Licking Wounds

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Caelrdim’s eyes were closed, my hand hovered inches above him. “I’m already awake.” He said. His eyes flipped open. Faery lights floated around us, illuminating our makeshift tent. Wyanet and Kalista slept with their backs to one another, a small fire separating them.

We sheltered between two massive sleds. Tucked into the corner of a sizable cavern at the bottom of a mile long shaft. After some magically aided healing, we slept off the wounds we gained fighting goblin pack. Our sodden wool blankets formed a roof. The group’s soaked clothing hung on a makeshift clothesline stretched between the two sleds.

“Before you go to sleep,” Caeldrim stated, “I have a few questions I want answered.”

Caeldrim sat up, his mud colored hair framing his face. Little bumps covered  Caeldrim’s exposed skin. He kept most of his tattered clothing. The rest of us had all stripped out of our soaked clothes. “First, why are two half-breeds, a human, a sprite, and a pixie attacking a Goblin war camp?”

My hand went instinctively to where my sword should be. “There aren’t any Pixies here.”

Caeldrim motioned for me to relax. “Your secret is safe, half-breed, but we both know that a Sprite can’t perform spell craft.”

I sat down opposite Caeldrim. “I’m not a half-breed, I’m human, just like Wyanet.”

“You don’t know your parentage, do you?”

“It doesn’t matter, they’re both dead, at least to me.”

Caeldrim grinned. “I might know something about them.”

“Ask your questions, I’m tired.” I snapped.

Caeldrim’s grin vanished. “Fine. What are you doing here?”

“That’s one of life’s great mysteries, isn’t it?”

“That isn’t what I meant.” Caeldrim snapped back. “Why did you attack the Goblin camp? I know it wasn’t a rescue mission for us.”

“We needed to get to this cave, you were along the way.”

“Damn it, half-breed, if I’m going to help you, you could at least tell me what I’m helping with.” Anger flared in Caeldrim’s eyes.

“We didn’t ask you to help, you are more than welcome to leave, if you want.”

Caeldrim glared back.

“The children of a local lord have been taken.” Wyanet interjected. “Damian and I believe it was a group of Dark Elves who took them.”

Understanding replaced Caeldrim’s anger. He studied Wyanet for a moment, then me. “Both of you get some sleep. I have some personal things to attend to.” Caeldrim left the shelter.

Wyanet glared at me.

“What?”

“You speak too loud when you are upset.”

Wyanet laid back down. I rolled my eyes and laid down between Wyanet and Kalista. “Sorry, he punched a nerve. I closed my eyes and drifted to sleep to Kalista’s soft snoring.

Wind tore across the frozen plain. Snow and ice pelted my naked body. A creature, hidden by the blinding snow, growled at me.

A singular shaft of light pierced through the grey sky, bathing me in warmth. The tundra plain shifted around me. The light beam got stronger. Snow melted away, forming a vast ocean. The ice beneath my feet broke, dropping me into warm shallow water. White sand beaches rose up around me. Trees and grasses I didn’t recognise grew in an instant, dominating the horizon. Salt scented wind played with my hair, and pushed away the angry grey clouds, revealing a magnificent blue sky.

A squat, elderly woman with greying hair, walked to the edge of the water. She wore an ankle length dress of royal blue and silver, a towel of matching color hung over her arm. “Come out of the surf, my boy, we have things to discuss.” She extended the towel to me. “But cover yourself up first, I’ll not have you for tea without any clothes.”

I walked out of the ocean and wrapped the towel around my waist. A frigid wind from the south buffeted us. I shivered and the woman made sure the blue flower tucked into her ear stayed put.

“Come quickly Damian, I won’t have you for long.” The woman plodded back towards the treeline at a surprising pace.

Another cold breeze ruffled my hair as we emerged from the trees and made me shiver despite the heat. I followed the woman through a meadow filled with wildflowers of every shade of blue and white. We made our way to a humble grass hut in the centre of the meadow.

The hut’s interior was no more extravagant than its exterior. A small raised platform rested against one wall. Reed mats covered the floor, and the space lacked tables or chairs. The woman handed me a small cup made of bright blue stone, filled with a strong dark tea. We sat opposite each other on the mats.

“Where am I?” I asked.

