Eleven

Eleven

A Chapter by Isemay

“Wake up, elf.” 


Cellindir shuddered coming out of the half-sleep the woman had put him in. She must be a mage but she didn’t look like one. The woman yanked him to his feet as he was still collecting himself.


“You…” 


“Call me Rook. Where did an elf get a dwarven knife?” Her tone was almost accusing.


“From Master Odos.” The sound of Rivoril’s voice was like cold water bringing him out of his grogginess. “Give it back.” 


“I intend to, little one, I usually like to get a promise that I won’t be stabbed first.”


Despite this ‘Rook’s’ amusement, he put his hand on his son’s chest and held him back, “If you harm any of them, I’ll kill you.” He drew himself up to show her he was unafraid.


To his surprise, she handed the knife back hilt first. “Fair enough. I’m not here to rob or cause mischief. If you’ve had many prying eyes, though, that… that’s a little concerning. What’s your name?”


“I’ll give you one when you give me one, Rook isn’t a name.”


The half-elf managed to look both amused and annoyed but she shrugged, “Syreilla.”


That was a name he recognized, as he recognized the monster in front of him could have done a great deal worse. “Rook,” was the only word he could get out for a moment.


“Now you want to call me Rook?”


“Papa?” Rivoril’s voice brought him back.


“I… Cellindir. My name is Cellindir.” 


“You dropped your knife, Cellindir.”


He hadn’t even noticed.


“I’m Rivoril.” 


Cellindir winced, one of the beasts of Brosa, a servant of the cursed god of death, now knew his son’s name. 


“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Rivoril. Did Master Odos ask for your father?”


The way she spoke to his son, and seemed to know Master Odos if she knew no one else didn’t help his nerves. 


“Go on then. I’ll keep watch. No one needs to go into the woods tonight do they? I can put up a few wards that will make peeking at you seem like a bad idea for years to come.” 


The baring of her teeth in something that was probably supposed to be a smile made him shudder. He said the first thing that came to mind, not wanting to be hemmed in by her monstrous wards. “Some of the youth slip away for… privacy.” 


“Ah. Suggest that they forgo a night of f*****g or their dicks might never work right again. I’m pretty certain no matter how good a healer you have once it’s been frozen and boiled at the same time-”


The words brought to mind the horrible wounds he’d seen in Brosa, the stuff of nightmares and his stomach turned. He couldn’t keep the meal his Phiphla had pressed on him earlier down. Cellindir barely got a half step away before it came up.


Rivoril seemed unphased, cheerfully explaining to the horror in front of them, “Father saw that in Brosa! A monster cast-” 


He cut the boy off and gave his shoulder a small shove, something he never did. “Go back to your mother!” The thought of his child offending this creature… the things she could do and he would be helpless to protect himself much less his family.


The Rook didn’t seem to take offense, “It’s difficult to tell monsters and people apart sometimes, little one. And sometimes we’re both at once or one at a time. You and yours have no reason to be afraid of me, not tonight.” She gave the child a slow blink as if she knew him and were playing a game with him. 


The assurance, however, was a relief. He bent and took up his knife, asking the most pressing question on his mind, “Why is the Golden Rook here?”


“Those prying eyes you mentioned. Take your boy and tell Master Odos-”


“Where is Virilla?” Rivoril looked around and he felt his heart sink, “She should have found us by now.”


Where one went the other followed, if he hadn’t been so afraid he would have noticed sooner. That the Rook looked concerned didn’t make him feel better. She pulled out a chain and gem wrapping it around her hand, looking around with a grim expression and seeming to find what she sought, looked back at them.


“Take this.” The chain and gem were being wrapped around his hand and the forest lightened as if it were day. “Use it to find a safe path and give it to Master Odos. Tell him the Rook will fetch her back.”


Before he could ask how to do that the Rook was darting into the trees. “A safe path?” He looked at Rivoril and then back to camp and saw a forbidding grey fog blocking the way, a pale faintly red path sprang up in the direction the Rook had gone. 


“This way.” Grasping his son’s hand they followed the red path.


At the end of it the Rook had stopped and was peering ahead as if uncertain, he could see why. There were red lined shapes, like sigils scattered ahead of her. Cellindir put his hand on her shoulder, uncertain if he should speak and she spun looking furious. When she realized it was him she just looked annoyed.


 “The safe path was to follow you.” He offered her the peculiar chain and gem back. 


