An elf will give anything to thwart the return of a malicious sorcerer thought defeated.
|Myriads of creatures thronged the front of the castle of Khrine. Elves, unicorns, fairies, gnomes, griffins and other magical beings waited for the emperor to emerge onto the wall balcony. Many enchanted things decorated the large surroundings. Glistening silver dust floated down in the wind like confetti. Levitating fire caldrons circled about like planets. Two white suns shone from the heavens, giving the typical nostalgic radiance of everyday life.
Bainforth the elf general was in thought as he watched his lord Emperor Thaylus standing in front of him. The angelic ruler at the balcony border at the top of the wall of the Grand Citadel raised his hands. Although it was a day of celebration, Bainforth had a knot in his stomach.
The emperor’s voice was like a trumpet. “Today marks the 20th year since the destruction of Thourn.”
The general’s stomach tightened more at the mention of that name.
“May you enjoy the celebration and the freedom we have!”
Bainforth sat comfortably on a padded chair. He folded his hands and placed them on a cold marble table. Thaylus turned and walked inside with a bright smile and glistening eyes as he sat down.
Bainforth drifted as he peered around him to escape his anxiety. The room was filled with crystal chandeliers with burning candles. Guards in shining chain mails lined the walls. They had sheathed swords and were like statues.
Thaylus’ expression changed. “Something troubles you.”
“Yes my liege. I’ve been having bad dreams.”
“And why do these dreams concern you?”
“I’ve had the dream every night for months.”
“I see. What was your dream of?”
“I was at the castle balcony. Below were gargoyles with swords of green fire. Our forces were being cut down rapidly. Battlements on the castle walls were destroyed by fire breathing harpies. In the distance I saw the standard of Thourn’s army being carried by the enemy.”
Thalus’ face was frozen. Bainforth had never seen such a stunned expression.
“Master, what is wrong?”
“I’ve had the same reoccurring dream.”
“What does it mean my Lord?”
“I believe our shared dream is a prophecy.”
“But how? Thourn is dead.”
“That is how it appeared my general. We all saw him fall into the Precipice of darkness after he was forced off the edge by a final thrust of our last battalion.”
“What do we do now?”
Thaylus rose. “I want you to see where Thourn is and destroy him - alone.”
“Forgive me my Lord, but Thourn was a powerful sorcerer. How could one elf…”
Thaylus floated to his left towards a blank grey stone wall. He raised his arm and muttered something. In a flash of light a double door appeared like the shape of a spearhead. With both hands, the door was opened. Within them was an iron rod with an emerald top.
“This scepter can unleash a strong lighting blast. It can penetrate through or destroy anything in its path.”
Bainforth was wide eyed. He stared at it, rising slowly. The elf wondered why his master never used it to quickly expunge Thourn in the first place. Nevertheless, Bainforth felt asking would question Thaylus’ very competency. “This magical object can only be used once. There are bigger threats that live in other dimensions. I saved it for something that our forces could not rival by mere weapons.”
“Where do you want me to start looking?”
“I want you to begin searching in the Grim Lands. That’s the only place where he could hide himself from all the other kingdoms.”
“When do I depart?”
“Immediately. And tell no one of your quest. Thourn could have spies anywhere – even here in our royal court. You should go to the stables now.”
“Right away master.”
Bainforth took the scepter, bowed and saluted Thaylus with a fist over his heart. He turned and marched to a door at the back of the room and descended a spiral staircase. Candles lined the wall to right. He took in the warm moist smell of burning wicks.
The elf stopped, pressed against his temples, rubbed his eyes then exhaled deeply. If Thourn was truly alive, it could mean disaster and blood shed all over again. Even in his anxiety and uncertainty, he mustered his valor as he straitened his back and his heartbeat steadied. He sprinted down the rest of the stairs in a burst of confidence and eagerness to seek out the old wizard and vanquish him; that was the mission and his purpose.
At the base of the stairs, he turned right and walked down a broad corridor with fire filled basins. The click of his boots echoed down the hall.
At last he came to the door to the main, vaulted chamber. He stepped through and the awesomeness of the huge pillars that supported a ceiling mural depicting the heavenly bodies that took his breath away. Indoor fountains fashioned like white roses were arrayed beside the pillars of the grand inner concourse. Glistening, immense emerald chandeliers hung from the ceiling.
The grandeur of the chamber always filled him with peace and pride. He went to a garden with a placid pool with ducks and swans. And there, sitting against a pine tree was his friend Nithos. He raised his head and looked at Bainforth. “How are you!?”
“Crom! I am well!” the elf said as his muscles relaxed. He smiled as he neared him. Despite the king’s warning, Crom could be trusted. “Ah, you look as strong and sleek and always. But I do see a little pudge on your stomach.” Bainforth chuckled.
Crom shook his head. “And it looks to me you’re graying on the top.”
