The Elori Saga

A full compilation of The Elori Saga.

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THE ELORI – PART I

A crack. A split. The discordant sound of chairs splintering and toppling over onto one another, and the cacophony of raucous laughter emanating from a passel of carousing drunkards. The chinking of stein against stein, the leers and malicious expressions upon the alcoholics’ faces.

Kilgalan was in trouble again.

It wasn’t like he tried to precipitate himself into these sort of situations; it just… happened. It was an inexplicable occurrence; one moment, he was talking animatedly with the patrons of the tavern. The next, he had been laid flat by a sound box to his ear and was mixed up in a conflict. He could not recall, under any circumstances, what he had said that incited such an attack, and found that, though he pained himself to try to recollect the cause, he could never succeed. He expected that he had said something hateful or incendiary, and that such affronts were, most likely, the causes of his conflicts; but with drunkards, you could never know. They were unpredictable at best, with the unwavering inclination to bludgeon someone across the face when they felt like it.

The particular patron (the one with whom he had had a provocative altercation) advanced on him and said, with a drawl and slur, “You… You best be careful ’round me, boy. Words like them… Words like them, they lead folks to do things they later regret. Don’t make me regret myself, boy.”

Kilgalan, in a crab walk on the floor, retreated as his adversary approached him. “What words, sir?” he said, trying to be as polite and tranquil as possible, so as to extinguish the flame of conflict that had been lit in the drunkard’s mind.

In truth, this proved to be the worst thing to say. The inebriate, inflamed, ran to Kilgalan, lifted him off the ground by the collar, and said, “Don’t play games with me, boy!”

“No, really! I don’t remember…”

“Trying to evade me? Think that you can weasel your way out of this with your words? It isn’t happenin’, boy. Fight me like a man.”

The drunkard dropped Kilgalan and landed a punch on the bridge of his nose. Kilgalan reeled and fell back into a cluster of chairs, wiping the blood from his nostrils and staggering to his feet. The drunkard, looking immensely satisfied, said with a malicious grin, “Had enough already, boy?”

Kilgalan was panting. He knew it was a sign of weakness to his foe, but couldn’t help it. He wasn’t used to being struck in such a manner, and he was stunned and in partial shock. His eyes wandered around the room, searching desperately for an exit whereby he could escape, but found that the other drunkards had blocked the entrances. He looked to the bar, hoping that the proprietor would offer him some assistance, but all he could see was the tip of the man’s bald head quivering just above the top of the counter.

The drunkard, as if able to read the boy’s thoughts, said, “I took care that the exits are blocked, and the proprietor’s an old, decrepit man who’d faint at the sight of me!”

A thump was heard behind the bar. The brute grunted his approval, and the rest laughed.

Kilgalan was frightened. He had gotten into fights before, but never one from which he couldn’t escape. It was like a nightmare, and the man before him was a terrible specter, haunting him and threatening to bring about his death. He grew weak; his limbs wouldn’t move, his eyelids grew heavy. He felt like dropping to the floor and sleeping. The world was naught but a cloud, a vague blur wherein naught could be discerned. His adversary approached him and unsheathed a dagger, saying, though his voice sounded quite distant, “I’m gonna teach you a lesson you won’t soon forget, boy…”

Then the dream was over. The door to the tavern burst open, and a man adorned in a fine cloak, a dark tunic with forest green highlights and a silver brooch entered, a gleaming sword in his hand. The tavern was silent as the man surveyed the scene arrayed before him. He spoke simply. “Enough.”

“You talking to me?” the drunkard stammered,  barely able to speak with his stupor. He advanced towards the intruder, swaying as he went.

The cloaked man held up a hand and said, “Stop.”

“What you gonna do about it if I don’t, huh?”

In a flash, the man’s hilt met the drunkard’s skull with a sickening crack, and the latter fell to the floor with a smash. The intruder, after gazing intently upon the inanimate form of his unconscious enemy, turned his head towards Kilgalan and said, “Move quickly, Kilgalan. We dare not tarry here for long.”

“It’s just a tavern, friend; why the haste?”

“Just a tavern? It is in places such as these that the most terrible of events transpire. You’ve seemed to find your way into trouble quite nicely tonight. Out. Now.”

Kilgalan, seeing the severe look in the man’s eyes, obeyed him, and exited the tavern. Seconds later, shouts of revelry issued forth from the bar, and upon receipt of them, the man said, “Never return to that place, Kilgalan. Man seeks solace in the dregs of a beer mug, but finds more anguish there than he intends to relieve.”

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THE ELORI – PART II

“Your name?” Kilgalan asked as they skirted a few streets in the semi-darkness of the waning light.

“Name?” the man said, bemused as if it was a queer question to put to someone.

