Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with a thrilling story from Lendrick. It is entitled
CHAPTER ONE CHILD’S PLAY Forest of Diamond Falls, The Forsaken Vale. Village of Highvale.
The Elven village was generally peaceful year round, and would sometimes see an influx of trade during the summer months. These months would be one of the few times the elves generally interacted with the outside races, and while their tolerance was generally very thin, these months where their trade was more important than petty differences, the elves would put on a joyous face and wan smiles to keep up the façade. Glyndrel was only a young elf-ling, only thirty summers old, but he looked and sounded like a human boy the age of eight. During this one particular summer sale day, was the day when he first laid eyes on her. Glyndrel had come to the market that day due to the wanderlust gripping him and propelling him there. Always towards the “Jerky” stalls first and then his market therapy. Glyndrel loved chewing on “Jerky”, strips of dried venison salted and mixed with herbs. Coming to the markets was somewhat of a tradition that had begun two years prior between Glyndrel and his best friend Alexyius. They would meet at the Markets when they were on, trade for some Jerky, and then wander about shopping with their eyes for their next “nick-knack”, or in Glyndrels case, something to add to his treasure hoard. Glyndrel has been gathering and collecting shiny objects for years, small amounts of money, some silvers and coppers, and this is all added to his treasure stash. This stash is hidden well and nobody knows about it. Glyndrel was still waiting for Alexyius, when something strange happened. As Glyndrel was waiting in his usual meeting spot, an image appeared as though through a hazy vision dream, an image of a beautiful Etryan girl. She was just there. One minute it was a mass of moving bodies and legs. Elves, humans – and Glyndrel even thought he spotted an Ogre – moved amongst the elven stalls trading, buying and selling. Glyndrel was standing there, chewing on some jerky and wondering what mischief he and Alexyius could get up to that afternoon when she appeared. Standing about the same height as Glyndrel, the Elfling female had cascading auburn hair that seemed to capture the sun, reflect it and shine it directly into Glyndrel’s eyes. His mind’s eye flinched as though blinded and Glyndrel caught himself, letting out a little chuckle. It wasn’t just her hair though, it was everything about her. Standing there as if from an exquisite dream. Yes, the cascading auburn hair, like fire falling from the heavens. The hair fell down around a perfectly shaped Etryan head, framing her smooth featured face, but those eyes! Piercing sharp green eyes, looking at his very soul. Glyndrel felt all breath leave his body as those eyes peered deep, almost through, looking not only at Glyndrel, but at all his possibilities, looking at his heart, his triumphs, his tragedies, and all that he loved and lost. Glyndrel blinked. She was still there, her ears were cute, with what looked to be sparkling emerald ear-rings that caused the light to reflect through them as well, spreading the light across her cheeks and amplifying it up to her eyes, only to project a beam of green light into Glyndrel’s direction, mesmerizing him. Glyndrel hadn’t realized he had stopped chewing his jerky. She wore simple breeches, a tunic and vest, and if not for her long hair, she would have passed possibly as a male, albeit a very attractive one. Attached to her belt was a small knife and belt pouch, her body lithe and spritely and her head was cocked to the side in amusement as she continued to stare at Glyndrel with her mouth half open showing perfectly white teeth. Why was she staring? It was an amazing sight to behold, and Glyndrel felt his stomach tighten and realized that without knowing he had actually been holding his breath. Letting out a gasp followed by some quick panting to calm the unsettled feeling in his stomach, he shook his head, brown hair jangling, and had she not just appeared there, he would have thought he was coming down with the pox or some such illness. As it were he looked again, she was still there, so he hadn’t imagined her, yet now she stood stock still, and appeared to be looking directly at him! Time stood still, and Glyndrel did not even register his legs moving as one moment they were several dozen feet away from one another and the next, they were in front of each other. “Uh? Who are you?” Glyndrel blurted, turning as red as a rootumber (a cross between a cucumber and beetroot). “Hey, well met! My family just moved here, what’s your name?” she replied, her