“Perhaps I am.” the elf neared him. “I wanted to ask you something. I need to know if you would be willing to come with me to the Grim Lands.
“Hmmm…quite ambitious – and dangerous.”
“I just want to know if you would be willing to go. I must ask my Lord the king if you may escort me first.”
“I think that is a great idea.” The voice was the king’s that came from behind them.
Bainforth’s face went pale and he froze. “My lord, I…I did not know you would be here. Forgive me for not consulting you first about Crom coming with me and divulging the matter.”
Thaylus smiled and shook his head. “At ease my general. If it is something you truly desire, then so be it. It would be a good thing for you to look after one another as well. I should have allowed this rather than for you to go alone.”
“Thank you my Lord,” Bainforth said with a bow.
Thaylus nodded, still smiling. “You two should leave soon. Every minute gives Thourn time to scheme his attack.”
“You speak as though Thourn is alive,” Crom said.
Bainforth explained. “I and our Lord have had the same dream of an attack by Thourn. We’ve been having it repeatedly for nights. We believe it to be prophetic.”
“My word! He lives my Lord?”
“Indeed. None of the other kingdoms have not reported any sightings of the wizard. The only other place to look is in the Grim Lands.”
“I understand. We will leave immediately Lord Thaylus,” said Crom.
“Good luck to you both,” said the king as he left them.
The two friends exited the garden and went to the stables. The noon sun was orange and red, casting long shadows of Crom and Bainforth on the stone castle ground. Both of them took twin mounts – midnight black horses with grey manes.
Bainforth felt worried at what they would find. However a childlike curiosity pervaded his thoughts as well. Bigger that the question of finding Thourn was how he survived. He obviously used his magic to escape his demise. That sly serpent. Bainforth was encouraged by Thaylus’ faith in him. The angelic being was wise and companionate. He was the wisest soul on the planet of Khrine. And his kingdom, Bainforth had believed, was the most magnificent than any other. All this made him giddy inside.
Bainforth inhaled the smell of wet grass and smiled as he and Crom rode out of the kingdom. He looked to his right at a herd of buffalo stampede up and down inclines and declines. Deer drunk at an oasis next to a palm tree with parrots perched on branches.
“Crom, what if we don’t find him in time?”
“Don’t think like that. If Thourn has an army, we should run into them eventually.”
“True. An entire army would not be easy to hide.”
Twenty minutes later grass was losing height and turning brown. Gaunt, dried up trees dotted the landscape. Sage brush rolled along the wind blasted terrain.
“The surroundings will just get worse.”
An hour later, Bainforth spied a town with a low gate of rotting wood. “Hmm…that place looks intriguing. Do you think we’ll find any information there?”
“Perhaps. A lot of Grim Land travelers must visit there.”
Twilight approached. Bainforth and his friend tethered their mounts to a wooden stake just inside the gate. The elf stroked his chin. Besides the town being dilapidated and having a hostile atmosphere, he knew there was something present that had significance.
The town was barren. About five yards ahead was a small inn. Then something made Bainforth’ s heart jump. Three cloaked figures with the crest of Thourn fixed to their backs entered.
“Followers of Thourn!” said Crom.
“Indeed. We’ve found our goal. Let’s go.”
Bainforth pulled his hood over his head. It draped over his face to conceal his identity. Crom did the same.
He followed Bainforth inside. The three figures sat at a table in a corner. Crom sat with the elf at a table about twenty feet away from the mysterious individuals.
Bainforth pulled out a small oval sapphire-like jewel from his cloak.
“A Kairos talisman. Do you always carry one?”
“No. I brought it just for this mission.”
Bainforth cupped the Kairos stone in his hands. He spoke into it. The tiny talisman levitated then shot to the other table, hovering fifteen feet over it. The elf withdrew a glass amulet. A thick cloud coalesced on its surface. Next, it manifested an image of the three figures. He observed them from above where the Kairos Talisman was floating overhead.
One of the cloaked figures brought out a black orb.
“A Negus Sphere,” said Crom.
“Who could they be trying to communicate with?”
The sphere was changing color - from brightening shades of grey until it was glowing white. It flickered before a picture appeared. The terrible wizard Thourn was sitting on a golden throne before thousands of followers. He stood. “My faithful warriors of Earth and all who see and hear me from Khrine, our time draws near. We will take the magical land I was expelled from and destroy all who do not submit to us.” A vicious roar of praise and applause erupted.
“We must tell the king!” said Crom.
“But what is this “Earth” he spoke of?”
“We’ll find out soon I’m sure. Let’s depart!”
Bainforth felt that pain in his stomach disrupt his breathing. Thourn was alive and he planned an attack on Khrine just like in his nightmares. Now that he knew of the plot, perhaps there was a way to stop him without another all-out war. This notion extinguished some of the sorrowful resolve he had for his kingdom and people. Was there a way to avoid bloodshed?
* * *