Chapter Three

Chapter Three

A Chapter by Elina
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Vínmorr is called upon to serve in Akkheron's army.

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Chapter Three

 

A great, black lerecht padded across the stony terrain. Its short tail bobbed as it trotted along a faint path that few used. The beast came to a section of the terrain that appeared rather like a shallow bowl. Several of its kind lounged about in the circle of stone. The black creature gave a snorting growl of warning as a young lerecht neared it. With a whimper, the youngster retreated.

Shaking its head, the dark creature bounded up a few “steps”. It proceeded along a path lined with trees. At the end of the path was a large opening in the mountain’s side. The lerecht entered the cave, moving farther into the shadows. There was a corridor on the far wall and, taking this path, the black creature made its way to a separate cavern. The darkness was dimly lit by the glow of candlelight.

Plodding toward the simple, cluttered desk, the lerecht lifted its nose in the air and sniffed. The creature’s smallish eyes glanced to the figure seated at the desk, working tirelessly over a set of books and maps. The lerecht seated itself beside the table, its tail flicking from side to side once or twice. It released a quiet, growling sort of bark, announcing its presence to the focused figure.

Stretching, the Elandhin -- part Elaborathin, part tree spirit --glanced to the lerecht beside him.

“What’s this? Had enough of your adventuring and finally decided to return to your master?” Vínmorr released a grunt of amusement.

The beast let loose a yelping bark, nudging the Elandhin with her snout.

“All right, I see you. Come, Shígra.”

Vínmorr stood, placing a hand upon the lerecht’s head. He strode through the halls and exited the cave, stepping out into the dusk-lit scenery. Shígra stood tall beside the Elandhin, watching his face in anticipation. He glanced at the beast and smirked.

“Very well, you’ve earned it, I suppose.”

Reaching into a small fissure in the mountain’s side, Vínmorr took hold of a rotting slab of meat. A half-smile lit his features as he saw the lerech’ts ears perk up. He tossed the putrid substance to the creature and she -- with great enthusiasm -- snatched it out of the air. After gulping it down, Shígra stepped toward her master, sniffing at his hands and giving them a few cautious licks.

Vínmorr scratched the course, bristly coat behind the lerecht’s ears; she gave a grunt of contentment.

A howling bay rose some distance down the mountain. Shígra’s head lifted, and with it her hackles. A rumbling growl emanated from her chest. The lerecht looked to Vínmorr, who scowled. Patting her shoulder, the Elandhin leapt onto the creature’s back. Together, they made their way down the mountainside, to where the excited barks and yelps and howls could be heard.

Upon reaching the mountain’s base, Vínmorr saw Kherr Prochk --the military commander over Khillem -- astride a large sorrel horse. As Shígra halted, the Elandhin slid from her back and moved toward the kherr. The tall elf nodded his head at Vínmorr.

“A fine greeting, that. Can’t you teach your beasts the difference between friend and foe? My mount nearly sent me plummeting to the earth, ‘til I was able to bring him back under control.”

“The lerecht are very protective creatures. And I would be hard-pressed to introduce every leading dignitary to my pack. What news have you? I’m sure you did not come on personal matters, Kherr Prochk.”

“Movv Khaia has received orders from Akkheron, himself. We’re moving our forces, at last.”

“Promising news, indeed. But what, pray, does that have to do with me? I’ve already delivered nearly fifteen hundred lerecht. All that remains of my pack are the pups and breeding stock.”

“Oh, don’t be so modest, Vínmorr. Your abilities are most impressive.”

The Elandhin crossed his arms.

“I am but a humble lerecht master. I don’t see that that will provide much aid to Akkheron in his endeavor to conquer Naine Mithale.”

“That’s not what I refer to, you fool. Much as you like to play the ill-bred outcast, Movv Khaia knows of your lineage. He wants you to lead a legion into Gael-Narenth.”

“And if I refuse?”

