Elevea's Child

*Opening of the Elevea trilogy* In the ancient land of Elevea, the people of Hinnid have been surviving for a century after the rise of the Vanus (half-beings). Now, the Vanus are gathering in greater numbers than ever before, and Hinnid calls upon the help of the ancient magic protectors of Elevea, the Pistos, to help in the fight to survive.

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3. Three

A GREAT CROWD had gathered to wave off the prince and his companion. All who could come, came to the edge of the Western Wall to watch them go first through the farmland and then out of Hinnid. The pair looked strangely small, bundled in and carrying small packages on their backs, the odd metal blade glinting in the early morning sunlight. They had been blessed by everyone they passed and tears from the King had given them the love to follow them through the land.

Falnon and Marda had not spoken much as they made their way through the parted crowd in the courtyard and turned right, under the large watchtower, bunches of flowers dangling from all four sides and past the almost silent crowd of soldiers ascending to bid farewell. Falnon appeared to know a few of them and gave half hearted gestures, before lowering his head in a solemn gaze at the cobbled stones at his feet.

Marda was staring at the sky, an odd look here or there at the people, although the only person she wished to see was not present. She had not seen her mother that day: she could not bring herself to. The previous night, she had waited until her mother was asleep before gently kissing her and making a promise to return, getting up and leaving the room, holding a fast lump in her throat and tears which were threatening to fall. Now, nothing was there to make Marda sad and she was hopeful. Although she did not know Falnon well, she felt as though his presence was strongly with her as they finally made their way through the last majorly fortified gates and into the furthest parts of Hinnid farmland. They were going at a reasonable pace, the odd gentle clink of metal orchestrating their Westward march.

 

AFTER AN HOUR or so, the land began to appear a little more unkempt. That was when the posts and fence came into sight, several feet high, and a couple of hundred yards along the border was a hut, stationed outside were two guards, armed and gesturing for Falnon and Marda to come to them. They did so and were shown through the tiny hut, where there was a door which led to the other side of the fence. Once through, with the door firmly locked behind them, Falnon led the way for a couple of more hundred yards before stopping abruptly. Falnon turned to Marda and spoke for the first time,

“Do you sing?” he asked,

“Do I sing?” repeated Marda, a little perplexed,

“Well?” Falnon prompted, “Sing a folk song.”

“I never said that I did sing!” protested Marda.

Falnon laughed, Marda still staring at him in bewilderment. She thought for a moment,

“A Folk song, you say?”

Falnon smiled and cocked his head to one side. He shrugged and started walking once more, leaving Marda a short way behind. She quickly caught up, panting slightly,

“Well,” she concluded, “there is one which was always sung to me as a lesson in life.”

“Is it an old one?” asked Falnon,

“From before Hinnid, yes.” Marda started to smile, “From the ancient times of Groll and our great-great grandfathers.”

“Groll!” remarked Falnon, “I always thought that was a brilliant name.” he paused for a moment, “Aren’t you going to sing it?”

Marda shrugged and started to sing,

“On the treetops of Groll

With the Blackbird’s call,

The lassie trips down by the ford.

When handsome as any,

He throws her a penny!

And, oh, Fascana Renni!

 

The Lassie you love is the old maid of three,

She’s pretty enough but that won’t change her fee!

They call her Fascana Renni!”

Marda stopped, “Do you know what happened to Fascana Renni?” she asked.

“No.”

Marda didn’t speak again. She was lost in thought and Falnon distracted by a slight noise from up ahead. They were currently in the moorland surrounding the city, every now and then rocks and clumps of earth jabbing out from the side of the hill. In the bottom of the valley they were in, a small stream innocently trickled by, expanding a few times into tricky and deceiving bogs. But what was ahead was exactly what Falnon had feared.

