim slivers of light that peaked through the bare branches and found a tree that would offer him the best coverage from both sky and ground.  He checked his surroundings once more before bending his knees and jumping to the lowest branch, barely gaining purchase.  His gloved fingers clawed at the rough bark and he swung his body, using his weight as a pendulum.  Before long he had his legs swung to the branch above him and paused, making sure there were no sounds around him.  He had to make sure not to draw attention to himself as he climbed, especially since he had no knowledge of what beasts lay in the dead wood around him.  Once he was sure he was safe to proceed he managed to throw his small frame to where his legs had claimed their purchase.  Before long he was sitting in the dense bough of the tree, the limbs tightly woven together providing good coverage and shadows.  

Once Ellion was settled as best he could be he reached into the leather pouch at his side and pulled out some travel rations.  He pulled his water skin and weighed it, sighing.  He would have to find a way to refill it soon, and he knew that would possibly make his leave the road.  He wasn't too worried but he also wasn't armed nor with a party or traveling a road he was familiar with.  His mind roved over a path he fought to pull it back from.  He munched on the tasteless meal as he watched a cimmerian night settle over the forest.  He pulled his cloak around him and closed his eyes, resting but ever alert.  He would wait there until the first rays of dawn broke though.  

After an uneventful night, Ellion sat up in the tree before cockcrow, his eyes watching for any signs of life.  He stretched his stiff muscles and took a few meager sips from his water skin before rummaging for his morning rations.  He ate quickly, took another drink before tying the skin back to his belt.  He stood slowly and started to lower himself out of the tree, watching and listening for anything that could be a threat in the dead forest.  Once he was firmly on the ground he quickly relived himself before he listened for any sounds of water.  Hearing nothing he frowned and took off at a steady trot.  He knew he would make it another day before he would run out if he went easy, but it would not be comfortable and the sky showed no sign of rain.  He would not be wet but he also would not be able to refill his skin with fresh water anytime soon.  He had very low hopes of his trip being comfortable, not that comfort was ever promised nor expected on his travels.  

Snow, mud, rain, thunderstorms, swamps, or even the dead forest he now trekked he welcomed more than having to return back to giant war captain's camp.  He pulled his cloak off and folded it tightly, tucking it tightly into one of the leather pouches on his belt.  He did not see a reason to hide himself from anyone in the forest and ran his hands through his golden locks, taking a leather throng from his belt and pulled his hair back tight against his head.  Soon as he was ready enough with himself, he became lost in his thoughts and continued on.  The dawn was starting to break through and light was sending tendrils down through the gaping claws of the branches.  Ellion's boots thumped against the hard packed ground, his pace steady as he watched a steady fog settle along the ground.  He quickened his pace, hoping to be out of the forest before midday.  He would hopefully be in better surroundings before long, something not so catastrophically withered, but he knew not to let his hopes rise.

After a few hours, Ellion had to slow his pace.  He did not want to exhaust himself early in the day so slowed himself to a walk, taking his water skin from his belt and allowing himself a long drink.  He stopped for a moment, stretched and looked at his surroundings once more.  He knew he had covered many miles since he had started but the forest looked no different.  He frowned, glancing towards the sky, light making no attempt at a true appearance, as if it knew it were not a welcome guest.  Not one to be easily discouraged he pushed on, pulling one of his daggers from his belt, the bone hilt sitting in his hand perfectly.  He knelt down on the edge of the path, making discrete markings to prove he had passed this way.  He had heard tales of forests keeping trespassers prisoner before and was not sure if this was one of those from stories; nor was he easily one to believe such tales, but it also did not hurt one to be cautious.  

He closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath, centering himself.  He could tell he was getting unnerved and concentrated on his breathing for a few moments, listening to his own heartbeat, counting his breaths.  When he opened his eyes he started forward again ready to be out of this forest and on to whatever awaited him on the other side.  He fought the urge to break into a trot again, knowing that his water skin was almost empty and that he needed to control his energy.  

