Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/706567-The-Black-Rune
by Dakkan
Rated: ASR · Short Story · Fantasy · #706567
Betrayal leads to the stealing of a powerful elfstone. Now, all may be destroyed...
Mikhail paced back and forth in the dank, putrid prison into which he had been thrown. His black robe, which was worn only by King Goldar’s inner circle, lay in tatters in a pile of Mikhail’s own fecal matter. The robe had been ripped to shreds two days prior by a whip that had metal studs on its tips. Mikhail’s back still ached from the beating he had received.

“How could I have been so stupid?” said Mikhail loudly enough for the guard to hear. Briefly, the guard looked Mikhail’s way, then went back to the Elvin card game called Greenthumb, which tested knowledge of the flora over all of the Elvin lands.

Mikhail sat down on the damp prison floor. A rat scampered near him, and Mikhail kicked, missing badly. Letting out a terrified squeak, the rat quickly disappeared. I knew better…And now, my stupidity has doomed us all. With nothing but time on his hands, Mikhail thought back to the events that brought him to his current predicament.

Mikhail opens the door to Goldar’s treasure room. On his arm is Kitana Windwhisperer, an elf woman of immense beauty. Mikhail stares into Kitana’s light brown eyes, a rarity among Elves, who have eyes that are black as night. For a moment, Mikhail hesitates. Sensing Mikhail’s doubt, Kitana flashes him a dazzling smile, displaying all of her perfectly made teeth. As Kitana does so, there is a mischievous glint in her eyes.

Mikhail is done in by Kitana’s smile, as always. He takes her hand, and leads her to a golden statue of a Kivarra tree, which only grows in Silverset, Mikhail’s homeland.

I should not be doing this, flies quickly through Mikhail’s brain, but it soon forgotten. He is too caught up to stop now.

Mikhail lifts the statue, and twists its base. Something clicks, and a small hole opens in the base of the statue. Mikhail reaches in, and removes the Black Rune, thought by many to be a legend. The Black Rune is an elfstone that steals magic, and bestows it upon the holder of the stone.

Mikhail lets Kitana Windwhisperer hold the stone. She can feel stolen magic pulsing within the stone, and this excites her.

Mikhail sees the delight in Kitana’s eyes, and this pleases him. Perhaps he’ll show her more Elvin treasure at a later time.

Mikhail takes the Black Rune from Kitana, and places it back into the statue. Quickly and quietly, they make their way out of Goldar’s treasure room.

A day later, Kitana Windwhisperer vanishes from Silverset. It is soon discovered that the Black Rune is missing.

King Goldar looks down from his throne upon the kneeling Mikhail, who is in a pitiable condition from his three-day stay in the dungeon. Goldar’s hands open and close rhythmically, as if he wishes to place them around Mikhail’s throat.

“Look at me!” commands Goldar.

Mikhail does as he is bidden. He notes the rigid way his king sits. He notes the downturned lips, and deep furrows in Goldar’s brow. But that is not what holds Mikhail’s attention. Goldar wears his emotions like a badge of honor. In the king’s eyes, Mikhail sees hurt.

“I trusted you Mikhail! For goodness sake! We were even raised within the same household! How could you?”

Instantly, Mikhail was glad that the king had sent everyone out. This would probably get ugly, and the presence of others could only make things worse.

“My Lord! I…I…”

“Silence!” shouted Goldar. He strode over to Mikhail. The force of Goldar’s breathing caused Mikhail’s hair to move…ever so slightly.

“Stand up.” said Goldar.

Mikhail does.

“The ties that bind the House of Quicksilver and Stargazers have been threatened by your foolish actions Mikhail. What do you have to say for yourself?”
Mikhail’s body slumps. Nothing he can say will right this wrong. “I accept whatever punishment you deem necessary.”

Goldar’s jaw clenches, and he raises his hand to strike Mikhail. Mikhail looks into the king’s eyes, and sees the anger burning within them. Goldar sighs, and puts his hand down. Even now, he admires Mikhail’s courage.

Goldar walks back over to his throne, and flops down.

“You realize that you have condemned us all to die?” says Goldar.

“What are you talking about?” replies Mikhail. His eyebrows rise.

“The Black Rune steals magic. Elves are creatures of magic. Once Kitana cannot find any more magic in the world, she will come back to us. At that time, Silverset will face its doom.” The king stares hard at Mikhail. “Tell me, was she worth it?”