“That doesn’t matter right now, my boy.”

The woman’s voice reminded me of how I had heard grandparents speaking to children.

“I fear you are venturing down a dangerous, but inevitable path,” The woman continued. “Stay close to your friends, and be wary of telling people where you come from. Many forces in the world will seek to corrupt you, to damage your father.”

I jumped to my, casting aside the little blue cup. “I don’t even know who my father is.” I stormed out of the hut, and back into the meadow. A damp breeze greeted me. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Instead of wildflowers, the scent of meat and dried fruit filled my nose. I opened my eyes again.

Kalista sat on my stomach, a hand on either side of my head. Her face floated above mine, her dark eyes boring into mine. “He’s awake!”

I shoved Kalista off. “Damn it, Kalista, couldn’t you have gotten dressed first?”

“Why? Are you going to get a nose bleed?” Kalista sached her way to the clothes line.

I sat up, Wyanet, in all her gear, knelt down beside me. She gave me some jerky. “ I wish she would not do things like that.” Wyanet whispered. “Being naked around people is one thing. Violating their personal space without their permission is another.”

I took the offered jerky and ripped off a chunk. “I couldn’t agree more. Let’s hope she doesn’t try anything while we sleep.”

“Anything else, you mean.”

“Yeah, my trust of her has run thin too.”

Caeldrim entered the shelter, wearing a patched ring maile shirt and carrying a dead Goblin’s sword. “Good, you’re all awake. Get dressed, I’ve got something to tell everyone.”

Gazer landed on my shoulder and whispered in my ear as I got dressed.

“Same as always,” I whispered back in Sylvan, “Stay out of site.”

“We’ve got a serious problem.” Caeldrim said as we tore down the shelter. “ I was thinking last night and had an ephiany. You are looking for a Nobleman’s children, correct?”

“Yeah, Clas lost his kids a few weeks back.” Kalista replied.

“How is that a problem?” Wyanet asked.

“It’s a problem, because we’ve only got three days at most to find them.” Caeldrim replied.

“What happens in three days?” Kalista asked.

“The new moon.” I interrupted.

 Caeldrim nodded in agreement. “I’m not certain, and I don’t know many details. During my studies at the College of Arcanum, I found a small piece of text that spoke of a Dark Elf ceremony. Every hundred years, during the first new moon of spring. A blood sacrifice is to be  given to the Demon Queen of Spiders.”

“And, let me guess, it requires a virgin princess?” Wyanet said.

Kalista snorted. “She isn’t a virgin.”

“The text didn’t specify a virgin.” Caeldrim replied. “It said a woman of noble birth.”

“There is a legend amongst my people that we tell to children who do not behave.” Wyanet added. “The legend speaks of dark skinned Elves coming up from below the ground on moonless nights to snatch them away and feed them to their giant spiders.”

“It is likely that this ritual is where the legend came from.” Caeldrim replied.

“If that is what happened to the kids, it would explain why there hasn’t been a demand for ransom.” I added.

“I think so as well.” Caeldrim replied. “If the Dark Elves did take the children, the girl would have been ransomed a few days after they took her.”

“That can’t be it.” Kalista blurted out. “Why haven’t they ransomed Kilian yet?”

“Dark Elves care little about men, even children. If they are going to sacrifice this girl, they wouldn’t want to be found  out, before they could do it.” Caeldrim said.

“We are wasting time.” Wyanet point a finger at Caeldrim. “Do you know where the Dark Elves are?”

“I only found one other tunnel out of this cavern, I’d wager that the Dark Elf city is at the end of it.”

“I can scout ahead.” Kalista offered. “That’s what the soldiers trained me for.”

“No.” Wyanet declared. “We can not trust you.”

Caeldrim snapped his fingers. A barred owl popped into existence on Caeldrim’s outstretched arm. “This is my familiar, Strix. I can use his eyes and ears at anytime I want. We can use him to scout ahead of the half-breed.”

I tucked my sword into my belt and shouldered my rucksack. “If Kalista wants to go first, let her. If she tries to run away, she’ll have to run through us. We’ve wasted enough time, let’s get moving.”

The story will continue, June 27th.

Written by: Sweeney

https://ko-fi.com/sweeney

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