Eleven

Eleven

A Chapter by Eddie Davis
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Applemint struggles to return to the forest in search of Gevin, but Zaeya is determined to prevent her from leaving.

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11.

 

‘For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.’

-- Matthew 16:25

 

“We can’t just leave him!”  Applemint continued to protest to Lady Zaeya as the Drow woman subtly, but firmly forced the Halfling girl to leave the forest spring on the edge of the woods where each of them had resurfaced (their clothes fully dried as soon as they left the water) after diving into the Restoration Pool.  

Applemint had fought fiercely to remain, but the Dark Elf woman seemed more than ready to handle resistance and though she actually was not that much taller than the girl, she had easily dominated her.   As soon as they’d waded out of the water, Applemint had planned to bolt back into the forest, but the crowd of freed women kept her from making her escape.   Then Zaeya had clamped her hand around the Halfling’s wrist and led her away from the forest with Applemint protesting the whole time.

The other women dispersed in several directions, none of them firmly confident where they should go, for a lot of time had passed since most of them had become trapped.  Many of them decided to head east, following the road to Whiteberry, but Zaeya sent them on ahead, for she was escorting the Halfling as more or less a prisoner and so they were walking much slower.

Applemint tried pleading, bribing, reasoning and even threatening (which greatly amused the Drow woman).

Nothing moved the Dark Elf to relent, however, and Applemint grew more and more depressed, for she knew he would not wait long to pass through the gate.

Zaeya forced her to walk, and for thirty minutes they trudged eastward in the early morning light, for they had reappeared at the same time of the morning (and in fact on the same day) that Applemint had entered the forest in pursuit of Sir Gevin.

“Don’t you have any compassion?” Applemint finally asked the Drow after another round of pleading to be freed fell upon deaf ears.

“Not any more than absolutely necessary,”  Zaeya replied, pulling her dark grey cloak’s hood further down as she squinted in the bright morning light.   Both women were once again wearing what they had originally worn when they came into the woods.    Zaeya’s outfit was the same as she had worn when they’d first encountered her, only now she had her weapons and cloak.   She was not happy with the sun, though, for Drow live in perpetual darkness and even the light of the artificial world of the jousting ground did not compare to the brightness in the real world.

Applemint knew it was probably hopeless to save Sir Gevin by now, but she wanted to know for sure, and that meant a return to the forest.   But she had to find a way to relax Zaeya’s vice-like grip on her wrist.

A familiar whinny caused Applemint to stop in her tracks, Zaeya running into her in her nearly blind state in the daylight.

“What now?” the Drow lady asked crossly, tightening her hold on the Halfling girl.

“Look!” She pointed to a pair of horses grazing on grass a few yards ahead of them.   It was Thallow and Dart!   Amazingly, the two horses had stopped, probably to rest and eat, after she’d told them to head back to Whiteberry before she’d entered the forest to find Sir Gevin.

“What is it?”  Zaeya asked impatiently, unable to see clearly in the morning light.

“Sir Gevin’s horses - he rode one of them and I took the other one; we can ride them back to Whiteberry.   You can ride a horse, can’t you?”

“Of course I can ride a horse!” She snapped harshly, but something about the way she said it made Applemint seriously wonder about her claim.   She doubted that there were horses in the underworld that the Drow came from, at least none were mentioned in the fables that Applemint had heard of the mythical place.

“I can get them if you’ll let me go,” She told Zaeya.

“If you try running off, I swear I’ll use my magic against you,” the Drow lady warned, squeezing Applemint’s wrist harder for an instant to emphasis it.

“I understand,” the Halfling replied, and cautiously Zaeya released her wrist.    Applemint rubbed it for a moment, and then turned to the horses while addressing the Drow woman, “They have their bridles and reins; let me approach them and I think they’ll let me lead them back over here.”

“Won’t you need my help?”

“They don’t know you and you might spook them.   They know me, though.”

“This better not be a trick, Halfling.”

Applemint ignored her and slowly walked toward the two grazing horses, which looked up as she approached.   Speaking softly to them, they both walked over to her and nuzzled her with their noses and she stroked their manes.    Zaeya just stood quietly, covered with her hood, cursing the brightness of the day.