“Don’t be daft. This is a momentous opportunity for you. You’ll be handsomely rewarded once we accomplish our mission.”

“And what, pray, would I do with all those riches, eh? Build myself a grand palace? Fill it with all assortment of harlots, as you do?”

Prochk grinned, unoffended by Vínmorr’s brash words.

“You don’t know what you’re missing, my friend. Ah, the pleasures of a rothnak! Even better when you send them on their merry way after the deed is done; much less hassle. I tell you; I can easily supply you with a rothnak to lighten your dull mood. Why don’t you accept my help, instead of spending all your time with these ugly beasts?”

“The lerecht don’t ask pointless questions. You really think any of your w****s would be interested in me? Judging by your talk, they’d take one look and devote themselves to chastity. Not that I could be bothered with them, anyway; my studies keep me much too busy.”

“Oh, your studies! Bah! That’s just an excuse to deprive yourself of the pleasures of this life. Ah! Perhaps you’d prefer a female of your own kind? You know, I think I heard of some female Elandhin in Shamma’s region…”

“Enough; I don’t need to get entangled with some wench. And I don’t have need of wealth.”

The elf shifted his weight; the creaking of saddle leather accompanying his movement. He tilted his head and studied Vínmorr, as if contemplating something. Then, a cunning sort of smile lit his features.

“These studies, of yours…would you perhaps benefit from the aid of scholars of the highest degree? If you work hard to advance Akkheron’s cause, he may just provide you with the resources you need.”

Vínmorr sighed.

“Very well, then. When does Movv Khaia wish to meet with me?”

The roth leaned back, resting his wrist upon the elaborate pommel of his notably unsullied saddle. He lifted one gloved hand, gesturing as if to further assert his magnitude.

“I knew you’d see reason. As a matter of fact, he’s waiting for you now. He’s staying at the tavern in Chírek.”

The Elandhin scoffed. Shaking his head, he mounted Shígra, once more. From her back, Vínmorr glared at Prochk.

“You sly scoundrel. How you ever manage to survive your feats of trickery is something I’ll never understand.”

“Pure charm, my friend, pure charm.”

The Kherr gave a dashing grin, before wheeling his horse about. Together, the two loped across the grasslands for approximately one hour. Darkness draped over their surroundings as they neared the large town to the northwest of Vínmorr’s mountain home.

A single torch was mounted near the entrance of the tavern. The two left their mounts outside and entered the building. As they strode between tables, Vínmorr felt the weight of numerous eyes studying him. The Elandhin cringed, trying to ignore the murmers. One rothnak, however, made a point of “whispering” her thoughts in such a manner as to be heard by all around her.

“By the Snake! I heard a new race was being bred, but that is hideous. Those horns are positively bestial. And look at that scar!”

The Elandhin clenched his jaw, focusing his attention on the stairs that led to the rooms of the tavern. Kherr Prochk turned toward him, shrugging.

“Never mind her; she spews out unceasing streams of drivel.”

Vínmorr lifted the ridge above one of his deep-set eyes.

“Another one of your playthings?”

“Hardly worth the coin I gave ‘er. I feel sorry for the poor wretch she’ll ensnare to-night.”

The Elandhin shook his head in bewilderment.

“Will you ever take your position seriously?”

“I’m offended, Vínmorr. I regard my position with the utmost esteem. How else could I afford to live in such luxury?”

Vínmorr rolled his eyes.

Prochk led the way to the room that Movv Khaia was using. As the two entered, they spotted the military leader performing strength-building exercises upon the floor. The roth glanced up and -- after ceasing his motions -- rose to greet them. He wore only breeches; his muscled torso glistened with sweat, his fair hair clung to his body. Khaia grabbed a cloth to wipe his hands, before extending one in greeting.

Prochk clasped the blonde’s forearm first; nodding his head in respect. Next the tall roth turned his gaze to Vínmorr. The Elandhin bowed and gave a salute.