“Keep the boy close and out of sight.”


Gratitude was something that he could offer later and she didn’t seem inclined to waste time with it either. She was muttering under her breath and gesturing for them to go up a nearby tree after giving her command.


As they climbed, Rivoril realized they would have a view of a strip of dirt track if they went higher. Cellindir tried to discourage him, so high up he felt exposed.


“If you can see the road the road can see you. Come back into the thicker branches.”


“But she’s going that way, Papa. What is she doing?”


“Let me look.” Cautiously, he found a position he could see the Rook in. The woman looked as if she were wandering aimlessly and waving her hand in places. “She’s setting wards.”


“But… Virilla. Is she going to-to boil her and-and...”


He swallowed. “There are many kinds of wards. Some that were left in Brosa trapped people but didn’t harm them.” Not immediately. Agust No-Legs had helped to dispel them when the elves had left hunting the monsters. Over time they’d have left lifeless husks huddled in place. Those who came out of them were weak and terrified.


The boy breathed a sigh of relief and Cellindir wished he could do the same. The Rook knelt on the ground and traced something in the dirt of the road before surveying what she’d done and then moving to stand behind what she’d drawn.


It was just in time for two riders to come barrelling down the track.


A bright flash like a bolt of lightning shot from one of them toward the Rook and Cellindir nearly screamed as something grabbed his ankle at the same time.


“Get down here, both of you.” Master Odos was peering up at them with a grim expression. “She didn’t tell you to stay out of sight? You’re in view of the road.”


“She did, but I wanted to watch!” Rivoril scampered down with far more grace than the old man. “She set wards and one of the riders she caught shot lightning at her!”


“She’s the Golden Rook. You brought the Golden Rook…” Cellindir studied the old man, he looked as he always looked, like a human beggar or a travelling storyteller, but to have brought a creature like that to their wagons he wasn’t what he seemed. He couldn’t be.


Master Odos had the grace to look chagrined and inclined his head. “Be glad I did. It would take more than lightning to ruffle her feathers and Virilla couldn’t be safer. I’ll deal with the kidnappers. It’s my fault they’re here.” The old man patted Rivoril on the head with a rueful smile and seemed to vanish in the shadows between the trees.


The boy headed after him and Cellindir kept him from going past the edge of the trees, pulling him back into the shadows. It felt like an age before Rook came walking back looking unsinged and unconcerned carrying Virilla.


“I caught them in a holding ward. She’ll sleep hard for a bit but she’ll be fine.” The smile on her face wasn’t the imitation of a monster, it was genuine and reassuring.


“Master Odos said he’d deal with them.” Cellindir wasn’t certain that he wanted to be left alone in the woods with both of his children at the moment. Keeping her until Master Odos returned wouldn't be the unwisest choice.

 

She didn’t seem inclined to stay, however. “I think one got crushed by his horse. I need to make sure my wards get cleaned up and I can ask the old man if he needs any help.”


“The old man,” Odos sounded amused, “can handle things on his own, Rook. They won’t be bothering you anymore, Cellindir. We should get back to Phiphla.” 


That was one of the better ideas he’d heard tonight. The wagons always felt safe. Behind him he could hear a quiet conversation.


“You did clear away the wards?”


“I moved them. I want to make a point. Your… uncle … reaching.” The crunching of leaves underfoot made Master Odos’ words indistinct.


“Did I mention that Uncle is lending me a hand? From the way his priests keep attacking me I’m not certain his burning desire to protect me is genuine.”


Cellindir frowned, her words made no sense.


Odos snorted and the elf missed part of the reply as Virilla stirred and he adjusted her. “You offered to give the boy an education?”


“Do you remember the time you got drunk and offered to kick the dirt out of my ears for bringing back the resin you asked for instead of the powders I should have known we needed? That was educational.”


The hair rose on the back of Cellindir’s neck as the old man chuckled to himself. “You always did learn fast, little rook. I didn’t catch you with that one again.”


“We’ll see how fast this Hand of his learns. I can definitely put him to use, I just need to find the best way to do it.”


His mind started to grasp at straws to make sense of it all. A Hand? A White Hand of Imos? They were the stuff of legend but so was the Golden Rook. If she referred to Imos as her uncle…  Odos… the god of poets, thieves, and luck was his brother. It couldn’t be the man walking with them. 


