|Belgar was in no mood for waiting. He had timed this meeting with Ciara to coincide with the arrival of the weekly carriage to Mokton Town perfectly. This way, when he gave her his last command as his apprentice, she would be gone immediately. Belgar was not very good at goodbye's. In fact, he abhorred them. 'Short and sweet' was his motto when it came to conversing with another being. It's why I live atop the Darkmoor Mountains, isn't it? he mused. So I can be left in peace to continue my work! No one would choose to live here unless they needed absolute peace, quiet and the occasional Elven visitor, now would they?! Frustrated, Belgar arose from where he was sitting on the front stoop of his modest castle to renew his earlier pacing, when he heard the loud clatter of hooves from below. Appearing around the tall redwood trees that lined a curved path up from the road was a large grey mare with a dusty red-cloaked traveller. The rider jumped easily from the panting horse and bowed unusually low, ensuring the honour bestowed upon Belgar was not missed.
"Ciara!" Belgar boomed. "About time! The sun is lowering over the western treetops already. Come, come lass, there is no time for formalities."
"Belgar, I am truly sorry!" Ciara removed her hood allowing her cropped blonde hair to escape in a mess of dirty knots. Her pretty face was travel worn and battle scarred, but her bright green eyes shone with an intelligence and spirit beyond her young years. Her tall lithe frame seemed to carry the weight of the world on it's shoulders, hunching ever so slightly every time Belgar saw her. "The Elves are marching and I was forbidden to enter through their camps! I was bid by an Elven captain to await in a cave not a league south from here until they had departed. Luckily, Finbrear heard my mind meld and allowed me safe passage. He is the only Elf that ever takes notice of us Belgar, why is that?"
Belgar was impressed. If Ciara's mind meld was fully functioning at the age of 17 reigns, she was already ahead of his teachings. He could help her no more. Belgar knew that Ciara was 'different' somehow. He could sense her power, even as a youngster of 8 reigns when she was first brought to him. She had been the only human to pass his wizarding tests for 200 moons. He had enjoyed his time with her. She was cunning, strong and observant, all good qualities for a future wizard of Mokton. He wouldn't go so far as to say he would miss her though. Her enquiring mind was often too much for Belgar's quiet sensitivities, she talked too much and she asked too many questions. Yes, Belgar looked forward to some much earned rest, although, with Elves on the march it looked like he wouldn't be getting too much of that.
"No time for questions now Ciara. Now is the listening time. You must take great heed to what I am about to tell you". Belgar motioned Ciara into the castle, bustling her up the front stairs after she had loosely tied Merle, her horse, by the reins to a stake, with a barrel of clear water for the animal's refreshment.
Ciara's eyes typically took a moment to adjust to the darkness upon entering the front room. This was enough time for Belgar to pick up an old weathered scroll from the cluttered table against the furthest wall, and appear suddenly next to her again.
"Ciara, you are a fully trained apprentice wizard now. It seems I can do no more for you. You are to take this scroll to Erlund my brother. He will know what to do".
"But Belgar! No one can get in to see Erlund - it is impossible. His castle is impenetrable to anyone except Elves!"
"That is not quite true, and yet, I do not expect you to take it to him personally. You are to meet a man by the name of Scar at the Troll & Oak tavern in Mokton. He will pay you handsomely for it. Do with the money as you wish, I have no use for it."
"How will I know this man - 'Scar'?"
"He is expecting you on the morrow, and will make himself known to you once you take lodgings at the tavern. Now run along girl, there is no time to waste, for I hear the Mokton carriage approaching".
"But Belgar! I haven't had time to say goodbye! I have so many things I need to..." she stopped suddenly as Belgar raised his hand.
"Enough! This is your last task. Remember your learning's. Be well". And with that, Belgar apparated out of the room.
Ciara felt saddened by his sudden and seemingly insensitive farewell. However, she knew him well enough to know that this was just his way, and she could not take offence. She also knew him well enough to know that if he meant for her to hurry, then hurry she would. She had learnt from one of the land's principal Wizard's and knew her place.