“Movv Khaia.”

“Forgive me, both of you, for my unseemly appearance. I was not certain Prochk would be able to convince you. Not wanting to waste time, I thought it best to ensure my body stay fit and hale for our coming mission.”

Vínmorr noticed a poorly-suppressed grin playing at the corners of Prochk’s mouth. He felt certain the dark-haired elf was about to make a vile comment about the physical benefits of bedding a rothnak, or some other remark of a similar nature. Hoping to save himself from Prochk’s useless babble, the Elandhin charged forth in conversation.

“You’ve no need to apologize, Movv Khaia. Your devotion is most admirable.”

The fair elf smiled. He gestured for the other two to seat themselves, and then offered each of them a pint of ale. Prochk grinned, readily accepting the drink and taking a gulping swig. Vínmorr, on the other hand swallowed a moderate amount and nodded to show his gratitude.

“I’d wager you were hesitant to accept this task.”

“I won’t deny my reticence. I prefer solitude, and I have no aptitude for leading rothni.”

Khaia planted his elbow on the arm of the chair and rested his jaw upon the knuckles of his hand. The roth’s eyes narrowed slightly, and a whisper of a smile crossed his face. An odd sort of expression seemed to darken the elf’s features for a moment.

“I’ve no doubt you could command an army. You come from Khra’s line, after all; the mighty Elaborathin who smote ten Eb-dae with a single blow of his hammer.”

“Baseless fabrications, I assure you.”

“And of course, there’s the matter of your other kin. You have the disciplined and stubborn blood of the Dhannedrae in you.”

Vínmmorr’s gaze hardened. Not daring to disrespect Movv Khaia, the Elandhin decided it would be best to say nothing. Yet the blonde seemed to notice the change in the atmosphere. A cruel light glinted in his green eyes.

“Ah, that’s right. The creature that birthed you is still being held prisoner, isn’t she? How many of your kind do you suppose she’s spawned?”

Striving to maintain his composure, Vínmorr lifted the pint to his mouth, downing half the contents. Kherr Prochk, who had managed to drink a fair portion of his own, glanced between the two. Clearing his throat, the Elandhin looked back to Khaia.

“I shall bear the burden of Shechk with solemnity. I make no claims of greatness, but what skills I have, I shall use to aid the cause.”

“You proved the very point I was hoping to make. You are not easily provoked to reckless behaviour. This is an attribute most valued in Akkheron’s great army. With someone like you leading Akkheron’s forces, we can accomplish a great many things. If you prove yourself in this task, I will be sure to put in a good word with our lord. In a few months’ time I’d wager you could rise to the rank of movv.”

“You flatter me, Movv Khaia.”

“Nonsense. Why do you think our lord is breeding your kind? He wants soldiers with the strength and brutality of the Elaborathin, but the intellect and composure of those tree demons. You are precisely the sort we need to defeat the Narenthian scum.”

Vínmorr nodded his head.

“When do I report for my service?”

“You can meet me here in two days time. I’ll send notification that you’ve agreed to take the position. After you’ve settled your own affairs, we shall head to the encampment near the borders of Fekklorn.”

The Elandhin drank the remainder of his ale. He stood and bowed his head.

“I shall be off, then. I’ll return in two days.”

Khaia rose from his seat.

“Ah, but I had something prepared for you; for Prochk, as well. Stay, enjoy some entertainment. You’ll have plenty of time for sobriety once we report at the encampment.”

Sighing, Vínmorr followed Movv Khaia and Kherr Prochk to the hall, and into the next room. He halted at the threshold, feeling embarrassed and disgusted all at once.

Several rothnash lounged about the simple room. Their attire was altogether too revealing, and Vínmorr forced himself to stare at the floor.

Prochk, who had already started drinking from a new flagon, sauntered toward the she-elves. With a grand flourish, the roth bowed.

“Ah, my ladies! What a pleasure it is to see you here, looking so splendid.”