A few minutes later, Applemint was leading both horses over to her.    The steeds whinnied when Zaeya moved, and Thallow’s ears twitched and he snorted, clearly not liking her.  

“He doesn’t like me,” The Drow lady murmured.

“Once he sees how truly charming you are, I’m sure he’ll think you’re as awesome as I do,” Applemint said as she gracefully mounted onto Dart’s back.

“I’ll ride Dart; you work your charm with Thallow - he’s a warhorse though and he isn’t afraid of fighting if you try to get rough with him.”

“Why don’t you take the bigger horse and I’ll take the other one,”  Zaeya suggested, backing away from the warhorse unconsciously.   It was what Applemint had hoped to see.   

She nudged Dart over to the warhorse, leaned over and patted his rump, “Thallow, head back to Whiteberry and let the scary red-eyed Elf ride you if she wants to, understand?   You’ll have to show her the way, for Dart and I have something we have to do.”

Zaeya looked up in surprise upon hearing the Halfling’s words, but before she could say anything, Applemint made a shrill whistle and poked her horse in the ribs and the steed took off at a run, heading west.

“Damnit!”  Zaeya screamed, taken off guard.   She had no time to try a spell but impulsively rushed over to the suspicious warhorse and nimbly leaped onto his back.

Thallow reared up and tried to throw her off with a loud snort and the Dark Elf held on for dear life as the horse bucked and kicked.

She screamed and yelled at him, hoping to subdue him verbally, but nothing worked and suddenly Thallow just took off in a gallop, heading west, probably trying to catch up with the other horse.    Zaeya, who had never been on a horse in her long, long life, leaned down over his neck, terrified but also thrilled with the power and speed of the animal.   She let him run, for she did not have a clue how to stop him and feared being thrown off more than anything.

He was not as fast as the Halfling’s horse, but she finally caught sight of them in the distance, though she could not watch them for long, for the light hurt her eyes too much.    So she just looked down at the dark hide of the horse and hoped that he’d slow down once he caught them.

The great forest loomed up close after only a few minutes of hard running and when she hazarded a glance, she saw the Halfling girl and her horse headed straight for the entrance.   Zaeya screamed out at the top of her lungs, hoping her voice would somehow have the power to stop the horse from rushing into the trap that caught anyone that entered.    But if the horse heard, he didn’t respond at all and to the Drow lady’s horror and frustration, horse and rider plunged into the forest, both ducking their heads as they sailed across the boundary.

Zaeya had done enough, she damned sure wasn’t going to go back in there!   To hell with her promise to the Half-Elf; she’d tried her best, so she should be absolved from any more foolishness.

“Whoa!” She yelled in Thallow’s ear, having heard that this was how horses were stopped.   But the warhorse gave no indication of slowing down at all and if anything, seemed determined to catch up to the other horse. 

“Whoa, damn you!   WHOA!   Stop!   Cease!   Prohibere!   Damnatus equum prohibere!  STOP!” Zaeya screamed, pulling the mane of the blasted creature to get it to respond.   Remembering how the knights in jousts with Lord Savel seemed to control their horses with their feet, she sharply kicked the warhorse several times, but instead of slowing down, he increased in speed.

“Damn, damn, damn!” She yelled as the horse rushed into the forest, it’s head bowed to avoid the branches.    Zaeya was slapped and whipped as she tried to crouch as low as she could over the animal’s head.   Thallow seemed determined to use the foliage to knock her off, passing very close to trunks so her legs - thankfully covered in the best Drow armor- were battered and scrapped.

She considered simply slitting the horse’s neck with her short sword, but she was too afraid to let go with one hand to grope for her weapon.    Twigs cut and scratched at her face, enraging her, but there was nothing she could do but hang on.   It felt as if the horse ran for hours in the forest, but after an eternity Thallow emerged into a clearing.    The Drow woman raised her head enough to see through the dim light that Applemint and her horse had stopped at the other end of the clearing.  She stretched to see why, but before she could focus, a tree branch hit her hard in the shoulder and she found herself tumbling off the back of the warhorse. 

Zaeya twisted in mid-air to try to right herself, and landed on her feet, for an instant, before the jolt of the impact sent her bouncing back hard onto her butt.

