Twenty

Twenty

A Chapter by Eddie Davis
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Sir Gevin meets with the leader of the garrison fort.

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20.

 

‘You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.’

--Abraham Lincoln

 

 

Boys scarcely teenaged and wearing (borrowed) armor and helmets that were slightly too big for them guarded the gate and were immediately overawed when Gevin strode up to them, introduced himself and demanded to speak to the garrison commander.

“Yes, sir, I’ll go fetch him!”  One teen answered, forgetting his post in his excitement and running off like a child to find him.   The other boy looked at Gevin with a mixture of admiration and terror.

“You’re really him, sir?   You’re Half-Elven?” he asked with the boldness of youth.

Gevin wasn’t offended by the lad’s questions and he even slid back the mail coif he was still wearing to show his slightly pointed ear.

“Yes, I’m him.”

“Wow, it’s an honor to meet you, sir.”

“What’s your name, son?”

“My name is Tom Snowwe, m’lord.”

“Tom, I mean no offense to you, but aren’t you a bit young to be serving as a gate guard?”

“Oh, I’m not a soldier, sir - you probably knew that, huh?   Most of them have left.   My dad; his name is Tom too, is one of the soldiers that decided to stay here and since we have so few adults left, Captain Lute conscripted some of us teenagers to fill in the gap and do our part.”

“Captain Lute?   Is that Nevon Lute by any chance?”

“It is,” The answer came from a familiar voice behind Gevin and he turned to see the grinning face of a man who he had known for several years.   Nevon Lute was the youngest son of Niles Lute, who had been a knight along side Gevin for many years before he was accidentally killed in a jousting accident probably twenty years ago.   Gevin had joined several other knights in purchasing for Niles’ widow and his three sons a small, but comfortable cottage outside of Whiteberry, where she farmed and worked as a skilled seamstress to care for her family.   The Lute family had never forgotten the knights’ kindness and they had always treated Gevin with respect, though he seldom saw them.

“Sir Gevin, I am very happy to see you, lord,”  Nevon said, extending his hand to him.   He had aged some since the last time Gevin had seen him and was now a man in his late twenties.   Gevin shook his hand and patted him on the shoulder.

“Nevon, you’ve grown up.   You’re the garrison commander here?”

“Well, I am since two days ago.   I was just the senior garrison sergeant, but Captain Siggel and both lieutenants left suddenly.”

“And they put you in charge?”

“Not really; they slipped away in the night and took their girlfriends and in Siggel’s case, his mistress, with them.   I was next in rank, so the job fell on me.   I apologize, sir.”

“No need to do that, Nevon, you seem to be performing your duties as well as any man in these circumstances.”

“Have you come from Whiteberry, sir?”

“No, I’ve been away for a while; this all happened while I was gone.   Are your mother and brothers safe?”

“They brought mom here yesterday and she’s getting settled, then they took off to find Sir Pepmiles.   He’s said to be gathering men and fortifying Milington keep against Baron Dellye’s forces.   Dellye and Earl Cetiline are behind this, sir.   I’ve heard that they’ve split their forces - Dellye is marching south to take Milingshire, Deevys and the Brook Fens and Cetiline is trying to secure the area around Whiteberry.”

“I’ve heard the King and his family are dead.”

“That’s what we heard here too, sir.   Most of the men had family somewhere else and wanted to return to see about them and Captain Siggel didn’t discourage it before he left.   Right now we have about thirty men left here out of a thousand at full strength.  As you can see with Tom and Reeny, we’re using the teenaged sons of some of our soldiers to help out some, but we’re desperate.”

“Nevon, they’ve taken Oakfield already and so I have no home now.”

“Sir, I don’t want to suggest anything that some of the opposing forces vying for control could use against me if they were to gain the upper hand, but I will say that you seem to be the most qualified and ranking person to - if you wanted to do so- take control of this fort.   We’d be glad for some leadership and I’m sure the people left in town would be as well.”

“I came here with a party of four and none of them are knights or soldiers, Nevon.   My servants just arrived here.”

“The Pondertort clan?   Good, I’m glad they made it out.   They’re good people, sir and no-one here is prejudiced against the small folk.”

“What about Elves, Nevon?”