The rothnash giggled, and two of them rose from their place to cling to and embrace the dark-haired elf. He moved to the large chair the females had occupied and settled himself into it. Prochk’s new distractions fawned over him, and he enjoyed every moment of it, making bawdy jests and laughing.

“Come, Vínmorr. Take your pick.”

Movv Khaia’s words caused the Elandhin to glance up. The three remaining rothnash stared at him, as if they had only just noticed his presence. One female, in particular, looked at him in horror; her expression one of pleading -- as if the thought of spending a night with him would be a form of punishment.

Vínmorr crossed his arms. He looked to Khaia, trying to determine to what extent he could refuse, without receiving some form of disciplinary action.

“I would prefer to return to my own bed.”

“It’s already dark. Stay, and enjoy some company.”

“Listen to him, my friend. I’ve tried tellin’ you, life is more than your infernal beasts and studies. Live a little, Vínmorr. These rothnash know what they’re about; they’ll treat ya to a good time.”

“Hush, you drunken fool. I’ve told you I’ve no need to get mixed up with some rothnak.”

“You’re missin’ so much, Vín.” Prochk stood from the chair, swaying slightly. He moved to the group of three she-elves. “Right, my dears? Show him what he’s been missing.”

The rothnash seemed to shrink back. The kherr, however, laughed and grabbed the wrist of one. He dragged her across the short distance, and virtually flung her against Vínmorr. The Elandhin steadied the female -- lest she should fall -- taking a step back to regain distance between their bodies.

Prochk released a grating belt of laughter which did little to ease Vínmorr’s annoyance with the elf. The female stared at Vínmorr with surprising boldness; he doing his utmost to ignore her presence. Movv Khaia watched on with an unpleasant, cunning sort of expression.

“Might I be permitted to leave, now?”

“Very well, you may abstain from the revelry. But I insist that you stay here. I’ll have a room prepared for you.”

Though he wanted to refuse, Vínmorr thought it would be wiser to accept. He had already pushed the limits by refusing the “gift” that Movv Khaia had prepared. It would be of no benefit to the Elandhin if he angered the movv before they were even sent to the battlefields.

“I would be most grateful. First, I shall attend to my mount.”

The blonde elf smiled; a cold and calculated expression.

“Of course. A roth should care for his beast, that it may serve him all the better.”

Vínmorr bowed -- revealing none of the seething rage that stirred within him -- and left the room. The Elandhin knew the implication behind Khaia’s words; that he was no more than a “beast” to be used by the “master”. There was a warning in the movv’s words, too; that Vínmorr should be careful of his actions or else be eliminated.

Taking a deep breath, the Elandhin tried not to think of what would happen during his time under Khaia’s leadership. There was something about the roth that unnerved Vínmorr; though he couldn’t quite discern the cause.

The tall mixed-breed moved down the stairs and went to the kitchens. He rapped upon the frame of the entrance until a sour-faced elf looked in his direction.

“What in Khaman are you? Whadda yeh want from me?”

“My apologies for interrupting your work. Do you have any meat that’s spoiled?”

“Yeh beggin’ fer scraps, eh? Git lost, demon.”

“I’m willing to pay for the meat.”

“Prob’ly eat it raw, most like.”

“It’s for my lerecht.”

“Foul creatures; never understood as why one’d want one of ‘em ling’rin’ about. Eh…I thinks as that I’ve got some meat fer yeh.”

“I’d appreciate it.”

After purchasing the meat, Vínmorr passed quickly through the common room of the tavern, and stepped into the night. Shígra lay exactly where he had left her. The lerecht’s head lifted when he exited the door. A small smile lifted the corner of his mouth when he noted her hind end wiggle in recognition and excitement.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, rhekha. I’m afraid we’ll have to stay a bit longer.”

Vínmorr tossed a piece of his purchase to the lerecht. In her enthusiasm, the beast swallowed the portion whole. Chortling, the Elandhin stood before Shígra. He held out a slab of meat. With great care, the lerecht took the food from Vínmorr’s hand.

