Twelve

Twelve

A Chapter by Eddie Davis
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Elven hermit Troem Agis finds his solitude broken by a surprise visitor.

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12.

 

‘We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.’

-- C.S. Lewis

 

 

Troem Agis was spending the 62nd anniversary of his self-imposed seclusion by contently watching the sun rise over the snow caped mountains as he sat on the remains of an ancient stone column, part of the ruins of what some said was a temple made by either wizards or Elves, eons ago.    Growing up in the Elven refuge village of Shelterhaven, his people were as mystified by the site on top of wooded Phrallin Peak as the scattered humans and humanoid people that had lived here those many years ago.

Now all of them were gone, fleeing westward into the deeper mountains or a handful integrated into the human kingdoms to the south that had destroyed most of the ancient kingdoms and killed off nearly all of the races of people that had survived for thousands of years.    Human greed and ruthlessness could not be stopped, Troem mused, watching a solitary hawk circling above the trees of Phrallin Peak searching for prey.

He was 432 years old and did not feel any different physically than when he’d been a young man, but his soul felt ancient and weary.   Yet he had dreamt, 62 years ago, while living with a handful of his brethren in the forests south and east of here, that Yesh the Merciful wanted him to separate from his companions and return to the land of his youth - now completely devoid of Elves and other races, even humans (except for frequent hunters and those seeking to escape human society due perhaps to crimes committed).   It was a land of abandoned memories, too rugged and harsh of temperatures most of the year, so it kept humans from settling down there.

They had come once, in a war of annihilation to destroy the remnants of several former Elven kingdoms that had settled there and thrived.

He’d fought with about a thousand other Elven men to keep the advancing human army sent from Greidour from destroying Shelterhaven, but their army had been too great and so they’d taken their women and children and fled, separating into many smaller bands to prevent the Greidour army from pursuing them.  

But their foes had only come north to neutralize and destroy.   They’d torched Shelterhaven and taken a handful of Elven prisoners (mostly women) and returned to the south, never to return.    That had been 120 years ago, and he’d lived 58 years with the exiles before he’d received the vision to return. 

When he’d arrived, Shelterhaven had long disappeared, covered by new trees growing in the ashes of the Greidour destruction.   It had been too painful to live there, and so, feeling Yesh’s calling to do so, he’d hiked up to Phrallin Peak, which stood about two and a half miles high above the valley where Shelterhaven had once stood.   There, amongst the stone ruins of the mysterious temple, he’d made a home, living more-or-less as a monk.   

It hadn’t been easy at first and he still had times he longed for company, but he had found a type of peace with his past during his years of reading the teachings of Yesh and prayer.   He still wasn’t sure why he was supposed to live alone looking down at the ruins of his childhood, but the memories did not hurt him anymore.   He felt mostly content, though not without a profound, yet not actually troubling, sadness.   Troem hoped one day he would receive an answer to his questions, but until then, he’d meditate and wait.    God always acted in His time, and that could take many, many years.

As he was listening to the birds singing their morning songs and beginning to think about eating something for breakfast, he heard the sound of a violent wind coming from behind him, up the remaining slight slope to the very summit of the mountain, where the ancient shrine or temple had sat in ruins for many centuries.

As he looked, there in the heart of the temple, in the middle of what had once been a wide arch, but now were only curving stone arms reaching perhaps halfway upward, there was a distortion of the air, though he did not see any wind blowing and there were no storm clouds overhead.    The space between the ruined arch seemed as if it were growing progressively blacker in color every moment.

Alarmed, Troem quickly moved behind the fallen column that he had been seated on and crouched down so it concealed all but the very top half of his head.    With eyes wide in wonder and more than a little afraid, he watched as the space in between the broken arms of the former arch grew until they took on a perfect black circle, as if someone had spilled a pool of ink sideways in mid-air.

The roaring sound intensified and there came crackles and pops like wood in a big bonfire.    Then out of the blackness a figure stepped.

He wore black armor, though aside from the sinister color, it seemed of a normal design.   He had a sheathed sword at his side and after taking a few steps forward from the blackness, he stopped and as he did, the black shape in the center of the arch disappeared completely, along with the sounds.

The knight seemed to be a bit wobbly in the knees and he sank down and sat on one of the larger building blocks of the ruin.   With heaviness evident in his slow movements, he reached up and removed his helmet, revealing a seemingly young man who looked so weary and worn in his face and by his mannerisms that Troem felt all fear leave him.

He stood up and the two stared at each other for a long moment, before the knight slowly raised his armored hand with the palm open to show his non-hostile intentions.