Pain filled her with fury as she painfully stood up, drawing both sword and dagger from their sheaths.   The warhorse was out of her range (luckily for his sake) but she saw the stubborn redheaded Halfling girl slipping off her horse beside a large spring of water.

It wasn’t the same one that they had emerged from after jumping into the Restoration Pool, but it did have a similiar look and Zaeya wondered if the foolish girl had mistaken it for the other one in her anxiousness to find it.

She didn’t say a word, but advanced as quickly as her sore muscles would allow, still seeing red for all that she’d been put through.   Applemint knew she was coming for her and was already ankle deep into the pool by the time Zaeya reached her.

“Leave me alone!” the girl warned with terror in her voice, trying desperately to wade out into the deeper part of the pool.

The Drow lady did not answer her, simply flinging her dagger into the mossy bank of the spring, then, with lightning speed, leaned out over the water and grabbed the Halfling girl by her long braided hair then yanked her backward with all her might.

Applemint cried out, stumbling, but Zaeya continued to pull her back until she was halfway out of the water.

“Stop it, you’re hurting me!” She cried and Zaeya simply backhanded her savagely, her metal gauntlet bloodying the Halfling’s nose as she fell backwards from the blow.    Yelping in pain, Applemint tried to rise, only to have the Drow woman fiercely kick her in the stomach.   Before she could double over in pain, the Dark Elf was on top of her, her knees digging into her chest as she pushed her down onto the soggy moss bank.

Unable to draw breath, the Halfling girl looked up in horror at the glowing red eyes of the Drow lady.   Zaeya backhanded her again, sending blood spraying from her nose.   Her head smacked the ground and in a flash Zaeya was a few inches away from her face, the black blade of her short sword pressed against her neck.   She could feel the Drow woman’s muscles trembling from an urge to slit her throat.   Never in her life had Applemint felt more scared.

“You stupid little b***h, I am of a mind to bleed you out right here,” she said in a low voice as cold as the grave, “I’m no damned foolish, hairy-footed half pint girl!   I’ve killed many for far less than you did to me!”

Applemint had no air to respond and was too terrified to say anything.

“You damned surface folk!   I’ve been a prisoner in this hellhole of a world for too damned long!   I was an idiot to agree to the Half-Elf’s request to get you safely home!   You’re not worth the effort!”  The blade of the short sword held at Applemint’s neck shook slightly and the girl knew that the Drow lady was deciding her fate at that moment.

But through her ringing ears, there came the sound of something violently bubbling from the pool behind her.    Zaeya heard it too, for with unbelieable speed she leaped off of her like a panther and crouched on the ball of her feet, facing the source of the bubbling sound, her short sword and a quickly retrieved dagger in each hand as she warily watched something in the water.

Applemint, despite her injuries, didn’t even bother to turn to see what it was, for nothing coming out of the water could be more dangerous than the enraged Dark Elf woman.   She rolled and crawled into the water, away from the threat of the Drow woman.

Zaeya let her go, figuring that the Halfling would keep any creature surfacing from noticing her for long enough to decide how to respond.

Applemint staggered toward the bubbles, half- crawling, half-swimming.   The pool was not large, and in only a few moments, she was next to the source of the disturbance.  

As Zaeya watched, Applemint shakingly stood up and peered down into the water for a few long moments.    Then a strange look of realization came over her bloody, muddy face and she slowly took up the stance of someone about to dive under water.

Could she have found another pool portal?   The possibility sent the Drow woman into motion, springing into the water to stop her, though she didn’t really know why she would even care.    Perhaps it was out of pure malice, but whatever the reason was, she had almost reached the girl before she noticed it.

The water felt like it was on fire, like she had jumped into boiling oil.    Zaeya screamed in agony, instinctively trying to pull her legs out of the water, but in her haste, slipping on the mossy bottom of the pool and falling in.

Her screams pierced the air, transfixing Applemint who had turned as soon as the Drow woman had first screamed.    Zaeya was thrashing around in water that was only knee deep to her, as if it was the strongest of acids.   Her Drow armor looked as if it was in the process of being forged, for it was all glowing a bright orange as if superheated.   As the Halfling watched in horror, the Drow woman’s exposed skin took on terrible blisters then quickly turned a sickly grey color.    Her long silvery white hair fell out of her scalp in a couple of big clumps.  Her features were contorted in sheer agony, her eyes rolled up into her head and the flesh of her face blistering and then turning grey like the rest of her body.