“We all know you’re Half-Elven, sir; everyone knows you are also knight champion of the king…well, I guess that should be ‘you were knight champion’.   But you are a legend amongst the people, sir.”

“I wasn’t referring to me, Nevon.   What if I told you that two of my travelling companions were Elves?”

“Really?   We haven’t seen very many - even up here in their homeland- in several years.   Well, other than the bands of bandits.”

“We encountered some of them too, unfortunately, but Troem is actually a relative of my Elven mother and he is not a bandit.”

Nevon shrugged, “I have no problem with Elves and most of the men still here don’t either as we would not have signed up for the army knowing we’d be stationed at this garrison in the Elven homeland if we’d hated Elves.    I don’t know much about them as a people, sir, but I honestly think they were not treated right by our kings.”

“I agree, Nevon, and believe me, I have had a change of heart recently.   It was an army that I commanded that was responsible for destroying the woods to the north of this fort and I really regret that.”

“People should be able to change and grow, sir; my mother always told me that, and she always thought you were the most noble of the king’s knights.   So you have a kinsman with you?”

“Yes, but the other one might not be so easy to accept.   Have you ever heard of the Drow?”

“Drow?   That sounds familiar…are they Elven assassins?”

“No, this is a race that lives underground and has jet black skin, glowing red eyes and white hair.”

“Oh, yeah, they’re just fairy tale material to scare kids into being good…aren’t they?”

Gevin smiled at the alarm on the young man’s face, “Zaeya is very real and she is quite memorable.   It’s a long complicated story that I don’t want to explain right now, but she is from an earlier period of time, though she is extremely good at adapting to change.    She is staying concealed back in the Wood Chip with Troem.”

“Really?   What does he think of her?   It seems like I remember hearing that the black-skinned Elves didn’t get along with the wood Elves.”

“They’re getting along surprisingly well.   In fact, they’re rather fond of each other.”

“I see…well, I’d be fascinated in meeting her, but I think the men still here at the fort would be open-minded enough to accept her.   Are there any others, sir?”

“No, just Apple Pondertort; she’s Mangle’s daughter.”

“She’s a little redheaded girl, isn’t she?”

“Well, she’s a young woman now, but yes, she has lovely red hair.”

“I don’t think anyone would be too upset with any of them - even the Drow lady- as long as you endorsed them, sir.”

“I’m not sure my word is any better than anyone else’s, but thank you for saying so, Nevon.”

“Sir Gevin, would you be willing - since you are a refugee yourself- to assume command of this garrison?  I fear we’ll be targeted by some of Cetiline and Dellye’s forces sooner or later and maybe you could put things in order so we could resist them.”

Gevin paused, a butterfly feeling in his stomach telling him that his response could set in motion events that might, in the current political climate, prove to be fatal to a lot of people if everything went wrong.   Yet if he hesitated, even worse things could happen and then what would  he do?   He had the responsibly of the Pondertort clan, not to mention Troem and Zaeya, to think about.   Here there would at least be a stronghold and a village where they could get food and supplies and it was far enough out of the way that they would know when Cetiline and Dellye began moving against them.   It was possible that they would not even be interested in the area and so they could avoid any conflict.   Was it worth the chance?

“Sir Gevin?”  Nevon spoke up when he did not respond after a few long moments.

Gevin took a deep breath and made a decision, “I’d be willing, Nevon, Yesh help us all.   Pass the word around and tomorrow morning assemble your men and I will talk to them.”

Nevon could hardly contain his excitement, which seemed mixed with relief, “I’m thrilled to hear that, sir!   You’re a godsend for us, Sir Gevin!”

“Let’s hope so, Nevon, for I’m not completely sure about myself.”

 

***

 

His head was spinning from all the possibilities that assuming control of the Woodedge fort would suggest when he returned to the convoy.    They had moved the wagons to the courtyard around The Wood Chip and two score of Halflings and humans were hurrying around unloading wagons and chatting in groups while Mangle and several of the wagon drivers stood on the porch making arrangements with the Innkeeper.

 

They saw him as he approached and suddenly all the convoy seemed to be swarming around him, happy to see him and wanting to express their joy to him.   He smiled and spoke to most of them and they finally let him mount the steps to join Mangle and the other drivers who stood by watching with amusement.

