The Chronicles of Theldar

Ember's life is simple, normal, nothing to boast about but she likes it. That is until one day her peaceful town is invaded by mysterious enemy forces and she is thrown headlong into an adventure which will test her, her friends, and ultimately decide the future of Theldar.

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2. In the beginning - Chapter 1

~ Chapter 1 ~

In the beginning…

 

The scene was tranquil. The sun as it peeped over the horizon was a deep red so pure in colour it almost resembled the fiery glow of a dragon’s belly, whilst all across the forest a multitude of beautiful birds joined up in a dawn song that could put shame to even the most well-voiced of elven choirs and elves were known after all for their gorgeous voices. Across the vast expanse of swaying green trees that made up the forest of Gesenus swirling wisps of smoke trailed across the cloudless sky from the various small towns and settlements that sheltered under its infamously bountiful trees. From high above in the mountains there came the monotonous groan that was the roar of a Glace dragon which rolled over the peaceful landscape like smoke over water.

   Down from the vast mountain range curved a glistening blue river starting out as a tiny stream in the peaks of the Eljorns and thickened as it descended into a delicately clear blue snake that slithered across through the trees as a multitude of small boats from the various settlements skipped across its waters which even at their narrowest were just over half a league wide. The great snake took its course at a moderate pace before approaching the Myleren range it picked up pace to form violent white-water rapids which tumbled into the endless cave systems in the massive mountain range and proceeded on to who knows where.

   Several leagues to the east of the great waterfall which fed the river the trees stopped and gave way to rolling meadows before reaching the border where a road over a thousand leagues long separated the two most southerly nations of Theldar from one another –Amantrei on the west and Lleroan to the east of the dividing road known to most as simply the Divider.

   Back in Amantrei, deep in the bowels of the forest a small town with its back pressed against the Eljorns began to rise as the first rays of the sun stirred it into life.

   It was only a small settlement in comparison with some of the port towns on the river, but it still contained some hundred huts a small market and a bunch of stables on its outskirts. The land for three leagues around in every direction belonged to them for agricultural purposes, a mine that was surprisingly deep about a league uphill was theirs and a single road stretched out into the trees where the main carts and carriages trundled in and out. Life in the town of Detton was a simple affair as far as things went.

   Several streets to the east of the central market a relatively large house made predominantly of wood sat between a young children’s nursery and another large house with the Detton museum at its back. In it lived a family of three, a mother and two young girls. And this is where the story truly begins.

 

~

 

   The first rays of sunshine sent a slice of pure gold across the room as it rose above the trees and promptly came to rest over the face of a young elven girl draped in thin white bedsheets. Yet it did not wake her. It was only when the other girl in the room had woken, slid on her slippers and shuffled over to shake her sister awake that Ember opened her eyes slowly and rubbed them of sleep. The fifteen year old elf squinted into the sunlight and, moving from its path, fell back into the sheets.

   Ember’s sister – whose name was Alvi – walked over to the window and threw open the curtains so a torrent of sunlight flooded into the room and over Ember who jerked into a ball as if hiding herself from harm.

   ‘Unh, I’m going to get changed.’ Alvi, still tired, said as she stretched and tucked her clothes in the crook of her arm before walking out to get changed and prepare herself for the morning in the bathroom.

   Without a choice, Ember hoisted herself out of bed and, as she did every morning, glanced at the painting on her bedside table. It had been painted by an old family friend and was the only proof she had that she had ever actually had parents. Tragic as it was, her own parents had vanished when she was merely five without a trace and ever since she had been living with her ‘sister’ Alvi  and Alvi’s mother. She hadn’t got a problem with it, its just she wished she had known her parents a little more before they left. For there was not a doubt in her mind that they had not vanished, but had left for some reason. And she was sure too that whatever that reason was it was of the utmost importance. After all what could be more important than their own daughter?

   Dragging herself up she changed then waited for Alvi to finish before going into the bathroom to make herself look presentable to the world.