voice was melodious and enchanting. “Glyn, Glyndrel, but my friends call me “Glyn”” stuttered Glyndrel. “Well then, “Glyn” it is” replied the elfling, as she grabbed one of Glyndrel’s arms and tugged him along, away from the market. Taken aback by her sudden forthrightness, Glyndrel stumbled as he attempted to regain his footing and whilst on the move managed to get out: “Whoa, hey, slow up there, you haven’t even told me your name yet!” “Oh, right, sorry, I get carried away, you can call me Slyphania, or my friends just call me “Slyph”, you know, like the fairy folk!?” Slyphania exclaimed, her eyes dancing in the sunlight and a ready smile that was nothing if not infectious. “Hah, ok, then, Slyph it is” Glyndrel replied, delighted and elated that he had been able to make a friend so easily. There weren’t that many Etryan children about the village and friends were hard to come by. They raced away from the market into the surrounding forest. The wood were glorious this time of year; with the rains having just finished, everything was fresh and smelled of sweet Sun-nectar that was released from the Willowood flowers found growing on the large oak trees. The animal fauna was also emanating joy and excitement, Glyndrel could almost feel the forest buzzing as if possessed by a thousand bees. They ran in no particular direction, the whole forest was their playground, yet Glyndrel did have particular spots he had picked out as his favorite, the watering hole, the log tumble (great place to play hide and find) and his personal favorite, the Great diamond falls, a massive waterfall that cascaded off the mountainous rocks and into a pool of still, blue green water. When the sun shone through the waterfall, it looked as though there were a multitude of diamonds sparkling inside the water, which is where the name comes from, and consequently the forest as well. Glyndrel loved all waterfalls, especially the excitement of looking what’s behind them, hidden away from the prying eyes of the cruel world. Behind the Great falls was Glyndrels special spot, a natural cave, worn away from millennia of backsplash. Glyndrel keeps his treasures in there, hidden away and not even Alexis, his best friend knows about them. Everyone needed to keep special secrets, even Elflings. “So where is this special Great Falls at then?” asked Slyphania suddenly. Glyndrel was taken aback, how could she possibly know about that? Just cause he was just thinking it? Had he said something out loud and didn’t realise? Or could she read his mind? All these questions and more flashed through his head when he struggled for a response, not wanting to discuss it with someone he had only just met, yet, unable to deny it since she had asked him directly. Instead he chose to deflect the question. ‘How do you know about the great falls? I thought you were new here?” Glyndrel asked, a question for a question. “I am, but they are special to you, so they are special to me also” came the reply that made Glyndrel groan inwardly at the thought that there was no getting around her uncanny knowledge of his most special secret place. “Well, I know where they are, but only my “special” friends get to see them. Are you are “special” friend? I only just met you, so how do I know if I can trust you with such a big secret?” Glyndrel replied haughtily, looking sideways and down at Slyphania. “You can trust me, Glyn, I am a good elf!” Slyphania replied with a laugh, and Glyndrel found it hard to dispute that. The feelings for this new elfin were growing and it was hard for Glyndrel to ignore them. “Well, ok, but first you have to pass several trials to prove you are worthy of such knowledge’ Glyndrel said cryptically. “Ok, what’s the fir—“ Slyphania let out a squeak as the ground beneath her gave way and she began to fall. Due to having a hold of Glyndrels arm, Glyndrel was pulled sideways and to the ground as Slyphania’s body dropped below into what appeared to be a massive hole over a cave or something similar. “Hold..on”. Glyndrel grunted through gritted teeth, the grip slipping. “My feet can’t touch anything Glyn, it’s too high, and I’m slipping!” Slyphania exclaimed as her grip on Glyndrels right forearm slipped down. Glyndrel attempted to bring his other arm round to grab hold of her, but it all happened so fast, the grip was lost and the next thing he knew she was gone. ******************** Slyphania let out a scream as she fell, all of ten foot before hitting soft dirt and rolling with a grunt. It took a few moments for her to get her bearings with the sound of Glyndrel yelling if she was ok from above. There was some diffused light entering what seemed to be an old cave or possibly a