Goldar’s words are meant to anger Mikhail. However, they have the opposite effect. Mikhail feels the cruel knife of despair and guilt twist in his heart. This was his entire fault.

“My Lord,” began Mikhail, but Goldar raises his hand, silencing him.

“This day you are declared Pariah to the Elvin nation.” Mikhail turns deathly white. “But because you are my friend,” Goldar’s use of friend causes another stab of pain in Mikhail’s breast, “I will grant you safe passage out of Silverset.” Goldar pauses, wanting Mikhail to catch the full impact of his next words. “After that…you are on your own.”

Stunned, Mikhail stands there with his mouth open. He has been exiled. Never again would he be able to enjoy the beauty of Silverset. Never again would he see the face of his beloved child Na’teka. Never again would he be able to enjoy the simple pleasures of Elvin life. Never again…

Compared to that, the death threat just placed on him by the king was nothing.

“Guards!” shouts Goldar. Two elves appear beside the king. As if by magic. “Take him safely out of the city. If he tries to get back in…kill him.”

The guards drag Mikhail from the throne room. Goldar has been generous. If it were up to them, Mikhail’s head would be sitting atop a pike. After the guards left, Goldar wept.

Kitana entered the lair of the mighty dragon Bane. The Black Rune dangled from an enchanted chain that hung around her neck. Magic, stolen from various sources, made the chain unbreakable.

The ground shakes underneath Kitana’s feet. She hardly notices. Greed has brought her here. She wants Bane’s magic.

Bane senses the elf woman in his lair. He has not eaten, and elves taste sweet to dragons. She will make an excellent meal.

Bane lumbers out to meet the elf woman. The lair shakes with his passing.

Kitana looks up. She cannot believe the size of the great red dragon. A mark, shaped like lightning, covers the dragon’s chest. Fear begins to take hold, but Kitana forces it down. She has not come this far to fail.

Bane looks down at the tiny elf. Briefly, he wonders why she doesn’t cower before him.

“Foolish elf!” roared Bane. “You are just in time for supper! And you are it!”

“No dragon!” replied Kitana, surprising herself. “Today, you will become my slave!”

Bane chuckles at the dim-witted elf. A slave! What an amusing thought.

Bane opens his mouth, and powerful flames leap forth. The cave’s temperature shoots up over a hundred degrees.

Immediately, Bane knows something is wrong. He tries to stop breathing fire, but can’t. Bane feels his magic being drained away, and this frightens him. After a short while, it is over.

Standing in the exact spot where Bane’s dragonfire had been breathed, was the elf woman. Not a single hair on her head had been singed. However, the cave’s walls had been blackened.

Angry, and afraid for the first time in over six hundred years, Bane opened his mouth to try to burn the elf woman once more. A single puff of smoke came out of his mouth.

“What have you done to me, elf woman!?”

“The name’s Kitana, and as I said earlier, you are now my slave!”

Enraged, Bane tries to squash Kitana, but the blow glances off of a powerful shield.

Kitana raises her hand, and dragonflame lances out, striking Bane along the lightning-shaped scar. Bane roars in pain. Kitana smiles at the sound. After Kitana feels that Bane has had enough, she lowers her hand.

Bane holds down his head. He is beaten.

“Lower yourself so that I may climb aboard your back.”

“Yes, Kitana.”

“You may call me master.”

“Yes…master.” The words sicken Bane. He who has never called anyone master!

Bane does as he is bidden. Kitana leaves the cave on dragonback.

A hasty meeting has been called in the Tower of Light. Around an obsidian table, thirteen wizards glance nervously at one another.

“What are we going to do?” said Tallus, who was one of the younger wizards.

“We must cast a spell to hide the Tower of Light from the eyes of men,” said Morgan, the senior among them.

A gasp comes from the throat of the other wizards.

“But that could throw away all we have worked to attain.” said Balthazaar. His fat jowls jiggled as he talked.

“If that dragon-riding elf gets control of the Tower of Light, nothing would be able to stop her. Chaos would reign, and all would be lost,” said Morgan. “It must be done.”

“Agreed.” said thirteen voices in unison.

The Tower of Light blinked out of existence.

Mikhail finds himself in the town of Mapleleaf, named thus because of the trees which circle it. What am I doing here?

