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“What happened to her?” I asked Wyanet as Phebes walked by with a bandage pasted to her forehead. 

Wyanet rolled her eyes, “She tripped and hit her head on a rock.”

Caeldrim, spattered with blood and grinning, came up to us. “Looks like everyone survived.” He clapped me on the back. “What a glorious day.”

“I did not know slaughtering people in their sleep was dangerous work.” Wyanet quipped.

“The work of the butcher is brutal, but someone must do it.”

“Captain!” shouted Erdan. “We found the Warden’s stash!” He hefted a quarter cask onto his shoulder, “Come celebrate with us!”

Caeldrim’s grin widened. “My men need me.” He jogged back over to Erdan.

Wyanet and I walked toward the slave house. “Is Kalista still here?” Wyanet asked.

“Surprisingly. I think she’s serious about staying.”

“Damian, Ms. Wyanet!” Rolen called from behind us. 

Wyanet and I waited for him to catch up. 

“My friends, come join in the celebration. This is a most joyous cycle.”

I shook my head, “Sorry Rolen, it’s been a long day. I could use some rest.”

“I do not drink after battle anymore.” Wyanet added.

Rolen smiled and nodded. “I understand my friends. The road ahead of us is long, and we have little time to travel it in. Rest, my friends, we will make our plans in the morning.”

“Go enjoy yourself, Rolen. You deserve it.” Wyanet replied.

Wyanet and I ascended the stairs of the residence in silence. As we entered the common room, Phebes exited the kitchen.

“Oh!” Phebes jumped in surprise, sloshing some of the liquid from the cup she held.  “Aren’t you guys going to the party?” 

“We wish to sleep.” Wyanet replied, “It has been a long day.”

Phebes took a sip from her cup. “Yeah, I’m pretty tired too. Where are you guys going to sleep?”

“We haven’t gotten that far yet.” I interjected.

Phebes eyes lit up. “You can stay in my room! It’s not very big, because it’s just me and I don’t have a husband, or even a boyfriend for what it matters. Oh, but  I only have one blanket. It’s pretty warm down here most of the time anyway, but I don’t mind sharing.”

Wyanet frowned. “We do not want to be a burden.”

“It’s no problem! We can all cuddle up together. It’ll be like a sleepover! At least that’s what I think sleepovers are like, my teacher never let me have any.”  

Wyanet waved Phebes past her. “If it is not an issue, then please lead the way.”

Phebes skipped past us and lead us up several flights of dark stairs to the top floor. We walked down a long hallway. Floor to ceiling curtains lined the walls at regular intervals. Candles, mounted in reflective sconces, filled the gaps between the curtains.

“This one’s mine!” Phebes exclaimed, as she pulled back one of the curtains on the outside wall.

A candle in a sconce, similar to the ones in the hall, illuminated the tiny room. Hooks on the back wall held a simple tunic, and a second set of slave’s clothes. On the floor beneath the clothes, a small wooden box rested with a closed lid. The corner beside the box hosted a heaped up blanket and a worn out pillow. 

I stepped into the claustrophobic space and unclasped my cloak. Wyanet set her spear on the ground against the wall, and untied the cynches that held her armour closed. I folded my cloak and place it on top of my rucksack. “Is there a place we can wash up?” I pulled off my shirt and added it to my pile.

“Uh,” Phebes tried to not make eye contact.  “Yeah, it’s over there.” She pointed back down the direction we had come. “It is actually my turn to bathe tonight, but I’ve only got two towels, but I might be able to get another from someone else.”

Wyanet pulled her shirt off and undid her chest binding. “It is fine, Damian and I have made do with much less in the past.”

We bathed and went to sleep.

 I dreamt of an idyllic beach with silver-white sand and a magnificent azure sky. A tiger, with fur the colour of snow and stripes of blood red crimson, roared waking me from my slumber. I rolled over to face where Wyanet had slept the night before. Wyanet had vanished. Phebes continued to sleep against the wall opposite me. A puddle of drool collected on her pillow.

