The Elori – Part IV

DAY 3:

Kilgalan stopped, and another question occurred to him. He turned and said, “Where shall I sleep, Marthadok?”

Marthadok laughed grimly and said, “On the floor, with the rats. You’re used to that, aren’t you?”

“Yes; but if you have a bed, I’d be obliged to you if you let me use it.”

“I have one, boy, but I use it every night. Being as young, spry and healthy as you are, I am certain another night on a hard floor will not do you any disservice.”

Kilgalan nodded and said, “Of course. Good night.” He retired.

Marthadok gazed intently at the fire and drew out his pipe, lighting it and discharging a puff of smoke. He sighed with pleasant satisfaction and settled back into his grimy recliner.

His serene repose, however, was interrupted without warning by the sound of a woman’s voice, emanating from someplace in the darkness: “The boy is headstrong, Marthadok. He will be difficult to… Domesticate…”

“Do not speak so loudly; he may hear you, Narthie, and would suspect something if he heard voices.”

“He is fast asleep already, Marthadok, I made certain of that.”

“He drifts away quickly,” Marthadok said indifferently, and surveyed his surroundings in search of the speaker.

Narthie stepped into the firelight and said, “Can you discern me now, Marthadok?”

“Clearly.”

She approached him, laid a hand on his shoulder, and said: “I have not seen you in a decade since the boy’s infusion!”

“It is well that you have not.”

She reeled, looking offended, and said, “Your manners have not improved in my absence; that is plainly seen.”

“I have not cultivated an observance in gentlemanly formalities over these last ten years, Narthie, and do not intend to at any point in the remainder of my life. Time is to short to bother with appeasing the fastidious nobility.”

“Tread lightly on this road, Marthadok. The king to whom you have sworn loyalty is one of these men you have insulted.”

“King Varthos is different; he is benevolent and magnanimous, and example to his people, and to the court. The others are arrogant and self-satisfied. Every word out of a peasant’s mouth is an affront to their pride in their minds.”

“Notwithstanding, why has my absence pleased you?” she demanded.

“Because you were the one who chose to take the boy without his parents’ consent in the first place!”

“That was never your issue, Marthadok.”

“You’re right; I wasn’t finished. When his parents’ refused, you killed them!”

There was a silence. Narthie put a slender finger to her pursed lips and said gently, “Now, now, Marthadok. Speak softly. We do not want your guest to hear.”

“He has a right to know what happened.”

“If he knows, he will leave you, and the weapon will be lost. Do you want the blood of King Varthos’ and his people on your hands?”

“Blood-stained hands never bothered you, did they, Narthie?”

Narthie grimaced and turned towards the dirt-encrusted window opposite the fire place. She approached it, her cloak sliding softly across the tattered floorboards, and laid her hands upon the sill, saying, “In this dark world, difficult decisions must be made.”

“Then you understand why I must tell the boy.”

“No. I don’t. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. As far as he knows, his parents abandoned him; what more knowledge does he need?”

“Why did the Elori choose him?” Marthadok inquired, changing the subject suddenly. Narthie turned from the window and replied, “His memory was strong, and his mind could withstand the infusion. There were few others with his ability, and he was randomly selected out of a list they formulated of the eligible candidates.”

“Why couldn’t it be done differently, Narthie? Why did we need to ruin this boy’s life like this?”

“You know the customs as well as I do, Marthadok. The weapon must be brought here by someone who shares its blood. It could be no other.”

“Surely the customs of the Elori are subordinate to survival, Narthie? Or are you more willing to destroy someone’s life than to subvert a few pointless rules?”

Narthie fumed. She walked with heavy steps towards the hovel door and made to exit, but turned one last time before leaving and said: “I could not convince them otherwise, Marthadok. They would have killed her if the boy wasn’t chosen. She would be useless to them without a Retriever, a nuisance who wielded all their power. You know why things are the way they are.”

She left without another word, and disappeared like the faintest whisper of a cold wind into the misty night.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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2 Comments

  1. May 13, 2011 at 10:02 am

    I’m reading through this, and I can not tell that this is written by a kid in highschool. This is writing of literally the HIGHEST quality. The conversation is so real, ridiculously well done. If someone told me that Tolkien wrote this before he died, not only would I believe it, but I would say something to the effect that this was one of his better moments of writing.

    I absolutely adore this section: ““If he knows… opposite the fire place. ” The quip about “blood-stained hands” gets me every time.

  2. ryan4143 said,

    May 16, 2011 at 7:15 am

    Thanks, John! I’m glad you like it 🙂


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