Troem took up his staff and walked briskly to him, his curiosity burning for what had just occurred.

“Peace be to you, friend,” He spoke to the knight, who, upon closer examination looked as if he might have some Elven blood.

“And to you as well, sir,” he bowed slightly, “Forgive me, but I have no idea where I am.   My name is Gevin, I am a knight from Greidour.”

As soon as he mentioned the kingdom’s name, Troem stiffened and the smile faded from his face.

“Greidour?”

“Yes, sir; don’t worry, I am alone.   You are an Elf, aren’t you?” He reached up and slid off his coif, revealing slightly pointed ears, “My mother was an Elf.   I mean you no harm, sir.   Can you tell me exactly where I am?”

“I can, sir knight, but I would require you to tell me first by what means you arrived here.”

“Ah…well, that is a tale that you will probably not believe.”

“Perhaps, but if it is the truth, I shall certainly know it, so please proceed, then I will answer your questions.”

With only a deep sigh, Gevin gave a detailed description of what had occurred since he’d left Whiteberry seeking the Nihility Gate.   Troem listened respectfully, but was quite dubious of the Half-Elf’s claims, at least at first.   Yet as the tale progressed, to his surprise, Troem felt a strange assurance that - somehow- the fantastic tale had occurred.   Or at least Sir Gevin believed it had occurred, for the magic of the forest could have awakened illusions that made one travelling within its boundaries experience great and terrible things.

But that still didn’t explain how he physically arrived here or what sort of magic portal had opened up to pull him through.   He was intrigued most by Gevin’s account of a mysterious companion that had counseled him and encouraged him to pass through a gate that was said to have no return and led to oblivion. 

“So he told you to pass through that gate?”  Troem asked as Gevin finished his tale.

“Not in so many words, but I strongly felt that I should, though I thought it was merely to end the curse of the jousting place.   There was a long moment of…nothingness…then I just appeared here.  I’m not sure where ‘here’ is, or who you are either.   I’ve told you my tale, now can you answer my question?”

Troem smiled weakly, “You are on Phrallin Peak, northwest of the vale once known as Shelterhaven, which was the northernmost point of the former kingdom of  Albsidhe.   After many centuries of raids and wars with the humans to the south - led by your Greidour, Sir Knight, the tattered lands finally fell to the armies of a Greidour king, led by his wicked half-brother, the Black Duke, who wore armor the same color as yours, Sir Gevin.   Surely you don’t idolize such a wicked man as Duke Geuston!”

“Absolutely not, I hate no man more than the Black Duke.”  Gevin said bitterly, a scowl on his face.

“So you knew him?”

“No, I never met the fiend.”

“Yet you hate him, while serving the Greidour King?”

“I didn’t have a lot of choice.”

“Did the Black Duke kill your mother?”

“Worse; he raped her and impregnated her.”

Troem jumped to his feet, “Yesh have mercy, you’re his son?!”

“He left her to bare me in a tower where she was his prisoner.   She had me in that tower and shortly after he died in battle, my mother decided it would be best for both of us to die, so she jumped from the top balcony, onto the rocks below.”

“Yet you are still alive.”

“They found me covered in her blood, uninjured.   When King Corston learned about me, he had me orphaned out with the other noble b******s and unwanted children and later he had me trained as a knight, probably hoping that I’d be as fierce and ruthless as the Black Duke.”

“So are you that fierce and ruthless?”  Troem asked frankly.

Gevin sighed deeply, “I don’t think so, but I have grown tired of living amongst people that I do not feel part of, and that is why I sought the Nihility Gate.”

“Because you wanted to die?”

“Yes.”

“Suicide is cowardly, Sir Gevin.”

“Such an end would certainly fit the b*****d, half-breed orphaned son of the demonic Black Duke.”

“You aren’t responsible for your father’s evil.”

“Some people don’t believe that, sir.   I can see in your eyes that you don’t entirely believe it either.”

Troem blinked in surprise.   He thought he’d kept his disdain in check.

“It is difficult; most of my family - in fact most of my people- died in the war brought upon us by the Black Duke and his army.”

Gevin nodded, staring off in the direction Troem had indicated that the Elven kingdom of  Albsidhe was located, “So do any Elves dwell here now.   It has been a long time since I was…um…in this area.   A lot has changed…I would imagine.”