shelter. It had been covered with dirt so much that the ceiling became the forest floor. This could be something left from the Obsidian fall. Tentatively standing, it didn’t appear as if she had broken anything, and aside from the initial shock, appeared uninjured. “It’s ok, Glyn, I’m ok, it wasn’t that far down! “ Slyphania yelled back up. Walking over to the hole in the roof, she could see Glyndrel’s concerned face peering down as she peered up. “You should come down here too – I will catch you, this could be an amazing discovery only we two know about – much like your Great falls! “ Slyphania stated, using one hand to cut the glare of the sun down. It seemed as if Glyndrel considered this, and then the explorer spirit of him took hold and he shuffled around so his legs came through the hole. “Ok, I’m going to bring myself down as much as I can, be ready!” Glyn said, lowering himself slowly. Slyphania stood to the side, in order to catch and balance Glyndrel when he let go. At his maximum arm extension, he started counting. “What are you doing?” said Slyphania. “Mentally preparing myself, I am going to count to five then let go. Ok? Be ready!” Glyndrel started counting, at number five he let go and let out a yelp. Slyphania caught him as his legs touched dirt and they both stumbled and fell, Slyphania on the bottom with Glyndrel lying on top, their faces only inches apart. There was an unspoken, awkward tension in the air, only for a moment, but they both felt it, Slyphania was sure of it. Glyndrel, a young male Etryan, with golden brown locks, deep piercing almond shaped green eyes with a mischievous glint in them. Smooth featured and his ears had the cutest curled tips to them she had ever seen in an Etryan. “There you go, did I past the first trial? You used me to break your fall, what a good friend I am too you, already!” The moment passed and Glyndrel rolled off. Picking herself up and dusting off her breeches, Slyphania glanced around letting out a low whistle. “Well, this place is, um, what is this place Glyn? Awfully weird to have this beneath the forest floor.” Slyphania wasn’t looking at Glyndrel so missed the uncomfortable glance he shot her and instead strained to see how big the cave was. “Not sure, could be from the old ruin excavations”, Glyndrel replied, thankful for the change in topic. “You mean from when the Do’Etryan invaded?” Slyphania worded breathlessly, her eyes widening and mouth opening as she looked on in awestruck wonder. “Aye, those pesky Dark Elves really gave our forefathers a run for their lives!” Glyndrel stated, moving off toward one end of the cave. “How big do you think this is? How far back?” Slyphania asked “Not sure, quite a bit I would imagine, given their penchant for digging deep and intricate cavern systems” “Can we explore?” asked Slyphania expectantly, excited like a new born elfin getting their first leaf ride down the river. “There’s not much light in the day left, how about we keep this a secret between us and meet up here on the morrow at first dawn?” replied Glyndrel, a sound and serious answer. “Well, ok, genius, but how do we get out?” Slyphania answered taking small delight in the look that passed over Glyndrel’s face at the cold realisation that they may be stuck down here. “Well, um, how about if I stand on your shoulders? Or you stand on mine? Would that give us enough height?” Glyndrel has walked back over to where the hole was, the cave much darker now due to the failing light outside and they could only see a few feet around now. “Well, I am probably lighter than you, so how about I get on your shoulders?” “Hmm, ok, we’ll give it a go – if you manage to get out, promise me you won’t leave me down here!?” Glyndrel exclaimed with consternation. “Now, why would I leave my new found friend stranded in a hole the first day I meet him? That wouldn’t be very friendly now, would it? Perhaps on the second day…” Slyphania mocked. “That’s not funny, now, up you get!” Glyndrel crouched down to allow Slyphania to climb onto his back and then awkwardly, Glyndrel stood, balancing her on his shoulders Standing on his shoulders, rocking slightly, Slyphania reached out with her arms and hand to their fullest extension. Almost there. Brushing grass from the edge of the deadfall, clumps of grass and dirt came free, but nothing allowed purchase and caused them both to tumble down. ‘Gah! It’s hopeless, we are stuck here!” Despair crept into Glyndrel’s voice, causing it to break slightly. Tears started to well up, all Glyndrel wanted to do was get out and get home to his warm tree-house. ‘Don’t give up, we are almost there, I just need a little more height, and I could pull myself out, let’s give it