The carriage bound for Mokton Town transported it's only passenger on a bumpy tour down the Darkmoor Mountains and past the Elven Woods without alerting any Cave Trolls. Sleep was impossible as Ciara was on edge the whole night's ride. Things were afoot since she left this region 6 moons ago. Worrying things. Five leagues out from Mokton, Ciara alerted the carriage driver to let her out. She would ride from here on her trusty grey mare who was following peacefully behind. It was a flat and safe open field of tundra for miles and she was too impatient to wait for the carriage to deliver her. With Merle she would make haste.
Ciara approached Mokton from the northern border wall, and as she neared, fear stole her heart. Something was amiss. It was much too quiet. Where was the bustle and clamour of a busy town? She lifted her nose to the air and sniffed. A pungent odour of evil and death pervaded her senses. Gripping her pure silver wizard sword, Ciara made ready for battle. With caution and all of her wizarding talents on high alert, she reached the gate. Her worst fears became actual as she carefully led Merle inside the town.
Everywhere, bodies of townsfolk lay in agonising positions of death. Many had been ripped apart, their limbs missing and faces stunned forever in grips of pain. Many buildings were badly damaged, some irrepairably. Ciara slowly dismounted Merle. She could not sense any hint of current danger. Whoever or whatever had done this was gone or at rest now. Cautiously, Ciara picked her way with Merle through the corpses, taking care to look for survivors. Further into the village she could hear sobs and low voices. Thank Orses the God of Battle, Ciara thought, survivors!. It seems it had not been long since this abhorrent massacre had taken place. Is that why the Elves were marching? Did they know something was coming? What could have done this?! Ciara screamed to herself. Not Trolls, they would never take on a whole village, besides, they always ate their prey.
Ciara spent the day assisting as many folk as she could, tending to the people with care, offering hope to the dismayed as she went. At nightfall, she left the townsfolk to look after their own. There was nothing else she could do in the immediate future. Belgar had given her a task, and it was against the wizard code not to make it her priority and ensure that the task was completed. Hoping against hope, Ciara arrived at the Troll & Oak tavern as instructed. The street was quiet, no bodies alive or dead could be seen. As the barracks for the towns soldiers were located here, it stood to reason that the men & woman of the Mokton legion had all entered the battle nearer the gates and centre of town, where they had met their fate.
Pushing open the heavy oak door, Ciara entered the darkly lit tavern. As expected, there was no one in sight. She decided to have a look around anyway, and tip toed up the stairs on clothed feet. There were six separate lodgings on the first floor, and Ciara entered each room hoping to find someone who may be able to tell her anything at all about the man she was to meet. The last room was a corner suite and had a small balcony. Ciara looked out over the rooftops of the town, hearing the low hum of a city in shock. Suddenly, Ciara heard a loud moan coming from below her. Looking down she could barely see a figure hunched against the back doorway of the tavern, in an alleyway that led to a side road.
Ciara leaped off the balcony and landed sure-footed and silent next to the body, her sword at the ready. She knelt down, taking care to stay over an arms reach away and saw that it was a man, dressed in a woodland scout's green uniform. He was badly wounded, with chunks of flesh hanging from his body. Ciara was amazed he was still alive.
"Belgar", the man softly spoke to her, coughing up blood as he did so. "Belgar".
"Yes", Ciara confirmed, "I am Belgar's apprentice Ciara, tell me your name". Ciara stayed alert and suspicious until she received the name confirmation that this was the man she was to give the scroll to.
"Scar", he breathed.
Ciara knew this man did not have much time. He must be a close ally of Erlund's if he has taken this much effort to ensure he reached her. Scout's were hardy and battle trained, but this Scar seemed unusually strong.
"Pocket" scar struggled to talk, but motioned to Ciara to take something from his breast pocket. She decided to use a quick lifting spell instead of endangering herself by going too near. Her nerves were still on edge after the day's horrific sights. A small brown cloth bag came hovering out and over to her. She plucked it gently from the air, feeling it's heavy weight.
With an effort Ciara could hardly bare to see, Scar murmured again. "You must take the scroll to Erlund yourself. He will be waiting". Just in time, Ciara managed to cradle her arms under the head of the dying man as he took his last breath. "Death awaits us all".
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