Troem shook his head sadly, “The Albsidhe woods are gone; it was destroyed some years ago when King Corston sent an army north to try to weed out the remaining Elves in the area.    But the Elves had mostly scattered and left Albsidhe by then.    The army burned the woods, but they did not reach the ruins of Shelterhaven and thankfully the fire did not reach the valley either.   It was a horrible, wicked act, one that most Elves would never forgive.   The land was damaged and scarred for years and most of the Albsidhe forest is gone forever.   Only when the land rises to become the foothills of the mountains is there any remnant of the forest.   The humans have soldiers in a few small garrison forts and there is a small, pitiful human town in the southernmost part of the area, next to one of their forts, but the land is poor and bleak,   No Elves or fae race lives there now and aside from the garrison soldiers and some of their families in the southern town, there is no human activity.   The vast part of the land lies wild, but desolate.   It is too sad to see.”

Gevin hung his head and Troem sensed a heavy blanket of guilt hanging over him.

“You were part of that army that burned the forest, weren’t you?”  The Elf hermit finally said when the knight wouldn’t speak.

“I led the army,” Gevin said in a whisper, his eyes lost in the memory that clearly haunted him, “An Elf woman had tried to kill me a few months before, and I hated Elves then…I was so wrong.   We couldn’t advance up the trail into the heart of the forest due to Elven archers and we discussed various strategies to advance, including burning the forest.   Troem, I was against it, as were the other leaders, and we moved on to other strategies, but some of the soldiers thought it was a good plan, so they set the woods on fire.   We almost died ourselves during the retreat to escape the flames.”

“How unfortunate that it didn’t consume you and your army,”  Troem said with bitterness and contempt in his voice.   Gevin did not disagree or look offended, but only nodded, his haunted eyes revealing the hollow state of his soul.

Immediately, guilt pounced on Troem and a hundred sayings of Yesh regarding mercy and forgiveness danced in his mind to reaffirm his lack of compassion to the Half-Elf.

“I’m sorry, Sir Gevin, I acted out of line with my faith.”

Gevin slowly shook his head, “No; you’re right, sir.   There are many reasons why I sought the Nihility Gate.   Now perhaps you understand.   I don’t know why I’m still alive.   Here I am causing pain again.”

Troem saw him repeatedly licking his lips and decided that a kind act perhaps could diminish his hateful response.   With a sigh, he arose, “Are you thirsty, Gevin?”

“Yes, I’m afraid I am.”

Troem smiled weakly again, “I haven’t filled my canteen up yet this morning; there is a clear spring of water that pools up a short distance from here.   Walk with me and I’ll fill it up and give you some.”

“Thank you,”  Gevin replied meekly and Troem struggled to think of something different to speak to him about as he led him to the spring.

“What was your mother’s name?   Perhaps I knew her.”

“I don’t remember her, obviously, but I…was told…recently, in fact, that her name was Ileveil.”

Troem stopped so suddenly that Gevin almost walked into him as he spun around.

“Ileveil?!  Her name was Ileveil?” He asked excitedly.

“Well, I don’t know for sure, but I was told this in a…vision… while in the Great Forest.”

“Ileveil Agis was the name of my youngest grand niece!   There was a refugee who was present at the Black Duke’s raid who swore to me that he’d seen The Black Duke grab her up in his saddle himself, but no-one else saw it and there were many claims about the Black Duke made by others, so I never gave it much thought.   Do you know anything about her?   Your eyes are very much like hers, though she was a blonde and you have brown hair.”

“No-one ever talked about her.   I was told that she was exceptionally beautiful and had long braided hair.”

“Ileveil -my grand niece- had hair to her ankles and was known for her skill in weaving it into incredible braids!   Gevin, do you realize what this means?”

Gevin nodded, looking at his feet, “Yes, my ‘father’ raped and imprisoned your niece.”

Troem laughed, surprising the Half-Elf, “No, it means that I am your…let’s see…your great grand uncle!”

“Oh…” Gevin looked very uncertain about how to respond, finally saying, “I’m sorry, sir, what the Black Duke did to her was horrible and I’ve lived a tainted existence in the blackness of his shadow all my life.”

At that moment, Troem lost all feelings of animosity for the young Half-Elf man who clearly was tormented by his lineage.   Gevin flinched as Troem suddenly embraced him, his muscles stiff as if he had never been shown any affection.   Slowly, the Half-Elf hesitantly hugged him back and Troem broke the embrace, looking at Gevin with a warm smile.

“Gevin, you are the very last of my kinfolk, that I know of.   I have not seen any of my family in well over 60 years.    Ileveil’s father, Lanisel, was my favorite nephew, who I practically raised and taught how to shoot a long bow.   Ileveil was as dear to me as a grandchild.”

Gevin smiled a bit weakly, shaking his head as he looked at him, “Forgive me, sir, but you look like you are my age.”

“How old are you, Gevin?   About 130?”

“You guessed it, sir.”

