"Druid, listen very carefully before I slit out your tongue." - This item has chapters!
Volodar awoke the next morning feeling more agitated than he had felt the night before. He’d comforted the family of dwarves who had been attacked the previous night, but that wasn’t what was repeating on his mind like a tape loop. It was Lord Ailus’ voice. How could so much be going wrong all at once for King Ailus? Volodar thought.
He threw back the gold velvet duvet cover that had swallowed him in his sleep; he wasn’t used to such a large bed. Letting his legs dangle off the side, he wondered why Lord Ailus’ battle map had been covered, and why he would wear such an expensive, white silk gown to kill the goblins at Cleawood tunnel. Although, he felt bad for Ailus; he was dealing with a lot. Volodar’s idiot brother Orrian attacked from the East, the goblins were attacking more frequently from the caves, and at the same time a new plague had broken lose soon to throw his lands into anarchy. Volodar knew he would have to lend men to Calenrock.
Looking around the room, he wondered how elves could sleep at night. There was a massive window to the left of his bed looking out onto the beautiful city of Kheissa, and the lights from outside were bound to annoy the elves when they tried to sleep. Let alone the fire wisps that seemed to be everywhere, flying here and there. The heat they created was incredible, and he found himself thinking of the forges back in Laeroth. Even though he was used to working in searing temperatures, he lived inside a snowy mountain mine where sleeping was done under cold conditions. At all times.
Pulling on a brown, silk top Volodar walked onto the balcony and was greeted by Klaern who smiled heartily and handed him some woodland nuts. “These taste real good, aye. We never ‘av these back at home.” Klaern laughed and looked back over at the view of the wall being built in the distance. It had shot up since yesterday, and from so high up Volodar could now see a tall gate built into the frame. The forest between the city and the wall stretched for miles, and in the center there was a large clearing with a temple in the middle where fire wisps were clustering. He could also see a field closer to the wall that was blocked by large metal fencing and forest that surrounded it. Inside, strange orange crops were growing.
“You wouldn’t be saying that if you knew what those nuts were my boy,” Volodar said as he sat down on the balcony table.
“Why. What are they?”
“Tree Spriggan’s testicles.”
Klaern lurched forward from his chair and spat the nuts over the marble floor. “And you let me eat them? Father. That’s just. Wrong,” Klaern spluttered.
“It’s quite a delicacy for elves actually,” Volodar said. “Most of the nuts the elves forage are picked from the trees. But not these ones boy. Tree Spriggan’s are nasty business, hunters most probably gathered these. Kill ‘em for their firewood they do, but collect their nuts for food. They’re pretty tough to kill, blending in with the trees and all that funny business like camouflage.”
Klaern was still choking on the half eaten testicle that was caught in his throat. When it had finally cleared, Klaern shot his Father an intolerable look but couldn’t resist laughing one more time.
Looking out at the sight, Klaern sighed “Mother would have treasured this view.”
“Aye. She would have,” Volodar agreed. “She would have loved to see this kingdom; my Naesala was just as beautiful too. Do you remember when she took us both up to my room and locked us in until we stopped arguing?”
“Or when after a long day, she’d cook us Steelthorn Bull’s thigh.” Klaern was suddenly fantasising about the intoxicating scent the food had provided on the cold, winter mornings in Laeroth.
“That was to die for. Even to this day I don’t know how she managed to get that meat. She must’ve had someone to go into the desert and pierce through the bulls steel hide, wait for it to die and then take the meat just for us,” Volodar smiled, a twinkle in his eye as he remembered the smile on Naesala’s face when she’d cook it for them.
“Took real good care of us; she was taken from us too early,” Volodar looked up at the sky.
“Do you ever think she’s watching us? You know, from the other side. Her spirit maybe?” Klaern said with a confident voice.
“Aye lad. She’ll always be with us.”
The sun rose high into the sky, and a calm breeze blew over the balcony as the two dwarves sat there peacefully enjoying the view. “At least we’re heading home today lad,” Volodar broke the silence.
“Can we at least see the gardens before we leave? Mother loved flowers didn’t she? Hated living under a mountain, said there wasn’t enough beauty there even with all those emeralds and rubies.”
“That’s where you’re wrong boy, I was her natural beauty,” Volodar winked.
The marble trellises in the gardens towered above the dwarves, and weaving in and out of the cross hatches were vines which elegantly intertwined above Volodar and Klaern, creating a tunnel entrance into the grounds. Growing from the vines, plump crimson grapes hung like jewels. As the dwarves wandered through the tunnel into the gardens, fire wisps whizzed past creating the perfect balmy, dry temperature for the grapes growth. The floor felt soft underfoot as bloom-moss was growing, and with each step it lit up a vibrant blue colour like a ripple across the ocean.
Tall plants Volodar and Klaern had never seen before were growing in the gardens, so they were grateful for the stone statue of the elf that held a guide book in his hands. Unfortunately, the book was just too high for them to read. “Let me get on your shoulders boy,” Volodar said.
“You fat oaf you’d kill me, let me get on your shoulders,” Klaern argued.
