Lord Jaerick Ashwood paced and kept his slender hands behind his back. The elven Magus was worried about the containment of their secret weapon in this war that had been going on for well over thirty years. A drop in the pond compared to the lifespan of the elves for sure, yet the longevity of the conflict was wearing at the solidarity of the elven people as a whole. He stopped in front of one of the glass tubes that he had formed out of magic and smiled at the struggling faerie within. It was a Larin, a type of faerie that had raven like wings and dark hair.
“Struggle all you want little one, it will do you no good,” Jaerick said, walking away and checking the others. He had to make sure that the ritual spell was still siphoning the magic of the faeries and dispersing it to all of the elves across the fields of battle. This was the great secret of their sudden surge in power for the last decade, they had captured their only allies and fed off of their innate magic to fuel their own.
“Lord Magus, you said to come to you if I had news of the high king.” The elf that entered the room was rigid in his form and looked like he hadn’t smiled in decades.
“Yes, Paerl, what news is there today? Another protest to the high king in the capitol? Or is it his simpleton of a wife blabbering about peace once more?” Jaerick ignored the faeries and turned to his apprentice, waiting for more boring news that he could do nothing about. Just once he wished he could do something about his weakening king’s ideals.
“No sir…the king and his family just left for Mythalrain. Rumor is that he is going to try and treat with the humans that are rallying there to see if he can talk with their kings.” Paerl barely got the sentence out before Jaerick knocked him aside, running for his quarters.
“Summon my son, Paerl, now!”
* * *
Kaerlin Ashwood came strolling into the room and smiled at the hapless apprentice that had called him. He was late of course; he rushed for no one, even his powerful father.
“You’re finally here, thank Syll. The Lord Magus spun throwing his cloak out behind him and walked away at a brisk pace. “Follow me, son, now.”
“Yes father,” Kaerlin said with a bored tone to his voice. No sooner had he said that then he was thrown back, slamming against the wall with a sickening thud. That’s probably a rib or two, he thought to himself as he struggled to counter the magic holding him. Kaerlin finally asked the air to disperse and fell to his knees, gasping in pain.
“When I speak, you will listen with your full attention, is that understood?”
“Ye…yes father,” Kaerlin said weakly, stuttering out a spell of ether to heal his ribs. He stood with a sigh and frowned. It was unlike his father to lose his patience, this must be bad.
“Now, I need you to go to Mythalrain and keep an eye on the high king. He is rumored to be going there to treat with the humans and that we cannot allow, not since we are so close to defeating them.”
“What do you want me to do if he is in fact planning on doing that father?” Kaerlin asked, a growing pit forming in his stomach. He had a feeling he wasn’t going to like this at all.
“I want you to do whatever it takes to keep him from stopping this war son,” Jaerick turned to look out the window and went on without waiting for a response. “With the war over, the growing faction of elves that want the faeries released will gain momentum and I am not ready to give up this kind of power.”
“Yes father, it will be done.” Kaerlin bowed and left, knowing that he was walking into a explosive situation at best. Thank Syll that his father didn’t know of his sympathy to the faeries plight, or the fact that he was friends with the young prince Vaoril. He walked back though the containment room and the thousand tubes that held the faeries. Tiny ones, large ones, satyr’s and nymphs, they all were being drained of their innate magic and they were losing one every week. He stopped by Paerl and nudged him as they both looked at a red haired faerie. “Did you hear that the humans are rallying near Mythalrain?”
“I just told your father that.”
“Yes yes, but can you believe it? These humans just keep coming despite what we do to them. Their numbers continue to grow and they throw themselves at us like crazed animals.”
“Well I for one will relish the day when they are stomped out, but they will fight to the death that’s for sure,” Kaerlin said, eyeing the red haired faerie specifically. He wanted her to know that the fight raged on, and to hold out hope. Little did he know what seed he had planted.
* * *
General Banak Draslon walked out of his command tent and looked up at the rising sun. Another day in this never ending war and he was still breathing. He had signed up as a young man thirty years ago and had seen most of his good friends die along the way. He barked out orders to the captain to get the men in formation, seeing the scouts running towards him.
“Sir they are starting to take flight, you were right that they would wait till dawn.”
Banak ignored the scout and looked to the horizon, seeing the elves flying with the aid of their magic. He anticipated this and was ready for them, turning to his captains and giving the signal. A yell went up as the elves came across the field and men stood, throwing off their grass cloaks that hid them in the field and firing their arrows in droves. It had begun again. How many times must we show them that we will not bend? Banak thought, as they started countering his archers with magic. It was going to be a long day.
