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.


2. Two

"WHAT WERE YOU thinking?" demanded Castri as he paced from side to side in front of the King, with his small gang behind him. "All the other courtiers agree with me: this is ludicrous!" 

The King was sitting in his chair at the end of the main hall used for banquets, and in this case, consultation. His head was bowed and he was fiddling with a letter in his hands, a quill poised at the ready.

"I see no problem," he said, dipping the quill in a pot of ink, balanced neatly on the rickety chair by his side.

"You know what the problem is, Your Lordship!" Castri seemed to spit the words out. "She is the problem."

King Sormol rested his hand with the quill in it on the stool as he folded the other on his lap. He began to survey the surrounding attendants before him, all standing behind Castri, his personal advisor, and laughed.

"Look," growled Castri, "why send a woman? Anyway, she is hardly more than a girl. What makes her so brave and worthy? The people's trust in you has quickly disintegrated; they see no reason for your judgement. And her of all girls?"

" Marda isn't a girl."

"Yet..." Castri paused to regain himself. "You are sending your only son across these dangerous lands, and you send him with a girl? It's mad, the reckless boy will kill himself trying to protect her.”

"I stand by my decision. I'm not going to pretend I didn't expect this reaction," Sormol shook his head. "But you have disappointed me, all the same. I hoped you would understand and trust my judgement. I appreciate as much as you the situation we are in, so what makes you think I would throw everything away so unduly?"

"I trust, My Lord, but I search for the reason. What reason could there be?" Castri threw his hands into the air.

"Silence!" choked the King, his lip curling into a snarl.

Castri's next interjection was cut short by the door opening and three figures bustling into the hall. Two were soldiers, the third a small shape, huddled into a thick cloak, her footsteps muffled by it as it draped across the floor and across the threshold. She looked petrified, hiding her dainty face in the thick mass of brown curls hanging around her shoulders: glistening eyes peering out in a knowing way. Sormol guessed that she had just heard or even witnessed Castri's objections. 

"You summoned me?" her distant voice came from the end of the hall, shaking and apologetic,

"Marda, my dear lady!" The King stood up, placing the letter and quill on the stool and pushing past the disgruntled courtiers to offer her his hand as they met in the middle. "Falnon should be here very shortly: we have much to discuss!" He turned back to the courtiers, frowned and waved them away, offering a threatening glare in Castri's direction. Castri shuffled unwillingly out of the door left open from Marda's entry. He was almost thrown to the floor by Falnon rushing through, into the hall.

"Father." he said, earnestly, swiping his ruffled hair off his face.

"Ah!" cried Sormol, happily reaching for his son. "Now we can talk," he brought Marda forwards, who had been hidden in his shadow. He gestured to two stools a little way from his own chair and all sat. Falnon carefully placed himself a little further away from Marda, avoiding her eyes and inching closer to his father.

"I am still not clear on what we are doing," he said, shaking his head.

"I will explain," said Sormol, and with an extra disbelieving smile, "again!"

Marda still had her head modestly lowered, and it was only now that she raised it slightly to take in everything the King was about to say.

"You will leave in two weeks," began Sormol, then added as an afterthought, “on foot, so as not to be tracked. The Vanus easily spot horses and hunt them in their sleep. You will be more resourceful and stealthy on your own two legs.

"After leaving the Western border of Hinnid's farmland behind you, you will be outside the protection of the outer guard. Again, you are travelling alone so as not to be tracked: too many men would easily be hunted. You will continue to head West and at the edge of the moors you will reach the city ruled by King Burcon and his Queen, Messalina. This is your halfway point. Between Hinnid and there, you will find nothing save moors and abandoned villages. One or two lone rangers may be living out there, but all you will definitely find is Vanus.

"Once at this city, Astaj, you will be nourished and cared for and will set out quickly again, this time in a more Northerly direction. That area of Elevea is more forested: there you will be more sheltered from the Vanus, but more likely to encounter violent tribes. Once through the forest area, standing by the coast on top of an inaccessible cliff stands the home of the Pistos. You must climb the face of the cliff in order to reach them. There, you will also be welcomed and there you must begin negotiation, and fast." Sormol took a deep breath and narrowed his eyes in deep thought. "That should take you around six months."