“Yes. I’d like to know your name. I think I should know who saved me from that brute!”

There was a pause in which they turned a corner. The man beckoned Kilgalan into an alcove in an alleyway and said quietly, “What good does my name do you?”

“Nothing. But to whom shall I attribute the sparing of my life?”

“You shall attribute it to no one. I am taking you to my hovel, and for that you do not need my name.”

“And what’s so special about me, that you came to the tavern just to take me to your hovel?”

“You know about the weapon.”

This man was making absolutely no sense to Kilgalan. Scratching his head, and turning nervously towards the exit of the alleyway, the boy said, “Is this some sort of a joke that Tharmae is playing on me? She enjoys making sport of me, in case you didn’t know…”

“This is no laughing matter. You know about the Elori. You know about the weapon.”

“No, I don’t!”

“Subconsciously, you do,” the man said darkly. There was a sound of footsteps echoing just around the corner, and the man drew Kilgalan into the recess with him, covering the boy with his cloak.

“Why the secrecy? These are friendly streets.”

“Garthabad Imlor may be a castle under the benevolent rule of King Varthos, but the streets are never safe. Unfriendly ears are ever attuned to the voices of their enemies.”

“I have no enemies,” was Kilgalan’s timid reply.

“Tell that to the drunkard in the tavern.”

Slowly, the footsteps echoed away down the lane just beyond the alley, and then there was silence. When the man was certain that the nighttime stroller was out of earshot, he said to Kilgalan, “If you call up the memory of the weapon from your mind, you will remember it.”

“I think I would remember something that significant!”

“You do. But they buried it deep within your mind so that you could not retrieve it until the time was right.”

“‘They?'”

“The Elori.”

Another silence. This time they could hear a few raucous shouts issuing from just beyond the alley. A group of men, obviously having just retired from the tavern, passed the entryway, carousing and laughing and slamming steins together as they continued to imbibe their beer. Fortunately, they paid no heed to the alley, and passed without incident. Once they could be heard only distantly, the man turned to Kilgalan and said, “Do you remember them now?”

“The Elori? No. Do they dwell in this castle?”

“Most certainly not. They inhabit the forests of the northernmost realms, for they seek peace and not the tumult of life under King Varthos.”

“Then I do not know them. I’ve never left this castle in my whole life!”

The man slammed his fist against the alcove wall and said, as a man who his trying in vain to check his discontentment, “I told them to make it easy for you to recall your memories. They said that, in a few minutes, you would be able to remember! I should have known – should have anticipated this. Trust the Elori? Why was I so foolish?”

“Trust the Elori with what?”

“Providing us with the knowledge of the weapon when the time was right. You are the source of that knowledge; they set it in to you, so that you could tell me in our greatest need.”

“Why me?”

“Our enemies would not suspect a peasant.”

“So you just used me then, is that it?” Kilgalan said, his anger rising. “Did I tell you that you could do this?”

“We did not bother with consent. The fate of an empire is more important than your personal preferences.”

“Why did I need to hold this information, though? Why not have the Elo-ryry, or whatever it is you call them, just send the weapon here?”

“Send it? You cannot just send it! Our enemies could intercept it on its way here, and that would prove disastrous; no, the Elori gave us this information so that two companions, both of whom appear inconspicuous – that is, us -, could go and retrieve the weapon without detection. We would leave in the morning, if the Elori had simply performed the memory-infusion process a little better.”

“Memory infusion?” Kilgalan asked.

“Yes. I won’t go into to details, as it is rather gruesome, but I can inform you, at least, that you screamed in anguish. A lot.”

“Are there any… Side affects?”

“One. Sometimes your consciousness will shut down for a few seconds; you will operate normally, but your subconscious takes control of your actions until you come to.”

“Wonderful. That explains why I’ve gotten into a few fights at the local taverns lately.”

“I apologize for that,” the man said. “But an ailment like yours is worth it if we can save a kingdom as a result.” The man stepped out of the alcove, surveyed the alley, ran with light and swift feet towards the entryway, looked in both directions, and beckoned Kilgalan to follow. The boy obeyed. The two companions crept secretively down another street and then turned to the left, passing several gloomy buildings before coming to a dilapidated hovel on their right. The man gestured towards this hovel and said, “My home. Humble, but adequate for the night. You will sleep here.”

“But I must get home! Mother will be worried about me…”

“You have no mother, Kilgalan. Don’t try to deceive me. You sleep in the concealed places of streets with naught but the rats for your company. Inside; quickly! Our enemies may be watching.”

Kilgalan didn’t move. The man made for the door, but stopped and turned when he noticed the boy’s stubborn disobedience. “Come, boy!”

“Your name first. I will not lodge with a stranger.”