Her piercing screams were the most pitiful thing Applemint had ever heard and though she had been at her mercy only a few minutes before, the girl instinctively acted.   Grabbing her flaying arms (which were extremely hot to the touch), she managed to drag her from the pool.    Her armor and clothing had melted entirely away by the time she got her out of the water.   Terrible burns covered her entire body.    Zaeya curlled up into a fetal position groaning and trembling like a scared and dying animal.

“Yesh, have mercy!” She said as she looked down at the Drow lady’s severely burnt body.    It was far beyond her healing ability and Applemint was so stunned that she could not think of anything she could do for her.   Though she was soaking wet with the same water that had done this to the Dark Elf, she was only mildly cold and soggy.

She was surely getting what she deserved for her cruelty and ruthlessness.   But Applemint heard her grandmother’s voice, reading some of the sayings of Lord Yesh, and one in particular echoed in her ears.   ‘Kindness shown to those who abuse you, mercy for those who were ruthless with you; healing for pain inflicted, a soft word for a threatened curse; these are the holy ways of your merciful God and those strong enough to follow them in times of evil will be blessed by those in Heaven.’

Applemint sniffled back oozing blood flowing from her nostrils, “I guess this would be a time of evil.   What can I do for her, Lord?   I can’t heal those types of injuries.”

As she stood there looking at the dying Dark Elf, she felt a strong compulsion to pull the Drow woman once again into the bubbling waters.

“It will kill her, Lord!” She said aloud, but the compulsion only grew stronger.

“Well, okay, Lord, I’m doing this because I feel compelled to try it.   Forgive me if I make the wrong decision.”

Wiping her bloody nose on her dirty dress sleeve, she went over to Zaeya and without any hesitation, just grabbed her by her ankles (which had little skin left on them) and pulled her back into the pool.     The Drow lady was too weak to resist or reply and she easily slid into the pool, as if she weighted no more than a small child.

A pink glow covered the Dark Elf as soon as she entered the water and Applemint was surprised to see that the glow had encompassed her as well.    She felt a warm tingle course over her and she thought she could smell Liliacs.   The tingling intensified as the pink glow grew brighter.   A strange sleepiness came over her and she closed her eyes, slipping down into the water until only her head remained clear of the water.

The tingling was invigorating and Applemint felt herself immerse her head briefly into the pleasantly warm, soft water.    All pain left her and she felt incredibly relaxed and peaceful.   Zaeya’s body had sunk beneath the water as Applemint relished in the tingling sensation, but when she leaned over to pull the Drow lady to the surface, she found her gone.

This revelation did not alarm her as much as she felt it should, perhaps due to her relaxed state.   She felt somehow different inside, as if something ethereal had changed inside her, though there was no physical evidence of anything different.    It was a wonderful but mysterious feeling and the more she thought about it, the more sleepy she became.   She knew that she needed to get out of the pool quickly, but a great relaxation made her body completely unwind.    Her mind reeling, she felt herself sinking down into the water until it covered her head.  It was inviting and comforting, all around her, throughout her, as if she was part of it, part of the very universe at the very core of her soul.   She felt herself taking a deep breath, though she knew somewhere in her foggy mind that she was underwater.   Yet her lungs filled up (it seemed) with the clearest, freshest air she had ever breathed and a strange but wonderful dreamless sleep overcome her.  

Applemint welcomed it and gave herself up to it.

 

 

 

 




© 2020 Eddie Davis


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Added on November 20, 2020
Last Updated on November 20, 2020
Tags: Synomenia, Nihility_Gate, fantasy, elf, sword_and_sorcery, magic, knights, Halflings, Drow


Author

Eddie Davis
Eddie Davis

Springfield, MO



About
I'm a fantasy and science-fiction writer that enjoys sharing my tales with everyone. Three trilogies are offered here, all taking place in the same fantasy world of Synomenia. Other books and stor.. more..

Writing
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