DAY 6: The Elori – Part VI

It was well an hour into their journey before the sun had come fully visible into the gray horizon. Though light filtered through the copses of trees that they passed, the sky was bleak and gray, the expanses auguring a terrible storm later that afternoon. Marthadok, who Kilgalan had observed possessing a keen sense for tempests and their hours of arrival, said, “It will be about three o’clock.”

“What will?” Kilgalan asked.

“The storm. Have you not felt its presence in the air, Kilgalan?”

“I have not been gifted with such an ability.”

“Everyone is, but each accesses it in a different way. The air itself throbs with the heralds of the tempest; their clarions are like the wind passing coldly through the trees.”

Kilgalan nodded, turning to survey the land before him. To his right, there was a steep drop off which ended in a ravine about fifty feet below. The ravine, containing a murmuring brook, ran a few hundred feet parallel to the cliff face and then made a sharp right turn, disappearing into a cluster of trees a ways off. To their left, all that could be seen was a dense forest, dismal and forbidding, tangled boughs twisting and weaving themselves through the dense air about the place. Not a bird could be heard, and, in fact, their were no signs of fauna throughout their entire journey. This fostered within Kilgalan a disquieting and detestable sensation which he could not describe; he didn’t know it – nay, did not want to admit it -, but this sensation was fear and anxiety.

Ahead, a similar picture to their left flank. A wood of serried trees, packed so tightly together that one would have thought they were sentinels guarding the path to a king’s palace. The expression on their bole-faces was grim and austere, a testament to their character and mission. Their eyes were still, their lips pursed. They were stubborn and impregnable, guards who would yield to no man.

Yet the trees did not hinder them on their road. They remained insouciant, ignoring the travelers who passed. Kilgalan and Marthadok did not deserve attention, and were no threat to them. If they were, they would have been dead long ago.

“Is this where the Elori live?” Kilgalan asked as they pressed further into the wild forest.

“No. They live further north in wilder country.”

“I can’t imagine a peaceful people dwelling in such lands!” Kilgalan replied in disbelief.

“They are peaceful, but strong, and are able to take care of threats should circumstances necessitate such action.”

There was a thump. Kilgalan had fallen off his horse, his vision growing hazy.

When Marthadok dismounted and ran to the boy’s side, he said, “Are you alright, Kilgalan? What’s the matter, boy? Are you having another dream?”

But Kilgalan found that his lips would not come apart. Words were waiting eagerly upon his tongue to be pronounced, but he could only grunt as he lost consciousness. Slowly, darkness came; Marthadok’s voice grew more distant and more distant until it vanished entirely. Now, all that was before Kilgalan was a great abyss.

Then, a light. A silhouetted figure before a great door, its arms spread out in welcome. Its hair fell down past its soldier and near to the bend of its knees. It was undoubtedly a woman.

A hand upon his shoulder, a soft breath upon his ear. A breeze played across his face; a deep fragrance filled his nostrils. The woman beckoned him forward, and as he came nearer, he saw that she had a smile upon her face. He smiled back, and a joy welled up within him. There was a palpable sense of ecstasy in this creature’s demeanor.

Kilgalan entered a rotunda; a great circular council chamber filled with chairs round the periphery of a gleaming round table was set before him. Each seat was occupied by noble looking men adorned in garishly colored robes and tunics. At the head of this table, on a high throne, was an even grander man, bedecked with all sorts of fineries and ornamentations. At his side there was a vacant seat, and the woman took her place at it with the grace of a rose-queen.

The man on the throne said, though his voice sound muffled, “Have a seat, boy. The infusion will begin shortly.”

“Why did you do it?” he heard himself say. “Why did you tell her to do it… Why did you… How could you be so cruel? I… Loved them…”

“They are insignificant. One must consider what is most important in the broader scope of things when protecting an empire. You will be remembered throughout legend as the great Retriever, boy, at the mere expense of a few loved ones. I do not see the problem!”

“You’re murderous scum!” he cried.

The man laughed with such cold delight that Kilgalan felt a surge of anger pass through him, a sensation stronger than anything he had ever experienced before. “Boy, we have chosen you. Be honored and do your duty.”

“My duty is to my family. As such, I will not yield to you.”

“Is that so?” the man replied condescendingly, and he cried, “Guards! Take the boy to the infusion chamber and await my arrival. And remove these memories from his mind. The fewer of these he has, the better.”

Kilgalan felt himself struggle in vain as he was dragged down a flight of marble steps into a dark hallway, lit sporadically along the way with dim torches set in sconces…

Then, darkness.

Light.

Kilgalan’s eyes sprang open, and he jolted upwards. His breathing was heavy and constrained; a cold sweat had developed on his brow. The pain was so great in his head that he could barely think; all he could manage to stammer was, “Who… Who did they kill?”

Marthadok’s eyes widened. He pursed his lips, knitted his eyebrows and said with furrowed brow, “They did.”

“Who?”

“The Elori.”

TO BE CONTINUED…

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