"What I don't understand," came Marda's timid voice, "is why it's me going?"

"Are you questioning my judgement?" asked Sormol, leaning back and surveying her once more.

"No, Sire, of course not!"

"Well I say you should go. And you will go."

"But what alibi do we use?" interrupted Falnon, impatiently.

Sormol smiled, "Marda's Uncle is sick, and she travels to a remote farming community on the coast to see him."

"And King Burcon?" continued Falnon. "I know he is a clever man. He knows of me and will wish to know the real purpose of our quest."

"Burcon can be trusted to know of the true matter at hand."

Falnon frowned deeply, "Father," he said, "You told me that King Burcon wants only power and wealth for his kingdom, and for each of his sons to gain their own. Mightn’t he exploit us?"

"Falnon," Sormol chuckled, "No one can exploit us with the Pistos on our side!"


MARDA WAS STOOD in the cloisters, a few feet from the entrance to the main hall. She was throwing her hands nervously from side to side and staring out across the fateful courtyard, which, earlier that day had been a safe haven for her. She could easily disappear among the thick crowd, be shoved to one side and ignored by all people. They would not bother to look at her face or recognise her as 'that farm girl'. But now - whispers had followed her into the castle, heads watching in her direction, spiteful eyes cursing her. Now that courtyard was still whispering to her, no matter how many hours after the event, and the accompanying voices were still in her head, including her own. Had her mother found out yet? What would happen to her? 

Marda was frozen solid by the fear and despair that had gradually taken hold of her. Still standing in the cloisters, staring at the courtyard and still filled with such angst, Marda could not however move her eyes or avert her attention. The fear in that place seemed to glue her ever more steadfastly to her weakness, force her to stay there, soaking in her fear. For Marda had decided: she was not to let the King force her to go, she had plenty of reasons not to go, including the fact that the whole population was against her departing for the Pistos. The King was currently inside his hall, and when he came out, she would confront him, and plead if she had to, show her weakness if she had to.

Almost as if on cue, the heavy wooden doors to her left were thrown open and King Sormol appeared alone, head down and walking with reserved paces. Marda threw a quick glance down to the other end of the cloisters and saw one guard, facing another direction. Throwing her hands by her side in frustration and turning with the most power she could muster, Marda fixed her gaze on the King and he stopped, abruptly, drawn back by her bashfulness.

"Marda?" he said, tilting his head. "Have you not been shown to your chamber?"

"Sir, I would prefer to go home," Marda replied, her voice cracking, nervously, "and I will be staying at home."

King Sormol raised his eyebrows questioningly.

"My mother is sick and cannot leave the house, let alone to work!" Marda cried, defensively. "You see, I work for Farmer Okmid in order to provide for us both. I look after my mother, and should I not work, we should have no house to live in. My mother needs me and I can't leave." Marda stood her ground."I still can't see why it's me you want anyway!" she threw her hands in the air. "How am I brave? How can I fend for myself? How can I fight against the Vanus?" her voice had escalated in anger and anxiousness. "I will surely be killed, and then who will look after my mother?" Finally, Marda found she was pleading with the King, falling back against the hard stone wall and putting her head back in defeat.

"Marda," said the King softly, not responding to her pleas, "Have you ever used a bow?"

Marda lowered her head apprehensively to look with narrowed eyes at the King.

"I suppose that I have shot game before," she began.

"And the sword, you have used the skills of the sword?"

"Only as a basic skill. Farmer Okmid trained me just in case of emergency, working so close to the perimeter."

King Sormol scratched his head. "Go home at once and fetch your mother."

"Sir, she is in bad health. She is sick. She cannot go anywhere!" Marda pressed herself forwards, this time desperately.

"Then I will send some men with you to help you carry her. She will be permanently moved to this castle where she will be cared for. I will have my best physician see to her,” he was nodding to himself. “You need not worry about her."

Marda, wide eyed, at once fell to her knees.

"Your Majesty, I am..."

"There is nothing to thank me for, my lady." interrupted Sormol. "It is you who is performing the duty for your Kingdom. It is the least that which I can do for you. Now go home, at once!"