* * *
Paerl walked to another tube and took down the measurements of the faerie inside. This one was noticeably smaller, dwindling again as the magic was siphoned. It had been a long morning with his master as reports of the battle filtered in. Kaerlin had sent back that the high king was indeed there with his family and was telling the elven commanders to stand down. Thankfully more than half of the commanders were loyal to Jaerick and had misled their captains, so the battle raged on. It wouldn’t for long though; It was impossible to ignore the high king. Paerl stopped as he heard a ringing sound—like fingers on crystal—and looked for its source. Another peal of sound echoed to his right and he backed up in fear of the unknown. “Master Jaerick?”
“Why, in the name of Syll, are you yelling Paerl?” Jaerick asked, storming into the room.
Paerl turned to look at him as the first tube burst, the faerie in it screaming in pain as the glass cut them. Wings unfolded as the faerie shot towards the ceiling and his master uttered a spell of air to capture it. More and more tubes shattered and the glowing magic of the ritual spell flowed backwards and into both himself, and his master, with a concussion that threw him to the far wall and deafened him. This close the magic burned into their souls, his arms feeling like they were on fire! “Master?!” Paerl called not able to even hear his own voice, but Jaerick was already slumping to the ground, his eyes smoking holes of inky black. The room went dark then and Paerl faded into oblivion.
* * *
General Banak couldn’t believe his eyes. He had felt the concussion on the wind, a power like thunder without sound, but seeing the elves fall from the sky was like a gift from the god Dava himself. When the elves used their magic to fly, they were all but unstoppable…so what had taken that away? Banak was surrounded by the dead and dying, both elves and humans alike, and just like that everyone stood stock still. At almost sixty and graying, the old warrior had never seen anything like what was before him now.
“What do you think it is General?” a small voice asked behind him.
Banak turned to see the lithe half-elf who was his Second-in-command. She was all of five feet tall, with the biggest brown eyes he had ever seen, and short hair that was barely noticeable under her helm. “I’m not sure, Eliza, but I’ll take whatever blessings we can get.” Banak turned to what was left of his forces, staring in wonder like kids at a winter carnival, and yelled to get their attention. “All right, let’s move! The elves on the ground aren’t done and neither are we!”
Shaken from their stupor, the men and women in his command surged forward once more, meeting the enemy with ferocity and courage. Banak could hear the priests calling down their favors from the gods and saw, more than heard, the elven Magus’s trying to do the same with their magic.
They were in the far west of the Nation of Anor, right on the border of the elven Nation of Syll. It was rumored the high king was here in person, visiting the border village of Mythalain. Why would he be here though? Banak thought. He had argued this very point with his commanders to no avail. His troops were taking heavy casualties again, but the magic seemed weaker now. It was then that he got the scare of his life.
“Hold human!” Popping into existence before his very eyes was a faerie, blood dripping from her butterfly wings and head. She was the size of a human child, with long flowing red hair and piercing green eyes. “My name is Riona Silverbright and we come to say thank you. Without your courage to keep fighting we would never have found the strength to break away from the elves.” She wiped the blood from her eyes and looked around before continuing. “Many died doing so, but we’re free once more.”
Banak was shocked into silence and lowered his weapon slowly, he had almost swung out of reflex. He looked around as more popping sounds indicated more faeries showing up on the field as the elves slowly ceased their fighting and retreated, carrying their wounded. “What… what is this?” Banak asked, “We were told you had sided with the elves.” Banak cautiously kept his sword ready just in case. The faeries were magical and no one knew what they could do in pressed.
“No, we did not side with the elves. They captured us and drained our lives to fuel their magic. When we broke the spell, it snapped back on them, crippling most of the lesser Magus and stunning the others.”
“So it’s over?” Eliza asked, her blue eyes wide at seeing a faerie.
“It should be, if you strike now,” Riona said, looking back at the elven village nestled near the border of the Forest of S’ren. “We can’t help you though, we have to gather what’s left of us and figure out what to do.”
“I understand. Thank you for letting us know.” Banak turned to signal his troops as the faeries winked out again, but stopped as an explosion shook the ground. “Now what? he thought, as he tried to stay on his feet.