After spending some time in the peace and solitude of the night, the Elandhin sighed in resignation. He gave his mount a gentle pat on the neck, and returned to the oppressive tavern.

Whispers followed him through the building, until he took the stairs and entered the hallway. Yet no peace found him there, for Movv Khaia leaned against the wall near the room he had acquired.

“I was starting to wonder if you would ever return.”

Vínmorr nodded, choosing not to comment.

Khaia studied him for a moment, then pulled away from the wall. His arms were still crossed as he gestured, with a tilt of his head.

“Your room is at the end of the hall. I figured you wouldn’t want to be too close to your friend’s revelries.”

“I am indebted to you, Movv Khaia.”

“Be sure to remember that, Vínmorr.”

The elf wheeled around and went into his room. The Elandhin grimaced at the movv’s words, making his way to the room that had been prepared for him.

Vínmorr slipped through the door, releasing a sigh of relief. He leaned against the back of the door for a moment. Closing his eyes, the Elandhin groaned in frustration.

“How, in Khaman, did I allow Prochk to trick me into this?”

He spun around and punched the wall, a snarling growl leaving his lips as he did so. The Elandhin shook with rage. Hatred welled up within him; hatred for Khaia, for his own circumstance, for those who had brought him into existence.

After pacing the room for a few moments, the mix-breed felt his blood cool. Shaking his head, Vínmorr moved to the darkened shape of the bed. He sat upon the edge and removed his boots. Leaning forward, he rested his head in his hands.

“What have I gotten myself into?”

Two hands rested upon his shoulders and, as he felt the warmth of a body lean into his own, a quiet voice whispered in his ear.

“Poor, troubled soul; your burdens are great. But I can help you forget all your cares tonight.”

“By the Snake!”

Vínmorr leapt from the bed, disentangling himself from the rothnak’s embrace. His heart was pounding from the shock.

“What are you doing here?”

“Your master wanted to reward you for your choice to serve the Serpent.”

“Get out.”

Vínmorr’s voice came out as a growl. All the wrath that had filled him moments before, surged through his veins again. He had a strong urge to harm the she-elf, though he knew she had had no say in the matter.

“But your master’s already paid the fare. He demanded I give you the best treatment.”

In an outburst of fury, the Elandhin moved toward the rothnak and gripped her neck in his hand. Vínmorr could sense her terror in the rapid pulse pounding through her veins.

“I am no one’s dog; that…monster is not my master.”

“Please…”

The rothnak coughed, fighting for breath. Her hands clasped his, trying to pry his fingers from her neck. Vínmorr released her, and the rothnak dropped to the bed, gasping.

Like a caged beast, the Elandhin paced about the room. He released a short roar of anger. The dark stain of hatred enveloped his heart; Vínmorr swore vengeance upon Movv Khaia.

One day, when the time is right, I will make him pay.

Clenching his jaw, Vínmorr moved toward the bed and lit the candle that sat beside it. Turning, he glared at the she-elf. However, when his eyes alighted upon her, his expression softened.

The female was very young; probably no more than sixteen summers. Her auburn curls hung about her face, and her amber eyes were filled with tears. She trembled fiercely, curled up against the wall that the bed was positioned beside.

Feeling a sudden and peculiar sense of pity, Vímorr extended his hand toward her. The girl cried all the more, flinching away from him. Embarrassed, the Elandhin pulled his hand away and sat in the chair.

“Quiet now, rheshniff. I won’t harm you.”

The young female looked at him, but did not seem to believe his words. Vínmorr felt a slight twinge of guilt.

“I apologize for hurting you, before.”

“It’s not the first time.”

The Elandhin was stunned for a moment. Something seemed to stir within him at the casual way she spoke of such things.

“I’m sorry.”