another go”. Her infectious enthusiasm was somewhat contagious and with a grunt, Glyndrel got back into position to have her climb back onto his back. Once balanced, Slyphania stretched out her arms again, and yelled “I need a bit more height, can you lift me?” Glyndrel grabbed her feet, closed his eyes and lifted her, slowly, above his head. The higher he went, the higher she could reach and when he had her almost at full arm’s length heard a squeal of delight and suddenly her feet were ripped away from his hands as she pulled herself completely out of the hole. “We did it!” Slyphania exclaimed with abject delight. Taking a breath and looking about, she was able to locate some vines that were easy enough to tie together and lower down for Glyndrel to use as a makeshift rope. Soon after, they were both laying on the solid forest floor, panting, Glyndrel from climbing, Slyphania from holding on to the makeshift rope to ensure Glyndrel didn’t fall back down. “See?” Slyphania stated out of breath. “Uh?” Glyndrel grunted in response. “I came back for you after all!” Slyphania exclaimed and they were both rocked with laughter. ************************ Underneath the two laughing Vertas, in the darkness of the cave, something laughed back. ************************* The next day, as promised, the two friends met up at their secret hole in the ground. This time however, Glyndrel was more prepared, having brought two canteens of spring water and a sturdy rope, which was promptly tied to a close and large tree so there would be no issues getting out again. Slyphania to her credit also contributed, having an expensive looking fire lantern and a backpack filled with sweet bread and honey cakes. Glyndrel offered her a ready smile, genuinely pleased to be spending another day with his newfound friend. A flash of guilt passed through him at the thought that his friend Alexyius wasn’t with them, yet it was only a flash, and then a possessive wave of jealously swept Glyndrel. Slyphania was his friend, and this was their secret hole, something nobody else knew about, not his parent, his best friend, nobody. It was a secret and shared between just the two of them. At that moment, Glyndrel’s whole world was the hole and Slyphania, and nothing else mattered. Glyndrel smiled at the thought of that. “Something funny?” Slyphania asked incredulously. “Just taking in your visage, you really look the part now, don’t you? A regular dungeon adventurer just like Mason Trollslayer!” Glyndrel explained, deflecting the true reason for his smile. “Who is Mason Trollslayer?” asked Slyphania “Only one of the most famous Dwarven dungeoneers! A legend! Even if his inventions never worked, I swear he must have thought he was a gnome!” Glyndrel explained. Slyphania did look the part though, hair tied back into a ponytail, and with her backpack, breeches, boots and knife at her belt, she looked ready to take on an Ogre-ling, that being, a new born Ogre, generally bigger than Glyndrel and Slyphania combined. “Ok, we should get going” Glyndrel stated and started to climb down the rope. At the bottom he steadied it and in short order Slyphania was also down. Lighting the lantern, the fire oil spread shadows dancing across the walls like some twisted puppet show. The cave was much bigger than they first anticipated, heading off for at least twenty feet. Where they stood was somewhat of a mound, sloping downward after five feet. Given the dimensions of the cave, it became almost a tunnel as the pair cautiously crept forward. Glyndrel realized that Slyphania had a knife on her belt, but Glyndrel had nothing. Mixed emotions washed through him like sea water through a rock cleft. What if they got into trouble, would she have to get them both out of it? This made him feel somewhat insecure and inferior. Glyndrel should be the one protecting her, not the other way around. Perhaps due to a sense of elven-hood he needed to feel like the protector, Glyndrel couldn’t be sure. In desperation, Glyndrel bent down and grabbed a handful of stones which he pocketed. He could at least throw them, and besides, he had always excelled at his archery lessons at the age of ten, his tutors always praising him for his accuracy. Slyphania hadn’t noticed Glyndrel bend down, as she was slightly ahead of him since she had the lantern, but it was something else as well, something Glyndrel noticed in her eyes. Something he hadn’t seen there before. “Slyphania , what is it’ Glyndrel asked, the cold hand of fear jabbing at his heart. “Look, Glyn, a skull…” Slyphania breathed. Glyndrel looked, and saw what appeared to be some kind of altar at the end of the cave wall. Glyndrel glanced back and could see the sunlight streaming in from the hole, and it looked to be about fifty feet away now. Had they really come that far? The sunlight called to Glyndrel, radiant, pure and good. Glyndrel felt an overwhelming urge to drop everything and run, as fast as he could. Turning back to Slyphania, the words caught in his throat, as he saw that she had moved right up to the altar, which, now, upon closer examination emanated a coldness and what could only be described as unfathomable evil. Slyphania had her free hand stretched out, almost touching the skull. “Slyph, Don’t..