“Your aging twenty five, built like an ox, come on lift me up.” Klaern shrugged and let his Father clamber onto his shoulders and extended to his full height once more.
“For God sake. It’s all in bloody elvish,” Volodar mused. “I mean dear God, what is this symbol? And what’s this? Speak English. Using squiggles to write, that’s just no way to live. Oh, hold on, hold on boy I think I’m onto somethin’. Pictures, bloody brilliant,” Volodar cheered.
Picking up the book, despite knowing he probably shouldn’t take it, Volodar jumped down from Klaern’s shoulders. “See, told you you’d be able to take my weight.”
“Only just,” Klaern heaved from exhaustion.
“I’m sure you’ll live.”
Tall plants rose high up into the sky, and the scent of honey filled the dwarves nostrils blocking their throat with a taste of pure pleasure. From the damp, stale rooms in Laeroth, this was a treat. The bloom-moss grew over the marble pathways, and high above them, lush pink leaves blocked out the surrounding World leaving behind the sounds of the wall, and the chaos that would soon unfold on Ailus’ lands. Large winged, orange butterflies fluttered around their heads and one even landing on Klaern’s bold shoulder. Its wings felt smooth like silk, but powerful as they didn’t break under the dwarf’s heavy hand.
They continued to walk deeper and deeper into the gardens. “And that there, that’s a...Fle... Fla... Fluerviur plant. Yes, the one that’s glowing red,” Volodar nodded. “And that’s a Carbolia. That’s a Spore... Weeve... Wyvern,” he pointed towards all manner of strange, exotic looking flowers that grew around a cabin.
‘Danger. Keep out,’ read the sign on the cabin door to the left of the pathway. The lock on the door had fallen to the ground, and the way in was open. “Just one peek,” Klaern whispered. Without hesitation, they both entered paying no attention to the rotting sign.
Dropping the heavy book about plants on the nearest table in the shack, Volodar realised it had recently been inhabited. There was a small bed tucked in the corner of the grubby, decaying cabin, but there was no fireplace. Bread crumbs were littered over the floor and on a table nearby, half an eaten loaf lay there chewed. “Whoever lived here ate that bread wrong, who eats a slice whole? I mean who hasn’t heard of slices? Duh,” Klaern joked. But Volodar ignored him.
Books hung in baskets from the ceiling and Volodar could make out the lettering on one, Alchemy it read. Looking around he realised it must have been a wizards chamber. Who else does alchemy? Volodar thought to himself. What a perfect place for it, with all the plants right on the wizard’s doorstep in the gardens.
Shelves were layering the walls with rare ingredients, and concoctions were splattered over the floor around the alchemy table that stood at the back. Mortar and pestles lay in a shabby box in the corner and on the table lay a black book labelled My Diary.
Klaern pretended to slip and knocked the diary from the table, it landed with a loud thud. “Ops, I’ll just pick this up,” he chortled opening the first page.
I’m locked here. The head guard, Thallan was his name if I remember correctly, said I’d get an hour a day to pick the ingredients I needed until my work was done. But what do I need to do? What is my work? Lord Ailus didn’t say. I’m flattered he asked me to be the saviour of the elves, and I’m happy to help. But they could’ve treated me with a little more respect and dignity, and at least tell me the problem they’re facing. Could it be the war with the dwarves to the East?
My neck itches. Why make me wear a Karliash to remove my magic. I offered to help Ailus in saving the elves, and yet I have to wear this piece of metallic crap. What dishonour, removing a wizards magic. I’m no threat, why would I want to harm King Ailus?
Klaern flicked to the next page.
This is not what I had in mind. Designing a new type of food? I’m a wizard, not a farmer. Although, let’s not be so pompous. I’m here to help King Ailus, not complain.
Volodar had joined Klaern and flicked through the next few pages. Many combinations of ingredients riddled the page.
I’m so tired. They told me their true intentions. The formulas I’m making. The foods I’m testing. It’s disgusting. I can’t do this anymore. The innocent lives that will be lost. Stop talking to me. Leave me alone.
I tried my plan. It didn’t work. If I try to leave again Thallan said he’d rip out my eyes.
I must get out of here. My formula is nearly complete. They’ll start feeding them soon. Those poor helpless creatures. I’m killing them. This will start a new war.
It’s done. Ailus promised he’d let me go. No precious, he’s not lying. He’s my friend. He has seen what the food has done to them. And he’s happy with it. He assured me it would be the saviour of the elves. I can finally leave.
“This wizard is crazy, what’s he even talking about?” Klaern murmured.
“I don’t know but he created a type of food, aye. Not sure Why?” Volodar flicked through the diary once more checking for any more information. But it was just combinations of plants and little animals, with the occasional side note from the crazed wizard. Wait! This might be something, Volodar thought. But before he could explain there was a knock at the door and Thallan, the head of the elven guard, entered slyly.
“You better have a good reason for barging in on this private property,” Thallan snapped, raising his bow. “And if I don’t like the answer, I’ll stick an arrow in your skull.”