“Sir Gevin, I am very glad to see you, lord!”  Mangle exclaimed, coming down a few steps to shake his hand, “When that bird started talking with your voice, I was sure I’d lost my mind.    But Andrie and my boys saw it too and praise Yesh we followed your instructions.”

“Yes, indeed.   It’s a great relief to me as well, Mangle.   How are all of you?”

“Tired and hungry, sir, but thrilled to be here.   You took good care of my little girl, sir; I am so grateful for that.   Her mother and I were scared to death.”

“Apple was extremely helpful to me in a most difficult time, Mangle; she is an honor to your family name.”

Mangle grinned ear to ear at the praise, “Well, coming from our master, that is the highest praise, sir!   I’m curious about what trials you’ve been through - my daughter said they were incredible adventures, but deferred the telling of the tale to you.”

“I’ll tell you all about them; they are incredible, but it would take a while so let’s get all of you settled and fed first.”

“The Innkeeper is being very fair and generous with us, sir.   There isn’t room for all of us in the Inn, but he thinks the fort commander could lodge the rest of us.”

“I’m sure he could; I just spoke to him and he is someone we both know:  Nevon Lute, son of Sir Niles.”

“Nevon Lute?!  Well, I’ll be…  I didn’t know he was stationed up here.”

“I didn’t either, but he is in command of the garrison now and I’m sure he’d be happy to house the overflow from this Inn.”

“Wonderful news, sir!”

The two of them joined the others at the top of the stairs and arrangements were made, while a runner was sent over to the fort to ask Nevon.    He returned shortly with approval and for the next hour Gevin assisted the travelers with unloading their wagons.

As most of them were heading to the tavern for dinner, Gevin was greeting Thallow and Dart, whom Mangle had brought with him, when he heard a pair of female voices talking and a moment later a pair of redheaded Halfling women entered the stable.

It was Applemint and her grandmother Tori, who could have easily passed for her mother (and a young mother at that), for she looked far younger than her actual years and still possessed the same fiery red hair as her granddaughter who greatly resembled her.

As they entered, Gevin noticed that Applemint was several inches taller than Tori, which surprised him for Tori Pondertort was known for her tallness (by Halfling standards).

“Sir Gevin!” Tori exclaimed upon seeing him and she rushed and hugged him with the typical Taphelo display of emotion.

“Hello, Miss Tori, I haven’t seen you in quite a while.”

“You haven’t been to Oakfield in half a year,” She replied with a smile, “But tell me something, sir; what have you done to my granddaughter?”

Gevin pulled back from her hug with an alarmed look on his face, “W-What?”

“She’s grown three inches at least since she’s been with you and maybe I’m crazy, but her ears seem almost as pointed as yours, lord!”

“Um…I-I…” he stammered, for some reason feeling guilt for her change.

“Grandma, it’s not his fault!” Applemint laughed and Tori’s grin let him off the hook, “I noticed it too after I first came out of that faery pool.”

Tori looked up at Sir Gevin, “She told me much of what happened and I have to admit, lord, I was more than a bit skeptical - you know how young girls are.”

“I’m sure she’s not exaggerating, Miss Tori.   Something strange happened to Apple, we noticed when Troem and I pulled her and Zaeya out of that pool.    She looked a bit more…well…Elven.”

“That’s exactly what I was thinking!   She reminded me of my mother Aelentorrli…uh…”  Tori looked a bit panicked, as if she’d said too much.

“I told him about her, grandma,” Applemint said and Tori glanced up at Gevin in alarm, but he smiled reassuredly and nodded.

“Don’t be mad at her, Miss Tori; she was helping me get through some tough problems and thought the story of Aelentorrli and her mother Brandy might help me deal with my own rather tainted parentage.   So I know your mother is Half-Elven and is still living.   So you think Apple’s changes reminds you of your mom?”

“Well…yes,” She responded, a bit hesitantly at first, finding it awkward to talk about a ‘family secret’ around him, but seeing that he was not judgmental in the least, relaxed as she continued, “My mother is Half-Elf and Half-Halfling and she has the same pointed ears as Applemint now has.   She is a few inches taller than me, too, also like her.   If I didn’t know better, I’d say my granddaughter was Half-Elven too.  But that’s crazy, lord!”