“Well, in human standards, you don’t look 130 years old and I don’t look 432 years old.   Your mother was…about…145 or so…when she bore you.    Elves don’t age, my boy, you surely know that.”

“Yes, sir, but I haven’t been around any Elves for an extended period of time and even my own agelessness bothers me.”

“You just need to be around some of your own people, Gevin.”

“I have no ‘people’ sir.    I’m accepted as a sort of freak of nature by the king of Geidour, and you know I am responsible for the Albsidhe forest’s destruction.    Tamcia tried to kill me, and even your grand niece tried to end my life.   No, I don’t have any family left.”

“Tamcia?   Tamcia Blleyea, the daughter of Regihold Blleyea?   He was the leader of a group of Elven rebels that thought the best way to fight the humans was by guerilla warfare, sabotage and murder.    His ruthlessness caused suffering for the remaining Elves.   He was an assassin specializing in poisoning and targeting human women and children.   All of his children were trained by him to serve as murderers.   Tamcia was his pride and joy and the most ruthless because she could get anyone to believe anything she told them.   So she tried to kill you?”

Gevin told Troem the tale about his frustrating and quick relationship with the girl.

“Well, no wonder you hated the Elven people!   All the Elven women that you’ve been in contact with have tried to kill you.   First your mother, then Tamcia.”

“They were justified due to the evil of my father.”

“Not necessarily, Gevin.    Elven women value life, and Elven mothers are at least as protective of their children as mothers of all races are, if not more.     What Ileveil did to you was unspeakably cruel and was probably driven by some sort of all consuming insanity due to her situation.   She was the absolute opposite of Tamcia; straightforward, wholesome, pure and filled with love and joy.    For her to end her own life, not to mention trying to end her son’s as well, tells me that something terrible had taken possession of her reasoning and very soul.”

Gevin, struggling fiercely but successfully to keep tears from filling his eyes, looked at him, “I forgive her, sir.   I wish she had succeeded in killing me.   Since that failed, I think you are right - it would have been far better for me to have died in the Albsidhe woods to purge my soul for my blood guilt and the sins of my father.”

 

Troem turned and grabbed the young knight by his shoulders, giving him a stern, but kindly look, “If you had died, I would have never met my great grand-nephew.”

“Sir, you are merely trying to make restitutions for an earlier comment that was heart-felt.    It’s alright; I’m slowly learning to deal with who I am…and what I am.”

“And just what is that, Gevin?   You are no different than any other man of any other race - both noble and sometimes base in what you do.    No man has led a pure, blameless life, but you have compounded yours by carrying the burden of a father that you never knew.”

 

 

“Perhaps, but it isn’t just the Black Duke, sir.  Because of who I was in relation to him, I was brought up as more-or-less just a human and taught the nobles’ ways of thinking.   Elves were untrustworthy, shifty, almost supernatural beings never to be trusted.   Our king and his descendants were divinely appointed and should be obeyed in all things.   Yet I could look in a mirror and see the hint of my mother’s people and remember what they told me about how she tried to kill both of us rather than live amongst humans.   Even without taking up my father’s guilt, the world that he lived in and that I was thrust into, has tainted me so that I don’t really know what to think about anything.”

“So you want to ease your mind by ending your life?”

Gevin sighed and frowned, “I thought that was the answer, now I don’t.   Yet that doesn’t mean that everything is worked out and better.   I’m not even really sure how everything happened to get me here.”

“Isn’t it obvious, my boy?   Yesh has been working diligently to save you from throwing yourself into the abyss by a desperate selfish act.”

Gevin shrugged and seemed less than strongly convinced.

“Come on; let’s get some water; we can discuss your life later.   The spring is right around this bend in the trail; it is quite substantial too --  it provides clear, cold water even in the depth of winter and the pool that it flows into never freezes over, even though it isn’t a hot spring or anything like--…what in heavens?  Yesh have mercy, look!  In the pool!”  Troem pointed to the large ten foot wide basin-like pool in the rock underneath the flowing spring.   Floating in the blue water were two strange figures.

 

“Water nymphs!” Troem whispered, motioning for Gevin to stop and hide behind a bush so they wouldn’t see them.    The hermit had never seen anything in the pool, but from the strange carvings around the rock basin - which looked as if it had been carved out of the rock instead of being formed by the trickle of water- those who had made the carvings believed some human-like being or beings inhabited the blue pool.

 

To Troem’s surprise, after glancing at the figures, Gevin gave an alarmed shout and raced toward the pool, gesturing for him to join him.




© 2020 Eddie Davis


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Added on November 21, 2020
Last Updated on November 21, 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..

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