Marda pattered away down the stone passageway but turned once more at the end.

"I do not wish to have my own chamber, sir," she said, her voice a little stronger, "otherwise my mother will get lonely and fearful at night."

King Sormol smiled affectionately, "Whatever you wish, my dear child," he said.


AFTER A LONG night of restless sleep, Falnon was pacing through the halls of the palace. For the first time since his mother’s death, his sword had stayed with him by his bedside, and more than once had Falnon awoken, distressed and panicking, at which times he had rolled across his wide and engulfing bed to grab the hilt defensively.

Was he brave enough? Would he really live up to his royal status? Many times had these questions circled his head and it was as though he had not had the time to grasp the whole task that lay before him. Falnon was young; had he been expecting this? Or a few more years of carefree fun, splendour and a permanent home, a safe hold? Now this was all threatened, and the Kingdom had assigned him the task of fixing it. But what had Falnon ever fixed before? He knew that one day his duties would evolve around this principle, but the thought had never crossed him that now would be the time to embrace that. The future he had always thought of as the future, not as the present.

But, as he paced, Falnon realised that now was a very important time, and thing which must happen: it was his duty, which he would fulfil. All the preparations had been made, the compasses set and maps laid out. Food was waiting in sacks, boots new and cloaks thick. The weapons were currently circulating the blacksmiths ready for him to use. Surely he was prepared?

In an agitated state, Falnon reached the treasury and threw open the door in haste. It swung open eerily quietly, making Falnon stop in his tracks, almost as if to listen to the hushed atmosphere of the room within. There was such peace, yet such turmoil within him. But it was after a few moments when Falnon actually saw who was inside the room: the girl, Marda. She was standing with her back to him, a light chainmail draped over her thin chest, leather padded shoulders half stitched together and she appeared to be holding the hilt of a sword by her side. It was grasped in her right hand, still sheathed. Marda had her head tilted towards it, inspecting it. She apprehensively started to pull the sword out, drawing it fully across her eyesight before carefully swinging it around to point forwards in a hostile gesture.

Falnon realised there was an attendant with her, presenting her with the weaponry and bustling to and fro around her chainmail.

“It’s awfully heavy,” Falnon heard Marda say to the man behind her as she held the sword out at arm’s length, “the chainmail. Do I really need it?”

“I don’t think you will need that sword,” Falnon said, projecting his voice and stepping lightly into the room, listening to his shoes click against the smooth stone as he made his way across.

Marda kept her head straight, looking still along the thin and lightweight blade of the sword. She let her eyes flit apologetically across to Falnon, only for a split second. Now he could see her side on, Falnon saw that she was wearing a pair of breeches, not a skirt, a thick belt supporting the sheath for her sword, one dagger next to it and another strapped around the top of her leg. On the other side of her, the attendant was holding out a thick woollen skirt for her to put on. Judging by her face, Falnon guessed Marda was embarrassed to be seen not wearing the traditional skirt. But, she held her ground and tugged at the chainmail, and started talking impatiently about the weight of it.

“That sword really won’t help!” Falnon half laughed, trying to get her attention. “I really don’t think it’s appropriate.”

Marda turned fully, lowering the sword, as emotionless as possible.

“The King has ordered that I am to be armed. I am used to carrying heavy things. All I am concerned about is how my agility will be affected.”

Falnon raised his eyebrows.

“What else are you to carry?”

“I will carry a bow,” she paused and drew in her breath. “As I gather you are not an archer.”

Falnon was a little taken aback by these remarks.

“You speak harshly, my Lady,” Falnon was smiling inquisitively; trying to work out more about this strange girl. By the time he had looked her up and down, she had shrunk into her thick shell once more and was shaking her head softly.

“My sincere apologies, my Lord, I did not wish to insult you or waste your time. Perhaps I am keeping you from more important things?”

Taking her apologetic cue to leave, Falnon nodded, spun on his heels and let his shoes click back to the door, only chancing one glance back to the girl, who was now testing the sharpness of the tips of her arrows which had been brought to her, and was calling to see her brand new bow.

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