—“ Glyndrel croaked, but it was too late, she had already touched the skull. A force, unseen, blasted back both of them, sprawling to the dirt floor. Glyndrel felt as though all breath had left his body, yet he could still somehow breathe, yet it felt as if all joy and heat had been sucked from the cave. An apparition appeared before the two of them, what appeared to be some kind of ghost or spirit. It was there but it wasn’t, glowing iridescent blue and Glyndrel could see right through it. Could this be one of those “Revenant’s’ that his father always warned him about? The so called “Undead Warlords”? It began to speak, but Glyndrel could not see its mouth moving and it seemed to be only addressing Slyphania. “You have freed me, Slyphania. I have spent an eternity trapped down here, and all it took was a touch from you. For that, I thank you. You deserve something special, a reward as such.” Glyndrel didn’t move, not a muscle, the fear gripping him was overpowering and all consuming. Slyphania was as if transfixed, tears started to flow down Glyndrels face as the enormity and fear factor set in. This was an innocent elfin girl, and he needed to do something, fast. The spirit continued to mind-speak. Glyndrel willed his hands to move towards the stones in his pocket. “So, what should I reward you with? Well, firstly you both get to live. That to some is reward enough, yet I sense something in you Slyphania. A darkness that you hide well. Perhaps there is further potential in you? Take my tome. Study it, learn from it, and I will return, when the time is right, you will be ready.” The next few moments were a blur; the apparition, which appeared to be some kind of ancient skeletal wizard, opened its decayed mouth and started to scream. The screaming continued and increased in loudness. Glyndrel put his hands over his ears and closed his eyes tight. The screaming continued. Glyndrel felt a familiar hand on his arm which made him realise that it was he that was screaming. Slowly opening his eyes, he saw Slyphania crouched over him, clutching a large book, bound with gold runes and filigree, the cover purple in colour and the pages gold trimmed, her other arm stretched out, touching him gently. “Slyph, where…where did you get that?” Glyndrel stammered, his throat hoarse from screaming. “It was on the altar, cool isn’t it? Now I have some treasure of my own too! “ Slyphania smiled and to all intents didn’t seem to be affected by the spirit encounter and there was no mention of it at all. Glyndrel was still recovering, and let it slide for now, getting to his feet and glancing back towards the altar. Nothing appeared to have changed except that the skull had disappeared. Glyndrel would have to talk to her about what happened, but another time may be more appropriate. Letting her go first, Glyndrel couldn’t help but notice she clutched the tome tight and seemed inseparable from it. Even when Glyndrel offered to hold onto it while she climbed out, an uncharacteristic flash of anger and outright refusal stopped Glyndrel from any further offers of help. Finally out of the hole, Glyndrel was starting to really regret ever bringing her this way and finding this hole. Of all the places to walk, for the ground to give way there? Even that seemed somewhat unnatural. It wasn’t fun anymore, no more child’s games here. Glyndrel desperately wanted to spend some time with Alexyius, just to be away from Slyphania for a while. Glyndrel couldn’t explain it, it just seemed as though a change had come over her. Not a change for the better either. Glyndrel eyed the mysterious Tome suspiciously. “So what is that thing anyway? What’s the book about?” Glyndrel pried. “Oh, nothing important I’m sure. I’m off home then, ok? I’ll see you soon, safe travels!” Slyphania stated abruptly and with that she was gone, into the forest. “See you soon then”… Glyndrel whispered in reply after she had left, which she wouldn’t have heard. Glyndrel couldn’t explain why, yet there was a feeling of cold dread building up in the pit of his stomach. Glyndrel was very frightened for his friend Very frightened indeed.
…To be continued….