Afternoon slowly crept into the woods and hunger crept upon the messenger.  He ignored this as he narrowed his eyes and set his gaze forward.  Light danced along the road ahead of him, turning the dark foreboding  trail he traveled into an open road.  He fought the urge to bolt into the open, to run out of the wood as he had bolted from the town.  He did not know what lay on the other side of the forest and did not wish to throw himself out as a fox out of borough into the jaws of a waiting hound.  He paused, pulling his cloak from his belt and secured it around his shoulders, once again pulling the cowl over his head.  He took a deep breath and walked towards the edge of the woods, staying to the tree line and peered into the light, eyes fighting to adjust from the instant change of contrast.  He knelt in the shadows while he adjusted, looking around him, seeing fresh horse tracks and animal scat along the road and grass along side. 

Ellion sighed, ready to be out of the forest but knowing that the road being freshly traveled would be dangerous to trek himself in the daylight.  He settled back in the shadows of the expanse of trees, hood pulled tightly over his head disappearing into the brush.  Time passed by slowly, few travelers passing by the road, he counted four during his posting in the bramble.  As twilight slowly disappated into the night he escaped the copse of trees, leaving the safety of the forest behind and took to the road.   The last horse that had traveled before him had been easily an hour before him and he could see the imprints of the hooves.  He traveled in the middle of the road, the moon overhead, full of her beauty, a silver goddess on the messenger.  He both welcomed the light and cursed it in the same breath, happy to be out of the forest but unwelcoming the fact he could be seen if someone was looking.    He slowed his pace shortly after he started, not having covered more than a mile, seeing a glow on the roadside ahead.  

He felt for his daggers at his side, moving into the high grass on the side of the road.  He listened, trying to see if there were voices ahead, but hearing nothing he grew braver. Staying low, moving silently, counting his breathing and his steps in his head he made his way towards the glowing light, soon realizing it was a small campfire.  He watched for movement, sitting in the grasses, watching the fire's consuming appetite eat the wood it had been fed.  He heard a sharp noise and fought the urge to jump and slowly turned his head, every movement calculated for silence.  

Laying on a small bedroll lay a single traveler, an older man, grey faced.  Ellion did not study him for long, surveying the rest of the small camp.  A horse was tethered to a branch across from the fire, munching on some fodder in a small burlap bag suspended from an adjacent limb.  A few supplies were scattered hastily about, food, water, and a change of clothing.  Ellion sighed, knowing he could make more haste on horseback, his eyes studying the beast.  He also was ready to break his fast, his stomach growling softly in agreement.  Drawing a dagger from his belt he moved forward, creeping like a silent, black fog, into the camp.  He drew the sharp blade quickly, a cry not having a chance to escape the lips of the unlucky traveler.  

Cleaning his blade quickly, Ellion slid it back into place and started going through the camp, shuffling the supplies.  His eyes grew wide when he found the full water skins, opening one and downing it in a few quick gulps.  His thirst slated, he tore into the dinner the traveler had not finished, what tasted to him like rabbit, and ate eagerly.  He quickly made his way over to the horse, throwing the saddle onto the beast, cinching it into place, tied the water skins and food supplies in place and within a few minutes was fleeing the camp.  The man was still laying on his bedroll, waiting for the next passerby, or beast to take care of him.  Ellion did not spare him a second glance, the horse's hooves speeding down the road towards his destination.  The moon followed him through the night, her bright light a beacon against the dark road, guiding the horse and rider along.


© 2018 Analae


Author's Note

Analae
please excuse the grammar issues. this is a rough draft.

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Added on January 11, 2018
Last Updated on January 11, 2018
Tags: fantasy, elves, darkness, evil, wizards


Author

Analae
Analae

Sumter, SC



About
I love to write. I have a lot of new ideas and have found a few of my ideas to have taken a darker turn. I have moved from doing poetry to doing more along the story lines. I have been updating a l.. more..

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A Chapter by Analae


Chapter 1 Chapter 1

A Chapter by Analae