And then, like lightning, it hits him. He has a friend here. A human friend. The mage Tarsullus.

Mikhail walks briskly between the wood houses. People stare at him. Elves are a rare sight in Mapleleaf.

Mikhail spots Tarsullus’ house. Seconds later, he knocks on the door.

A slightly graying male opens the door. He is wearing thick spectacles. Seeing Mikhail, the thin, wiry man breaks into a smile.
“Mikhail!” exclaims Tarsullus. He grabs the elf and hugs him tightly. “It has been a long time.”

“Yes, it has.” Mikhail, despite feeling as if his world has ended, forces a smile.

Immediately, Tarsullus knows something is wrong. He invites the elf in.

“Have an ale?” asks Tarsullus.

“That would be perfect right now,” replies Mikhail.

“Since when did you start drinking, Mikhail?”

“Just now.”

Tarsullus’ earlier suspicion was correct. Mikhail was in a serious situation.

“Do you want to talk about it?”


“If that is the way you want it…” began Tarsullus.

“I have been banished from Silverset.”

Tarsullus nearly choked on his ale. “You’ve what!”

Mikhail ignored Tarsullus’ outburst, and continued.

“Because of me, a powerful artifact was stolen!”

Tarsullus knew this had to be bad. Any crime that was punishable by exile was great indeed. Tarsullus held his breath, fearing what Mikhail was about to say.

“The Black Rune has been stolen.”

Tarsullus drew in a sharp breath. His ale tankard fell from his hand, shattering into a million pieces.

Mikhail jumps up to clean up the mess.

“Sit!” says Tarsullus. Mikhail does as he is told.

Tarsullus mumbles a few words, and the tankard begins to mend itself. Tarsullus’ magic has improved, notes Mikhail.

“I thought the Black Rune was a legend.”

“It’s real Tarsullus. Very real.”

“And it steals magic?”

Mikhail recalls Goldar’s words, and his skin turns chalky white.

“Yes.” he replies simply.

“Then, we are all in danger.”

Tarsullus does not ask how the elfstone was stolen, and for that, Mikhail is gracious.

“Then, we must find it,” said Tarsullus.

“Thank you.” Some of the color returned to Mikhail’s face. Tarsullus is risking a great deal helping me.

Tarsullus sits in a chair and closes his eyes. His breathing slows.

Mikhail knows what Tarsullus is doing. He has seen it done before. The mage is casting his consciousness across the land, searching for clues that might help them.

Tarsullus floats above the trees, seeking answers. It does not take him long to find what he is looking for. And the shock of what he sees causes him to breathe in sharply. Tarsullus’ consciousness slams back into his body.

Mikhail hears the sharp breath, and fears the worst. The mages eyes open. In them, Mikhail sees worry and concern.

“A young elf woman rides the back of Bane,” says Tarsullus.

Oh no! What have I done! Bane is invincible! A dragon of renown! And he fell before the power of the Black Rune? What can we possibly do?

Mikhail drops his head into his hands. Tarsullus walks over and places his hands on the elf’s shoulders.

“There is no time to worry over what’s been done. We have to find a way to undo it”, said Tarsullus in a soft voice.

Mikhail looks up, sees the care in the mage’s eyes, and nearly weeps. Tarsullus is placing his life on the line, for something he had no hand in. He is a true friend.

“Let’s go.” says Tarsullus.
Not asking any questions, Mikhail stands. Tarsullus grabs the elf’s hand in his own. A blinding yellow and red light engulfs them. When it vanishes, they are gone.

The wind blows through Kitana’s flame-red hair. The sunlight catches it, and makes her hair seem as if it is ablaze. Riding on dragonback is exhilarating.

“Where do we head now, Master”, says the once-proud Bane. He has been punished many times for not addressing Kitana so, and now he readily calls her master.

“To the Crystal City.” says Kitana. “The Tower of Light awaits!”

Bane nearly chuckles. This one is ambitious. Even I dared not attack the Tower.

“As you wish.” Bane makes a sharp bank to the left. They will be there before the sun reaches its zenith.

A red and yellow light flashes brilliantly within Crystal City. When it dies away, Tarsullus and Mikhail find themselves surrounded by an angry mob.

Mikhail looks around, and sees the hatred in every eye. But some in the crowd appear to be fearful. The mob begins to advance upon the newcomers.