The girl nodded, still wary of him. Sighing, Vínmorr stretched his legs out, and leaned against the back of the chair.

“You may leave, now. I have no need of your services.”

“But…he told me I must stay.”

She appeared frightened; only this time, her fear did not seem to stem from Vínmorr. He tilted his head, pondering her reaction.

“What did he tell you, precisely?”

“He said that I must entertain his…er…war hound. He told me that, if I stay here until morning, he will take me away from here.”

“And if you should fail?”

Vínmorr felt certain there was something more to the conditions that Khaia had set. He was not surprised, then, when the girl’s face paled.

“He said if I didn’t please you…”

With great suddenness, she burst into tears. She practically crawled her way to Vínmorr, and knelt before him, clinging to the fabric of his tunic about his torso.

“Please, don’t send me away. I know I’m young, but I will try my best. Only, please, don’t make me leave. I don’t want to…” She trailed off, thinking of whatever ill fate Khaia had promised her. After shuddering, the girl gazed at him with pleading eyes. “Or better, yet; kill me, here and now. Death would be far better than the fate that awaits me.”

Clearing his throat, Vínmorr took hold of the female’s arms and --as he stood -- lifted her from the floor. She stood before him, still clinging to his clothing and looking at him in expectation.

The Elandhin grabbed the robe that had been draped over the back of the chair. The smooth fabric was used to by the tavern rothnash to cover their scantily-clad bodies while wandering the building. He arranged the clothing on her shoulders, and gestured for her to move to the bed.

Her face clearly displayed her confusion, but she sat upon the edge of the bed, nonetheless. When he came near, she misunderstood his intentions.

Much to his distress, his own ignorance had allowed him to be caught off guard, and -- when the she-elf tugged on his arm more than he had anticipated -- he lost his balance and plopped upon the bed beside the young rothnak. He was so surprised that, for a moment, he simply sat upon the bed in bewilderment at what had happened.

However, when the female allowed the robe to drop from her shoulders and started to wrap her arms around him, Vínmorr nigh sprung up from the bed.

“Ah, forgive me.” The Elandhin strode to the opposite end of the small room. “That…that wasn’t what I had in mind. You may sleep on the bed; I shall rest here. In the morning you will be free to leave; I shall inform Movv Khaia that you pleased me well.”

She revealed a perplexed sort of expression. Vínmorr settled into the chair, once more. He crossed his arms and closed his eyes. After some time, he heard the faint rustle of fabric and knew that the girl had finally laid down.

Hours passed, and the Elandhin drifted in and out of a half-sleep. In the early hours of the morning, he heard the young rothnak leave the bed. The soft sound of her footfalls neared him, and he felt her presence as she stood by his side. Vínmorr kept his eyes closed, puzzling over her closeness.

He heard her shift, and felt her draw even closer. The Elandhin forced his facial expression to remain unchanged, despite his growing discomfort. He could feel the intensity of her eyes studying him.

Come to look at the beast, have you?

For a moment, Vínmorr thought to thoroughly frighten the girl by speaking or opening his eyes to return her stare. He almost smiled at the thought. So it was that -- when she rested her hand upon his and gently kissed his cheek -- he felt perplexed and more than a little apologetic.

“Thank you.”

Her whispered words held all the torment she had faced in her short life. Vínmorr listened as she glided to the door and left the room.


© 2020 Elina


Author's Note

Elina
Any advise, thoughts, or critiques are greatly appreciated.

This is a new chapter that I had written much later during my writing process. This is an introduction to Si-ol and, more precisely, Vínmorr - he will become a significant character a bit later in the series.

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Added on May 22, 2020
Last Updated on May 22, 2020
Tags: action, adventure, creatures, drama, elf, elves, fantasy, romance


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Elina
Elina

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A child of the Living God, I incorporate my beliefs into my writing. I am quite old-fashioned for my age, and often feel that I ought to have been born in a different era. I am a major bibliophi.. more..

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A Chapter by Elina