   The tempting smell of breakfast drifting up from the kitchen drew her like a magnet downstairs and through the bead curtain which seperated the kitchen from the living room. In it she found Alvi at the table waiting for breakfast and Alvi’s mother Greta bustling about like an old witch trying to prepare it.

   Breakfast was a simple affair but it was what Ember looked forward to most to start off the day. Every day it was the same, two catoblepas rashers, a fried egg and a pile of small blue mushrooms only found locally and nicknamed ‘mushgems’ due to their shiny surface upon picking before being skinned.

   Ember polished off the delicacies promptly and, slipping her favourite book from her pocket waited for her sister to finish before slotting her bookmark inbetween the pages and picking up the hand-scrawled list of groceries Greta had placed before them both.

   ‘Don’ think you’re getting off that easy today you two. Just ‘cause there ain’t no school for another three days after this you needn’t think all you’re gonna do is socialise. I need them things picking up from round town. Be off with ye afore I assign yer to doin’ some washin’ an’all.’

   The twosome hastily got up from the table and were out the door quicker than if they were being pursued by a dragon.

   Ember had never really managed to figure out how even with her mother talking in such odd tones Alvi spoke totally normally, like any other elf she’d ever met. Might just be something about Greta, she thought as they strolled along the streets, headed first for the market in the centre of town.

   Like everything else in Dutton the market at its centre was nothing to boast about, a few meagre wooden stalls, stands and carts with plenty of enthusiastic characters behind shouting their wares, but it served its purpose.

   Coming single-file down a thin back alley and entering from the right-hand side into the large cobbled circle Ember and Alvi stopped to read the list. It read as such:

 

   3x Musimon steak

   5x Tikbalang steak

   4x box of mushgems

   3x bottle cherry cordial

   7x bottle pear cider

   1x carving knife

   3x cutlery sets

   2x fresh loaves

   4x tub fresh rock salt

 

   ‘Yes, we get three bottles of cherry cordial!’ Alvi exclaimed. Their favourite drink, cherry cordial was a mixture of certain fruits, the predominant one being cherry, bewitched to fizz and pop and had thrived in the towns and cities of Amantrei and, it was rumoured, the creator – a wizard turn business-man - was thinking of expanding across the border with a new drink which would promptly after be released in Amantrei too.

   Without further delay they hurried over to a cart on the opposite side of the market, behind which an elderly witch wearing a floppy pointed hat bustled about making sure all the bottles and jugs were full and ready to sell. Seeing them coming she smiled for the sisters were regular customers and before they’d even asked she was filling up a glass bottle to the brim with cherry cordial.

   ‘Good morn to you two. Now is there anything else beside the cherry cordial you’d like?’

   Ember leant against one of the cart’s poles and, lifting a cherry cordial sample to her lips, downed the small shot of liquid from the thimble-sized wooden cup then placed it down again. ‘Yeah actually Erma. Greta says we need another two bottles of cherry cordial after that one and if you’ve got any pear cider to hand we’ll take seven of those if you would please.’

   With a mock exasperated look Erma filled up another two bottles of cherrypop and passing them to the sisters noticed the empty shot cup.

   ‘Really?’ she said with a sigh. ‘You little beggar.’

   The irksome Ember smiled mischievously and watched as, after removing her wand from behind her ear, Erma flicked it and the empty cup flew over, landing in the witch’s hand. Dunking it into a bucket of cherry cordial on the rear of the counter she then placed it back again before vanishing into her caravan which was sat behind the cart with piles of boxes and barrels around it, blankets and rugs hanging from the sides and a single oil lamp swinging from a hook beside the door.

   In a few moments Erma reappeared with a box of pear cider bottles in her arms. Counting out seven she placed them in a smaller box, placed a lid on the top and made a mental count of what she was owed.

   ‘That’ll be five gold pips and a silver crote please.’

   Ember dug into her pocket and handed over what was due and as Erma was distracted counting out the change from her coin pouch strapped round her waist she stealthily downed a second shot. The old witch passed over the change and the duo hurried off to the next stall before she noticed.