“Dear people, we are here to help!” says Tarsullus. He uses an old trick that amplifies his voice, so that it sounds like thunder.

The mob pauses. A lone figure steps forward. It is the city’s overlord.

“The dragon Bane and an accursed elf come to our city to slay us.” At the mention of the word elf, the crowd begins to mumble. Mikhail feels uneasy. “Are you here to help us?”

“We are.” says Tarsullus.

“Then follow me”, says Overlord Kiron.

The crowd parts, and Tarsullus and Mikhail disappear into it. Mikhail feels trapped as the people close rank behind him.

Goldar has let everyone know what has happened in Silverset. His rule is now in jeopardy. Some among the elves believe that the entire House of Stargazer’s should be sent into exile. It is Elvin tradition, they say. But Goldar is a forward thinking king. He does not believe in punishing many for the crimes of one. The opposition to the wise king grows daily.

“Where is it?” says Tarsullus. His eyes are wide with disbelief.

“We awoke this morning to find it gone”, says Kiron.

“But how does an entire Tower vanish?” asks the mage. “And no one noticed a thing?”

Kiron was noncommittal to both questions. The ways of wizards were a mystery to regular folks.

Tarsullus shakes his head. If no one in the Tower was willing to fight, then they were really in deep…

“Remove all of your citizens from the streets.” He waits until Kiron acknowledges his words. “There is one more place we must go”, Tarsullus indicates himself and the elf, “that may be of help.”

“God speed to you!” says Kiron.

“God speed.” says Tarsullus, as he and Mikhail are enveloped in the red and yellow light.

Kiron and those nearby shield their eyes. When it is safe to look, they see that their visitors are gone. Kiron sends the word that all people must evacuate the streets. Effective immediately.

At first, Tarsullus hadn’t been sure that the sprite king, Narzan, would see them. But at the mention of the Black Rune, they had quickly been ushered in.

“You elves have always been foolish creatures when it comes to magic. You are irresponsible, and your actions are inexcusable.”

Tarsullus looks at both Narzan and Mikhail, and sees the anger growing between them.

“This is getting us nowhere” says Tarsullus. The sprite king glares at him. Being only half as tall as the human displeases him. Narzan’s wings beat the air until he is at eye level with Tarsullus.

Tarsullus does not back down. “You know that the Black Rune has the power to destroy us all. Now is not the time for accusations.”

Narzan sees the truth of the mage’s words.

“While it is true that we have been around before any of your races existed, we know little of the Black Rune. After all, it was created by elves!”

Mikhail opens his mouth to respond, but Tarsullus holds up his hand, silencing him.

Tarsullus knows the sprite are a vain people, so he tries another tactic.

“So you know absolutely nothing about the Black Rune?”

Narzan glares at Tarsullus. Of course he knows. His race is the oldest of all!

“The Black Rune can be sealed away by the wizards of the Tower of Light.”

“The Tower is gone”, says Mikhail.

Narzan looks down his nose at the elf. “Then all is lost.”

“Let’s go!” says Tarsullus. “We’ll have to do this the hard way.”

Narzan regards the foolish human who is about to throw away his life. Tarsullus’ bravery touches him.

“Do not attack the bearer of the Rune directly. That is what allows it to steal magic”, says Narzan.

“Thank you, wise king.” says Tarsullus.

In a blinding flash of light, they disappear. After they have left, Narzan begins to worry. The Tower of Light! Gone from the World! The Black Rune was the least of their problems.

Bane sees the brilliant flash of light near where the Tower used to stand. Even now, he knows it is not there, because dragon sight is far superior to that of elves. But he does not tell Kitana. Let her figure it out herself. Bane represses a chuckle. Kitana has a surprise awaiting her.

Mikhail sees Bane approaching, and shudders. He knows that dragons love the taste of elves. On the back of Bane rides Kitana. Even now, her beauty calls to him.

Mikhail points them out to Tarsullus, who has to squint in order to see them. Soon however, the mage no longer needs to, because Bane is approaching fast. He gasps at the sheer size of the red dragon.

Bane lands before them. Mikhail takes an involuntary step backwards. The dragon kneels, and Kitana climbs from its back.

“Kitana? How could you?”
Kitana ignores Mikhail’s question. With the flick of her hand, she sends him flying into the wall of a nearby house, where he lands in a crumpled heap.