The single Vanus suddenly lurched out, a few feet ahead. It was male, its head covered in a few tufts of greying hair and several rags still clinging to its body. The body itself was twisted, deep cuts striping the torso and chunks of flesh missing from its arms and legs. With bare feet, the Vanus began walking towards Falnon and Marda, surprisingly able to use its body to balance across the ragged terrain and fix its gaze spitefully on Marda. The head of the Vanus was what was most disturbing. The eyes were not glazed or damaged, but beady bright and intelligent, screaming for blood and even wider than a human’s. The mouth was foaming and coated with layer after layer of blood, filth and flesh, every inch of skin covered in grime. The creature launched itself expertly at Marda, grappling and uttering a single rasping yell, those beady eyes fiercely focusing on the kill.

If Falnon had not had his sword at the ready, Marda would have been so taken by surprise that the Vanus would have succeeded in its aim of mutilating her. With a swift blow of the sword, the Vanus fell to the ground with a deep gash in its side. However, it continued trying to launch itself at Marda, who was too stunned to make a cry and simply leapt around it, trying to pull out her own sword. Falnon, grimacing, took a step forwards and plunged the sword all the way through the Vanus, through the heart so that it really did fall to the ground, gurgling and jerking to a halt, finally dead.

Marda stood on the other side of the Vanus and looked at Falnon, her mouth dropping open,

“Go for the heart.” Falnon said, “They still need blood pumped around their bodies.”

Marda put her sword back and stared blankly at the slain Vanus which had tried to attack her,

“Thank you.” she said, “Now the poor soul can rest in peace.”

 

“SO?”ASKED FALNON several hours later, “What did happen to Fascana Renni?”

Marda looked down for a moment and continued to sing,

“And so she went down,

To the lovely old town

With the lad she’d acquired, on her arm.

When they saw her they shouted,

‘Fascana, you’re outed!

You’ve really had one too many!’

 

So she and the lad left that very night,

And that same evening she died of fright.

Oh, poor Fascana Renni!”

Marda smiled over to Falnon,

“Had you not heard that one before?”

Falnon pulled his sack slightly higher over his shoulder,

“No. I was only ever sung the songs about great kings and evil villains.”

“Well these are the stories of normal folk. We hold Fascana Renni very dear to our hearts.”

“Sorry?”

Marda laughed, a soft happy chuckle,

“Fascana is why we were always told how important marriage is. Fascana got it wrong and look at what happened!”

“I thought you sang, ‘Poor Fascana’ in the song.”

Marda smirked and flicked a strand of hair from her face, which momentarily lit up in the sunlight,

“Haven’t you ever heard of sarcasm?”

Falnon shook his head disbelievingly and quickly checked the compass tied to his cloak,

“Well,” he said, “We’re making good progress and at least we’re still going in the right direction!”

As they passed out of the shadow of a large mound, the setting sun suddenly glared hot and red in their faces. It was warm, but the moment Marda fell into shade again, she pulled her cloak more tightly around her,

“Maybe we should start looking for somewhere to stop for the night?” she suggested.

“Give it a few more hours. The sun may set, but it will still be light. In a few more miles, there should be a more sheltered area in a valley I’ve been told of.”       

They found the area, surrounded by high rocks, the stream weaving nearby and soft moss covering the floor in a bed. It was a dark dusk, not yet late in the evening, but the autumnal air biting hard into Marda and Falnon. However with the cold night came a clear sky, as they laid their heavy bags down in a sheltered hollow and let their wearied bodies fall onto the bouncy moss carpet. Marda positioned herself so that she was facing the sky, her eyes searching the beady blackness, picking out the individual shining pinpricks of light. When she turned to Falnon, he appeared huddled into the side of a rock, away from Marda,

“Look at the sky,” she said quietly, smiling in awe.

Falnon didn’t move; only let his bag roll a slight distance away from him,

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” he said in a half murmur.

Marda tilted her head back to the sky, resting it on the ground and pulling her cloak even tighter around her. As the sky gradually blackened, the moon made its way out from behind a cloud and threw its silvery light across the sky. However the bright little stars were not penetrated by this light, shining stubbornly on, with only the burdened clouds taking on the shimmery glow from the moon. It really was beautiful. Although still terrified by the journey which awaited her, Marda managed to find a little consolation in that night sky, as though the Stars were comforting her, standing by and ready to watch and keep her safe. They also knew that they would not move or change. The Stars knew that nature was beautiful and that Marda could see it too.

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