 

~

 

   An hour and a half later they had finished the list and had worn out the money Greta had given them to pay for it but still had their own pocket money left. And they knew just where to spend it.

   A few streets over from the market stood an old shop which housed everything from second-hand trinkets and charms to old books to even the odd ornate dagger. The outside was darned with many hanging baskets with exotic plants dangling from them, and boxes of books leant against the wall around the entrance. In one window was a multitude of gems and special rocks, all of which had one special quality or another from healing powers to lucky rocks. In the other hung dream-catchers and a rack of charms all swaying slightly in the breeze from the open door above which hung a ‘Come in, we’re open!’ sign.

   Here too the two of them were regular customers which was why when they walked in and the bell rang they weren’t surprised to see the owner high up on a sliding ladder to the left of the counter trying the best he could to force a thick book between the other books on an already crammed shelf.

   Just as they arrived in he managed to cram it in and, turning on the ladder to face them, leant on the ladder, his elbows resting on the shelf and grinned at them. Unfortunately the book didn’t want to stay where it was and it was pushed from the ranks with such force it knocked his elbow off the shelf and sent him toppling to the ground to the rear of the counter, from behind which there came an explosion of sheets where he had landed on his ‘to do pile’.

   The sisters couldn’t help but laugh; Lando was the clumsiest person they knew and yet he never seemed to injure himself. Ember couldn’t remember the last time they’d come in without him falling from something or breaking something – in fact she wasn’t sure there had ever been a time where something hadn’t gone wrong.

   A hand shot up over the counter, ‘I’m fine, don’t worry about me.’ Feeling for some anchor to pull himself up he accidentally grasped hold of the ledger on the counter and in an attempt to haul himself to his feet got half way up before the ledger slid from the counter and he rolled backwards again to another explosion of sheets. The girls couldn’t help but chuckle as a groan emanated from behind the counter.

   At that moment a furry creature hopped onto the counter. It was about the size of a cat and had a trunk-like snout, two small tusks and a lithe body. The baku seated itself next to a fallen pot of quills, knocked over by the ever-clumsy Lando, and began clearing them away.

   ‘Please, take a look around you two.’ it said as the shop owner finally managed to right himself and dust himself down.

   ‘Thanks Fin, we will.’ Ember replied to the creature.

   They separated from one another, Alvi preferring to browse the charms and amulets whilst Ember decided to peruse the long bowing shelves of books. She’d always had a love for reading and getting lost in a world solely within her mind and she slowly made her way along the shelf, hundreds of famous names both fictional and authorial winking at her from between one another. Stroking the spines as she walked along she finally halted and pulled out an old leather-bound tome not dissimilar in look and size to the great ledger Lando was replacing on the counter. She blew the dust off with a great exhaling from her lungs and with another wipe she could distinguish the title. The Adventures of the Dark Wizard. Sounded just a bit too cheesy for her liking so she replaced it and continued to inspect the lines of books.

   A few more minutes of looking and she found a book more suited to her taste. It was smaller than the last, much smaller, probably about half its size though it was no less dusty and wiping the cover she revealed it to be made of red leather, the central title and all the surrounding carvings and patterns all engraved into a wooden plaque attached to the leather. The God’s Longsword. Without even reading the blurb she tucked the quaint little book in the crook of her arm and strolled over to her sister who was still choosing between several amulets.

   On her approach she was instantly bombarded with questions like ‘What do you think of this one?’ and ‘Which do you prefer?’ and ‘Does this go well with my dress?’

   Alvi was utterly torn between a necklace and an amulet, both bearing the same type of green stone which seemed to emit a faint fuzzy glow.

   ‘Here’s an idea,’ said Ember, ‘buy them both.’

   ‘Oh, yes, of course, why didn’t I think of that?’

   ‘Really Alvi,’ her sister chuckled, ‘you seem to lose all sense of logic when you’re shopping.’ Alvi threw her a snide look and then turned toward the counter.