“I don’t know, grandma,” Applemint replied, a strange far-away look in her eyes as if she was reliving something, “I felt very strange when I entered that pool and it teleported Zaeya and I both far away.   It healed us both too, and Zaeya was badly burnt.   I’ve felt different since I awoke in Troem’s room.”

“Different how, child?”  Tori asked her as Gevin listened.

“I don’t know exactly…just different.  It may sound crazy, but it’s like I can see and hear things better…or maybe just clearer.   Does that make any sense?”

Tori glanced up at Gevin, who was scratching his chin, “Lord, do you have any thoughts on it?”

“The pools were magical and were for the fae races.    Anything could have happened once Zaeya and Apple were in that water.    I don’t know of any way to find out, though.”

“Wait a moment!”  Tori exclaimed, snapping her fingers together, “I think I might have a way!”

“How, grandma?”  Applemint asked, but Tori pulled a long necklace out from where it was concealed by her dress.   Around the necklace were several charms and three rings, looped through the necklace band.   Tori unhooked the necklace and threaded off the charms and rings until she found a delicately crafted silver band with a dainty green stone set in the middle of it.   She picked up the ring with her fingers for them to see.

“This ring is a family heirloom, one of the only things I have of my grandfather, Lanel Thoerinfle.   He gave this ring to his daughter - placed it on her finger when she was a baby.   It is magic and changes size to fit whoever wears it.   He wanted to be sure that the baby that Brandy Mintlepipe bore was his actual daughter, so he had a simple magic ring made.   The stone glows green when the wearer has Elven blood and the brighter the glow, the more Elven ancestry.    My mother cherished it, but decided to give it to me as her oldest daughter and told me to pass it down to my oldest child - which I have not yet done, as you can see.   Sir Gevin, try it on first, as a test.   You are Half-Elven and so it should glow a bright green.”

She held the band out to him and Gevin took it up, surprised to find it growing in diameter slightly until it was just his size.   With a nod of encouragement from Tori, he slipped it on and immediately the stone glowed a pleasant light green color.

Tori nodded, pleased, “That was how it glowed when mama would wear it.   Now take it off, lord, and I’ll try it on, to show you how diminished Elven blood weakens the glow.   I’m one quarter Elven.”

Gevin did as she asked and he handed the ring back to her, the ring shrinking slightly in size for her smaller fingers.    Tori slid the ring on and a much more subdued green glow played across the gem’s surface - just enough to make it noticeable as an actual glow and not just a reflection of light.

“See?  The glow has been halved from your level.   Now if Applemint is just one sixteenth Elven, there should be no noticeable glow - or at least so very little that you’d have to look close to see it.   But if it glows like it did when I tried it on, it will indicate that the pool did something to her and - somehow- increased the amount of her Elven ancestry.”

“How would that even be possible?” the Half-Elf asked, but of course neither woman had any more clue than he did.

“Go ahead, child, slip it on your finger and let’s see,”  Tori told her granddaughter and Applemint did as she was told.   The ring did not change much in size, as her fingers were close in diameter to her grandmother.    With a sigh, she slid the ring down over her finger and a bright green glow - equal to the glow when Gevin wore the ring- was projected at once from the gem.    Both Apple and Tori gasped in alarm and the girl immediately pulled the ring free from her finger as if it had burned her and glanced at Gevin and her grandmother with fright.

“Did you see that?” She asked them in a shaking voice and her hand was likewise trembling.   Tori was speechless for a few moments, then gestured for her to slip it on again to confirm what they’d just seen.

Again the ring glowed bright green.

“My Lord!”  Tori exclaimed, her eyes wide in wonderment.

Again Applemint slipped the ring off and handed it back to her grandmother.    Tori looked completely perplexed, and after a glance at Gevin and Applemint, slipped it on her finger again, holding it close to her eyes to examine the glow of the ring.

As before, only a faint shine of the stone revealed any magic.    She took the ring off without a word and handed it to Gevin, to test it again and it returned the same bright glow as the first time.    He took it off and returned it to the palm of Tori’s hand.   She grabbed Applemint’s other arm and slipped it on the other ring finger, but the same glow appeared as before.

“Wonders of wonders,”  Tori whispered, holding her granddaughter’s hand close to her eyes.  