“The boy will be gifted and you’ve grown cocky, little rook. Have a care.”


“Who’s your uncle?” Rivoril fell back to walk with them. “Master Odos educated you?”


“My family is a bit complicated, little one, and Master Odos once took me in and taught me a great deal.”


Adopted. He almost nodded. Her adopted father must have given her gifts and perhaps not all of the gods approved. The god of poets was smiling on his children and that was why… They didn’t want another Rook.


“Papa says you’re older than he is and he’s old. Master Odos is old but…” 


“She isn’t older than your Papa, little songbird, she just gets into more trouble.”


“You are so hurtful, Master Odos!” The Rook’s voice was almost comically offended, “Why do they always focus on the trouble you get into? No one ever appreciates the getting back out of it.”


He heard his son laugh and the woman added teasingly, “It’s my favorite part.”


“Help me get us out of this, Rook.” Master Odos sounded tiredly amused. “I don’t want them in Withia.”


“It’s too dangerous. Have you thought about sending them up to the mine? Hammersworn’s kin would take them in if you suggested it.”


Cellindir stopped and turned to face them with a frown, he had no intention of allowing their lives to be derailed by this madness. “We’re here for the Festival of Song. No one in our company would miss it and it’s the only time I’ll willingly come back to this wretched place.”


“Send the little ones then. I can arrange-”


Odos interrupted her, “Rook, I won’t have them parted from their family.”


She took a deep breath and looked pensive, “I can probably drop their family on Uncle’s doorstep. It’s one Uncle or the other really if they won’t go to the mine. Unless you think Grandmother would like the company.”


“How could we get them there? I’d rather they visit your Grandmother.”


“You’d owe Uncle a favor. I can ask to have the door opened and take them to his doorstep, and if he agrees, Vezar could take them the rest of the way.”


“The Hands would interfere.”


“Are you telling me you didn’t put my wards somewhere useful?” She folded her arms and arched an eyebrow at him. “I promised not to steal from Uncle, not to refrain from dropping a few harmless wards-”


That they kept discussing the matter as if what he wanted for his family meant nothing was infuriating, “You’re not listening,” Cellendir interrupted them and scowled at Master Odos, “We are attending-”


“If you take them into Withia, you’ll never see them again.” Odos wore an expression of grim resignation and the Rook was looking intently at the children. 


“They’ll stay with the wagons, I can keep-”


“This is why you brought me.” The half-elf seemed to have come to an unpleasant decision, at least the mirthless smile on her face was unpleasant. “You needed my light touch for this, Master Odos.


“Here are your choices, elf. You tell me again that you intend to take them into Withia, to deliver them to those who want to take them from you and break their spirits, and I’ll take your children from you here and now to put them with kinder people.


“Or, you stay together as a family. Have your own private festival in a safer place and as soon as the danger has passed you’ll be free to go back to your lives. It might even give you a story worth the trouble.


“Your choice.”


He stared in silence and Master Odos covered his face, “You spent too long with dwarves. That had all the subtlety of an axe to the groin.”


“If you’d prefer, I can go burn the damned city to the ground, Master Odos. I have enough dragon’s fire waiting to do it. I hadn’t intended to use it all at once but I can-”


“We’ll go.” Cellindir had no doubts that the Golden Rook would do as she said. For the briefest moment he’d forgotten she was a monster. “But I want to be safe from you.”


The half-elf’s face broke into a disturbing grin. “That can be arranged. I’ll leave you in peace as long as the children are safe to Master Odos’ standards.”


“And if your uncle commands otherwise?” The old man was giving her a peculiar look.


“You do realize that Vezar does most of the hard work? I make sure eyes are on me, I make sure they have a flash to train their ire on. I’m just a pretty face to distract the eye.” She shrugged and then stretched with an almost innocent expression on her face. 


Master Odos started to laugh, “Anyone who believes that deserves the face full of dragon’s fire they get, Rook. Tell Uncle I will owe him immensely.”



© 2021 Isemay


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Added on January 29, 2021
Last Updated on January 29, 2021
Tags: thief, dwarf, elf, dragon, gods

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Author

Isemay
Isemay

Germany



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Spent some time away from here but I've come back to peek in and post again! Review my writing and I will gladly return the favor! I love reading other people's stories, and I try to review hone.. more..

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One One

A Chapter by Isemay


Two Two

A Chapter by Isemay


Three Three

A Chapter by Isemay