“Where is the Tower, wizard?” says Kitana with a sneer.

Bane looks on, clearly amused by what is happening before him.

“It is in a safe place”, says Tarsullus.

Kitana makes a grabbing motion with her hand. Tarsullus raises off the ground. His hands claw at his neck. He is choking.

Kitana opens her hand, and the mage falls in a heap on the ground. He nearly attacks her directly, but he remembers Narzan’s words.

A huge stone hand shoots out of the ground, and closes around Kitana. Caught off guard, she barely has time to raise a shield before the hand begins to squeeze.

Fissures begin to form all over the stone hand, and light shoots out. The stone cracks, and flies outward. Rocks shower Bane, Mikhail, and Tarsullus.

Tarsullus manages to get off another spell. Vines creep from the earth, seeking to wrap around the wayward elf. But it is to no avail. The vines cannot find purchase on Kitana. Her shield is at full strength. There is nothing more Tarsullus can do. It is the end.

Kitana grasps the mage by the neck. “Foolish human! I do not need you to find the Tower. I…”

Her words were never finished. Mikhail is on her back. He has cast a spell. A simple spell that he uses to delight children directly at Kitana, knowing full well what would happen. Small, entwined silver circles shoot from his fingers. And, as expected, the Black Rune stole all of his magic, but there had not been a backlash. As his magic became one with the Black Rune, Mikhail was able to slip within the shield before his magic was completely gone. It had been the briefest of openings, but it was enough.

Kitana releases Tarsullus, and the mage falls gasping into the dirt.

Bane licks out his forked tongue, and watches with great interest.

Mikhail holds onto the Black Rune for dear life, knowing full well that if he releases it, even for a second, it will be all over.

Kitana, like all Elvin women, is a seasoned fighter. She strikes Mikhail hard in the face, but the blow does not affect him. They both now share the magic of the elfstone. And only physical strength will win.

Even though Kitana is an experienced warrior, she knows this is a fight she cannot win.

Looking into Mikhail’s eyes, she asks him, “Do you love me?”

Stricken, Mikhail replies, “Yes! But you have never loved me.” With a tug he snatches the Black Rune from around Kitana’s neck. He turns his back, knowing full well what is about to happen.

Bane roars in triumph. Kitana screams! But her screams are cut short abruptly as she disappears into the gaping maw of Bane. The crunching of bones can be heard. Bane burps, and a tendril of flame escapes his mouth. Satisfied with his meal, the red dragon flies off.

“Will you be okay?” asks Tarsullus. They are back in Mapleleaf, in his home.

Mikhail looks heartbroken.

“In time.” he says simply.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to take you to Silverset?”

“I’m sure”, responds Mikhail. “The walk will help clear my head.”

“Take care, old friend.” says Tarsullus.

“I will. And you take care too.”

Tarsullus bows his head slightly.

Mikhail opens the door, but before it closes, he says, “Thank you.”

Tarsullus does not answer. But then, he does not need to. Mikhail sees the compassion in the mage’s eyes, and it touches him. The door closes.

An angry mob greets Mikhail at the gates of Silverset. He is beaten senseless.

Goldar hears the commotion, and comes out to see what is going on. He sees Mikhail being beaten to within an inch of his life.

Goldar rushes through the crowd, fearing what will happen next. The king is nearly to Mikhail when he sees the glint of metal.

Mikhail gasps, and blood flows from his mouth. A sword is protruding out of his back. He reaches down, trying to hold his guts in.

Mikhail falls. But before he hits the ground, he is in Goldar’s arms.

“Why did you come back?”

Mikhail gasps. “To…give…you…this…” He hands the Black Rune to Goldar. “Please…take care…of…Na’teka.” Mikhail’s eyes roll back in his head.

“No!” screams Goldar. The king weeps.

Seeing their king cry touches the Elvin people, and they keep a respectful distance.

A day of mourning was held for Mikhail, and he was given a hero’s burial.

The House of Stargazers was restored to honor. Na’teka became one of the Black Robes, the king’s inner circle, in Mikhail’s place. Great things were expected of him. He would soon have his chance to prove himself, however. For he would be instrumental in bringing the Tower of Light back into the world of men. But that is another story…

© Copyright 2003 Dakkan (dakkan at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/706567-The-Black-Rune