The man stood still for a moment, his breathing full and furious. After a time, though, he said severely, “It is Marthadok. Now come.”

TO BE CONTINUED…

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THE ELORI – PART III

This time, Kilgalan obeyed. The newly christened Marthadok eyed the obstinate boy wearily as he passed into the hovel. The stoic man, after taking one last quick survey of his surroundings, retired with a quick step into his humble abode.

Kilgalan entered into a dilapidated half-vestibule with torn up floor boards, two oblique shelves set upon either side of the entryway, a tattered, besmirched rug which read, through the grime, “Welcome!”, and a certain ineffable gloom about the place that gave the boy an uneasy feeling. As he started forward, he felt the floor beneath him creak and groan, like the hovel rested upon some terrible giant ready to awaken at any given moment. Indeed, the whole place seemed to have a throb to it, as if some corrupt heart palpitated in the very air of the place itself. To make matters worse, Kilgalan tripped on something as he walked, stumbled to the floor, and after coughing away the dust, rose his eyes and saw himself staring straight into the mouth of some feral mongrel. The beast, bearing its wicked fangs, ran with a passion towards Kilgalan, its beady eyes focused solely upon its quarry. Kilgalan scrambled backwards, bumped into a wall, shot upwards, and tried to distance himself from the persistent dog.

“Heel!” Marthadok cried. “Heel, Berm, heel!”

The dog, though looking disappointed, fell back on its bum and sat there, wagging his tale and inclining his head towards his master. Marthadok pet the canine and said, “Explore this evening, mutt. We have company, and Kilgalan is akin to a frightened girl. You wouldn’t want to scare her, would you?”

Kilgalan cast an incensed look upon the impertinent man and grunted.

Berm, seemingly nodding to assure Marthadok that he remained ever obedient, sprinted out the door and disappeared into the misty gloom of the night. When Marthadok had closed the door, barred it, and removed his cloak and shoes, Kilgalan sighed and said, “That was rather undue. First you damage my brain and make me a container for the location of some ancient weapon, and now you call me a girl! What compels you, Marthadok?”

Marthadok grinned and started a fire, stoking it for awhile until it burned gloomily in the dismal hovel. “It’s a compliment, you know. I’ve known plenty of women braver than you are and ever will be. Don’t assume that the attribution of a woman’s traits, courage and virtues to a man is a slighting thing. We can learn much from them, and they us. The key is to be open minded.”

“Where did that come from?” Kilgalan said, taking a seat in one of the creaky chairs next to the burgeoning fire.

“What?”

“Such wisdom. I didn’t know your kind had such a knack for giving out apt replies to questions.”

“You flatter me, Kilgalan,” Marthadok replied with a smirk, and took his own seat by the hearth as the fire leapt and danced behind the grating, sparks frolicking amidst the smoke that floated through the cobblestone chimney.

Kilgalan managed a slight snicker, but a deep and uncomfortable silence followed. All that could be heard was the crackling fire place, the sounds of Berm’s barking, and the moan of a terrible gale blowing outside the hovel. Marthadok, scanning the hovel as if looking for something, said, “There’ll be a tempest tonight, I reckon. Wind always augurs the worst of weather.”

“I don’t mind the weather. I rather like it, actually.”

This reply did not prove to be conducive to the protraction of the conversation, and there was silence again.

At length, Kilgalan had finally developed a question in his mind, and he put it to Marthadok with an unparalleled eagerness. “Who are the Elori?”

Marthadok closed his eyes and sighed. “I was afraid you’d ask a question like that.”

“Why?”

“They are a private people, keeping to themselves and staying out of other’s business. They prefer to be known by as few souls as possible, for they desire peace and not the tumult of King Varthos’ kingdom. The fewer who know about them, the lest chance they will be drawn into the affairs of “the others”, as they call them.”

“I’ve interacted with them before, haven’t I? Shouldn’t I know more about those who infused these memories into my head?”

Without knowing it, Kilgalan had disarmed Marthadok with a swift and adroit stroke. The man, closing his eyes and shaking his head, as a man who has run dry of potential alternatives, replied, “You shall know the Elori, in time. But for now, you must rest. We have a long journey ahead of us that we must begin at dawn, and with haste. Our scouts have informed us that the enemy is approaching Garthabad Imlor, and that they bring to bear a host of one hundred thousand warriors; the weapon will be more important than ever with this disquieting information.”

“To bed? I’m not tired at all. Being a vagabond and a beggar, I’m up very late at times, and this is very early for me. I don’t think I’ll be able to get to sleep.”

“Then I’ll beat the sleep into you with my hilt, Kilgalan.”

“On second consideration, I think I’ll just repose of my own accord. Good night.”

Marthadok nodded simply, smiling inwardly but betraying no emotion.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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THE ELORI – PART IV

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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