   It was at that moment that an amulet swinging on the rack caught her eye. It had obviously been missed by Alvi for it was of the most exquisite beauty and Ember knew her sister had a keen eye for such items. It was a small wooden pendant, spherical in shape with what appeared to be the engraving of a baku carved into its surface with two small, crystalline blue gems inlaid in the head for eyes. Turning she lifted it to compare with Fin and it was of very similar likeness.

   Cheerfully looping it round her hand she went to join her sister.

   ‘Will that be all?’ Lando asked Alvi.

   ‘Throw them in if you would Lando.’ Ember interrupted, placing the book and charm on the counter. Alvi’s face dropped at the sight of the baku engraving with the inlaid gem eyes.

   ‘How did I miss that?’ she moaned.

   ‘You were so preoccupied with those two you forgot to use your eyes a bit more.’

   Fin hopped onto the desk after helping clearing up the papers whilst his master etched the purchase into his ledger with a quill and regarded the amulet with great interest.

   ‘I don’t recall seeing that before. But I can tell instantly what those gems are. They’re baku tears,’ he sniffed the charm with his short curling trunk, ‘and if I’m not mistaken that’s dreamwood.’

   ‘Why’s it called dreamwood?’ Ember enquired.

   ‘If we’re being correct, it’s actually called red pine but it’s been nicknamed dreamwood over the centuries. An apt name if you ask me. It releases a type of scent that if strong enough can send one to sleep and cause awful nightmares known to send people mad.’ Ember and Alvi looked at each other worriedly. ‘Oh don’t worry,’ continued Fin, ‘in this quantity it’ll just make you sleep a little deeper, and paired with baku tears the dreams will be good ones. After all, that’s what us bakus do; stop bad dreams. And I need not tell you about the baku tears – everyone knows our tears solidify as soon as they’re produced.’

   After paying for their stuff, Alvi and Ember left the shop, thanking Lando and Fin, but as they began walking home a loud crash from inside signalled that Lando had managed to dislodge something from where it should have been.

   They didn’t stay to find out what it was.

 

~

 

   That night the three of them feasted on the musimon steaks Greta had asked for along with an assortment of vegetables on the side. Afterwards came a homemade pie with a lattice top and a golden crust which smelled simply divine as it was removed from the stone oven and tasted nothing short of heavenly. Greta was known after all for her pies. To the side of the sisters’ meals was a mug of cherrypop whereas Greta had a small cup of pear cider which was according to her ‘medicinal’.

   After completing the washing and a short time where the sisters played several board games Greta ushered them upstairs, sending them up with their pyjamas thrown over their arms and constantly repeating for them to make sure they pay tribute to the gods for the good day they had been blessed with.

   In ten minutes they had changed, brushed their teeth, entered the small prayer room filled with statues of deities, gods and goddesses, paid tribute to them and were in their beds, Ember reading by candlelight and Alvi hanging all the amulets she owned on a small pole embedded in the wall.

   ‘You know you’re really lucky getting that amulet there.’ Alvi said nodding her head at the small pendant strung on a cord lying on Ember’s bedside table.

   Ember peered at her sister smugly over the top of her favourite book, the one she had purchased in the day laid next to the charm and candle on her table. ‘It’s not luck; it’s called using your eyes.’

   Alvi pulled a face then blew out her candle and rolled over.

   ‘Yeah, I better turn in too. Still I’m enjoying this book.’

   Alvi rolled over again to face her sister. ‘What I don’t get,’ said she, ‘is how you can read a book for the twentieth time and still enjoy it.’

   Ember just smiled and, placing her book on the bedside table, blew out the candle and turned in for the night.

   Lying back into her pillow she thought how simple and carefree her life was. Life in Dutton was after all, a simple affair.

   At that moment, she couldn’t have dreamed the dark forces that were swelling and writhing just outside her imagination that in due course would turn her life totally on its head.

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