At that moment they heard some footsteps and all of them turned to see Troem and Zaeya (who was almost completely hidden under her hooded cloak) enter the stable.

“Oh, hello!” Troem said to them with a pleasant smile as the Drow lady slid slightly behind him upon eyeing Tori, “We just came down to check on Ihar.”

Gevin introduced them to Tori and when Zaeya dropped her hood, Applemint’s grandmother did not react at all as he imagined that she would.   Instead of startlement and surprise, she actually smiled slightly as she stared momentarily at the Dark Elf.   Then Gevin figured it out - Applemint had told her grandma about the Drow lady and Tori was prepared to some degree to what she was about to see.

She extended her hand to Zaeya, “Hello, I’m Applemint’s grandmother Tori Pondertort.”

Zaeya smiled pleasantly (which surprised Gevin almost as much as Tori’s reaction) and shook her hand.

“Perhaps both of you could help us with a little mystery we were considering,”  Tori said to them, and then proceeded to explain about the ring’s property and the effect it had on Applemint.

“Oh, she’s definitely got surface Elf blood in her,”  Zaeya told Tori, “But I noticed she looked a bit less, um…well…’Halflingy’ when we came out of the pool.”

“Did you feel any different?”  Tori asked the Drow.

“No, only humiliated and wet, but I was healed.  Other than that, I felt the same.”

“Would you mind trying on the ring to see how it responds?”

Zaeya shrugged as if it was no big deal and so the Halfling handed her the ring, which she slipped on her finger.   Surprisingly, the green stone now glowed an angry bright red color.

“Weird!”  Applemint exclaimed, “It should be green, but it’s red.”

“I’m not a surface Elf,”  Zaeya replied, slipping the ring off and handing it to Troem, “Here; you try it.”

Troem waited until Tori gave him approval and he slid it on his finger.   A brilliant green glow, by far the brightest of all, emitted from the stone.

“Wow, you could use that as a light source,” Zaeya commented as he took it off.

“It’s consistent; see?”  Tori said, once again taking her granddaughter’s hand and sliding it on her finger.

“Yep, I’d say she was changed by that pool,”  Zaeya commented, looking at Applemint’s hand, then, with a smirk, gesturing with a sweep of her arm to indicate Troem, Gevin and herself,  “Congratulations, kid; you’re one of us now.”

Applemint just gaped in astonishment, looking to her grandmother for the final word on the matter.

“She’s probably right, child; it looks like the pool may have amplified or increased your Elven ancestry.”

“It glowed as brightly as when Sir Gevin wore it and he’s Half-Elven.”  Applemint said hesitantly, her eyes darting around to the others, “Does that mean that I’m the equivalent of a Half-Elf now, like great grandmother Aelentorrli?”

“You do greatly resemble her, child, and she was about your height.   I remember the ring glowed about the same when she wore it around me when I was a little girl.”

“So what does that mean for me, then?”  Applemint asked everyone, desperate to know something definitive.

“You’ll stop aging…once you grow up that is,” Zaeya said with her usual smirk.

“I won’t…I won’t grow old?”

“Not if you are Half-Elven by blood,” Troem replied, seeing her ill at ease.

“Oh, God…” Applemint groaned as if eternal youth was a terrible curse.

“It’s okay, child; we don’t know for certain,”  Tori comforted her.

“I’m sorry,” Applemint looked at Gevin, then passed her gaze to Troem and Zaeya, “I’m feeling really tired, I think I need some sleep.”

Gevin nodded, turning to Tori, “Miss Tori, we have two rooms upstairs in the Inn.”

“I’ll just take her back with me - Tam wants to see his granddaughter for a while and our suite has two beds in it so she can sleep there tonight, or at least until she’s feeling better.”

“Of course; if any of you need anything…”

“Thank you, lord, but we will be fine,” Seeing his furrowed brows, Tori nodded at her granddaughter who was standing there with a dazed expression on her face, lost in thoughts of the shocking revelation about her, “She’ll be fine too.  Don’t worry about her.”

He nodded, finding that difficult to do, but yielding her care to her very competent grandmother.


 



© 2020 Eddie Davis


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Added on November 29, 2020
Last Updated on November 29, 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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