I got dressed and braided my hair. Silver inspected Phebes’ limited belongings, and Gazer stood sentry at the door. 

“Phebes.” I said in a low tone.

Phebes snorted and rolled away from me.

“Phebes!” I shouted.

Phebes eased her way into a sitting position. She yawned and wiped the spittle from her face. The tunic Phebes slept in hung off of one shoulder.

“Where’s Wyanet?”

Phebes yawned again and looked around her tiny room. “Where’s the other woman?”

I rolled my eyes. “I just asked… never mind.” I snatched up my remaining belongings and stalked out of the room.

Silver flew across the chamber. She landed on my back and turned invisible. Gazer grabbed onto my leg as I walked past him.

“Was that a Pixie?” Phebes asked after me.

I strolled through the empty halls. I found my way down to the gathering room. A mix of people sprawled out across the floor. The whole room reeked of stale alcohol. Rolen stood over a table, analyzing a makeshift map.

“Good beginning, Damian.” Rolen beamed.  

“Where is Wyanet?”

“She is guiding the free people who don’t wish to fight down the tunnel. She should return soon.”

“What about Caeldrim and Kalista?”

“Caeldrim is with Erdan, teaching others how to fight. Kalista is instructing the ones who can’t carry a spear to use a crossbow.”

“When are we planning the assault?

Rolen placed a hand on my shoulder. “Heros, Caeldrim, myself, and the other leaders stayed awake into the early morning. We have decided on everything.”

“What is the plan?

Rolen chuckled and guided me back towards the kitchen. “Relax, my friend, get some food. Help your companions if you wish. Tomorrow will be bloody, and we should value this period of quiet while we can.”

Rolen helped me scrounge up some day old bread and off coloured fruit. I bit into a peach, juice dripped down my chin. “Why are you doing this?”

“I don’t understand your question.”

“This whole rebellion. You’re a Dark Elf, leading a slave rebellion. Don’t you feel like you’re betraying your people?”

Rolen scratched his beard and scowled. “These are not my people.” He ruffled his beard again. “I am only half Elven. My father was a slave. He impregnated the youngest daughter of a minor house. I was a slave before I even drew my first breath. My grandmother executed my mother because of me. These aren’t my people, and this rebellion gives me the chance to strike back at my bitch of a grandmother.”

I finished my peach and chucked the pit into a bin. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to open an old wound.”

“Not every person in this world, above or below, are as kind as you. Many get crushed under someone else’s boot, and want nothing more than revenge.”

I left Rolen and wandered out to the yard. The artificial sun shone down on a ragtag group of twenty-five people with sticks . Caeldrim patrolled their loose ranks, issuing orders and adjusting grips. A second group of equal size trained with Erdan a short distance away. I knelt on the ground near the training area. I put my sword on the ground and started meditating.

Five minutes passed. Someone loomed over me, staring. I opened my eyes and fell backward. Naal hovered inches from my face.

“Have you met her? How often do you go back? How many others did she send?” Naal asked in rapid succession.

“I… don’t…”

Caeldrim appeared behind Naal. He grabbed my arm and pulled me to my feet. “Damian, I could use your help.”

Naal gave each of us a final glance and walked away.

“Darklings are a strange race.”

I brushed myself off and retrieved my sword. “What do you need my help with?”

“Nothing, you looked like you needed saving.” Caeldrim grinned. “I did want to talk to you though.”

“About what?”

“It took me awhile to figure out, but I know where you trained. I saw the destruction at the Lost Temple. No one in my company thought anyone survived.”

I tensed up.

“Your master was a brilliant and skilled fighter, but he was a fool for hoarding the artifacts he did.”

“What does it matter? He’s dead now.”

“There are still people in the planes who will want you dead, because you knew him. You should be careful. Make an effort to hide who you are and where you came from.” Caeldrim clapped me on the back. “There are more forces at work in the world than any of us even realise.” 

The story will continue, August 15th.

Only one more chapter left before a break!

Written by: Sweeney

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