* * *
Kaerlin stumbled as he felt the backlash of the magic slam into him. What could’ve happened to the ritual that it caused this type of surge? He leaned upon the wall of the inn to steady himself and saw the high king yelling at the commander of the magus one more time. He had made up his mind half way here that he couldn’t follow his father anymore. He wanted to bring the humans to heel as much as any elf, but the cost was too great. He loved the faeries more than he loved his oppressive father. He had told Vaoril and they had gone to the high king together to inform him of the plot, then came here to try and stop the war. It had not gone well.
The magus commanders were mostly loyal to Jaerick and so they had fought the word of the high king with subterfuge and open lies to their captains. Kaerlin had to kill one of them because he turned on the queen, and the high king blasted another to ash before the concussion had rocked them all.
“Kaer! What happened?” Vaoril asked, calling out as he struggled to stand. He was up and helping his mother stand as well and they all looked confused.
“I’m not sure but it has to do with the ritual of stealing I would bet.” Kaerlin saw the king smile at him, knowing that they were finally winning against their own people. The war would end and the faeries would be released. Then his eyes went wide.
The elven commander of the ground forces was tumbling towards the carriage of the king, soaking wet. Kaerlin frowned and followed the commander’s trail, seeing the huge stack of oil barrels used for torches and such that the king had brought to use as a peace offering with the humans. The commander was soaked in oil and was going to ignite the entire stack!
Kaerlin was too weak to save them all, but he could at least save his friend. He shared a quick look with the king, who smiled sadly and they nodded to each other. Kaerlin used what strength he had and asked the air to shove Vaoril away as the king tried to shield his queen. The commander ignited the barrels and the resulting explosion rocked the entire town.
* * *
Banak turned to see Mythalain in flames, houses and bodies scattered among the snow and leaves. “Weapons ready but do not fire!” he called out as the first of the survivors came stumbling towards them. They carried no weapons and were mostly women and children.
“Sir!” Eliza called, pointing to an elven woman limping along, clearly with child.
“Help us!” the elf called, “My baby!” Then she was down, just yards away from Banak.
“Priest!” Banak called as he ran for her, now seeing elven magus’s coming out with their hands up, some carrying wounded. He got to her side and rolled her over, reliving pressure off of her stomach.
“It’s coming…” she groaned weakly.
“I’m here, just hold on. What’s your name?” Banak asked, propping her head up and wiping her face clear of ash.
“Lys’lyll Valari,” she answered, before her face contorted with pain.
The priest came and took Banak’s place as the general stood and surveyed the battlefield. He saw the high king being carried by three other elves and he knew it was really over. He went to meet them, sword away and arms out. “Is he alive?” Banak asked, knowing the answer already as the limp body hung like a child’s doll in their arms.
“No, a commander detonated himself rather than give in and caught the barrels of oil near the king’s carriage. The Queen yet lives but is in bad shape.”
“Who’s left in charge?”
“I am,” a small voice said from behind the elven guards carrying the king.
An elven boy stepped into view and Banak’s heart ached for him. He was all of—well he wasn’t sure how old he was with how these magic devils aged, but he was young. Tears streaked his beautiful face and his short white hair was full of ash and soot. The young elf’s clothes were burned but his back was straight, and Banak could see him trembling from here. “Are you hurt son?” Banak asked, trying to keep the ‘general’ out of his voice for once. The boy went on without even acknowledging him.
“My name is Vaoril Summerleaf and I…I am the new High King of the Nation of Syll,” he went on through fresh tears, stumbling over his words and trying desperately to sound grown up in the face of responsibility that had been thrust upon his tiny shoulders. “This war has cost every…everyone more than enough and it needs to end. I humbly ask for your voice in matters that inclu…include our surrender.”
Banak lowered his head and closed his eyes, saying a quick prayer to Dava; he knew that it finally over. He signaled to his troops and they helped take the body of the former king safely away while he led the new king to his command tent. The king of Garon’d would be furious that he was doing this without his consent, but The king of Anor would side with him; he had known him for decades. As for the rest of the politicians, his orders in the field would supersede anything they tried to tear down. I’ll even throw the dwarves in this treaty, he thought, that will really stick in their craw. Banak knew the dwarves wanted this war to end as much as everyone else and knew that he would face little backlash for adding them.
As they sat down and the boy started sobbing again, Banak patted the child on the shoulder. Eliza started drawing paper outlines as they pulled seats for some other elves and humans to witness this. Thirty some odd years since The First War started, signed on a bloody field by an aging human and a child elf, it was finally over.