Ties That Bind (Chapter Six)

by Len

Calidorn

Ties That Bind

Chapter 6

Alliances

Time was running out for Qari and Rolo. The man’s feet were starting to break down from the constant wetness. They needed a place to find rest, and Rolo found it. Qari thought the anteater had finally gone mad as he plowed into what appeared to be solid stone covered in vine. However, the man and his mount plunged through the tangle of thick vines and into a cave.

The cave seemed to go deep into the earth, and Qari dismounted to further explore the shelter. There was no immediate threat, and the man feared to venture too far into the darkness. It appeared that for the moment they were safe. Rolo curled tightly into a ball, ready to sleep. Qari unbuckled the saddle to allow his trusted mount to get more comfortable. If they didn’t rest, they would die anyway. The man pulled off his shoes and tried to dry his feet the best he could. The steady breathing of the animal lulled Qari to sleep as well, but he did not fight very hard against it.

As the two exhausted creatures rested, another figure slowly crept from the deeper darkness of the cavern. He was short and squat with a long trunk protruding from his face along with two white tusks. The elephant looking creature hovered over the anteater, and stifled a laugh at the way the beast used its tail almost like a blanket. Then he went over to Qari, and had to cover his trunk at the stench from the man’s feet. He shook his head, ears flopping from side to side, and slowly went out into the forest.

*****

Tira Al Lung watched the ceremony of ants with a grin on her face. Kaa and a few of the other highborn elves would not let the troll incident ruin the children’s ritual. The only girl taking part in the ritual did not even flinch as she held her arm over the fire. Sonnen, Vaidon’s brother, struggled but did not cry out. Women were naturally more tolerant of pain, for they had the burden of giving birth. Kaa and Bynn silently cheered the young elves, while Tira sneered. Vaidon seemed to be the only one that noticed that the visiting elf seemed to be enjoying the torture of the children.

Once the children were finished with their rite of passage, they were escorted back to their homes. Most of the elves followed suit. The highborn elves stayed behind to meet with Tira Al Lung.

“You started a war with the trolls,” one of the elders stated. “Why?” The question was simple, but it was on everyone’s mind.

“The elves were already at war with the trolls, you were just losing the battles over and over again,” Tira did not back down. “The trolls are the least of your worries at the moment.”

“Then what is our problem?”

“The blood monkeys,” answered Munkus. This was the second time he had met with the elves in a very short amount of time. “The monkeys are looking for war. You will need to use the Heart or they will feed on your blood.”

“We haven’t had an effective earth mover since Drind was killed by the violet dragon,” Kaa offered. He hoped to dissuade the council from being too hasty in its decisions.

Tira raised her eyebrows and offered, “I am proficient in earthen magic. Perhaps I could use the stone to help set up defenses.” The highborn elves seemed excited at the proposition of an earth mage using the Heart of Carinth to aid them in battle.

Kaa was not so excited. “We don’t even know if this elf speaks true.”

Bynn turned to his one-armed hunting master and said coolly, “This meeting is supposed to be for highborn elves. We will make the decisions on how to handle this information.” The young elf regretted his comment as soon as he said it. The damage was done, however. Kaa left the hall, and an angry Vaidon followed him. She shot Bynn a nasty look as their eyes locked.

Tira Al Lung, with Munkus at her side, laid out defensive strategies. The younger of the highborn seemed enamored with the female elf from the neighboring island. With the support of the groundling, her loyalty was never even questioned. At least, not by the elves that made the decisions for Silkwood. Bynn only half heard the conversation; he was too worried about Vaidon and Kaa. When it came time to vote in favor of giving the Heart of Carinth to the foreign elf, he did not care enough to vote either way.

As soon as the meeting was over, and the magical stone placed in the hands of Tira; Bynn ran to find Vaidon. He found her changing out of her dress and into her hunting clothes. “What are you doing?” Bynn asked, even though he was sure he knew the answer. Vaidon did not even respond to him. Being ignored only made Bynn all the madder. He had learned his lesson, however, and held his tongue. “You aren’t going alone.” He started taking off his festival apparel. Vaidon made sure that he did not see her smile. She wanted her lover and best friend by her side on the hunt.

“Father wants me to validate the ‘lady’s’ claim about the monkeys. It should be easy to find proof if the monkeys are on the warpath, but it will be dangerous.”

Bynn was almost completely nude when Batoonsta, the minotaur, walked into his chamber. The elf had his sword in had within a heartbeat. Batoonsta raised his huge hands in submission. He motioned for Bynn to come closer, and the elf did but with extreme caution. Minotaurs were not to be trifled with.

“Iww a woll,” Batoonsta concentrated as he tried to convey his message, without a tongue. Eel-Eye had cut it out many years ago. Bynn did not understand, and the poor minotaur repeated the message over and over.

“He wants you to go and kill the trolls that are waiting for their leader to return.” Kaa had entered the room while Bynn and Vaidon were listening intently. “I think it is a good idea. If the trolls do not return at all, then perhaps they will not know of our treachery. If we are lucky, they will think the deaths were an accident. However we cannot allow a single troll to survive.” Batoonsta nodded at the older elf’s wisdom. The minotaur patted his own chest and motioned outward. He would lead them to the trolls. He would finally have his revenge, and his freedom.

*****

Qari woke with a start. “How long have we slept?” he wondered. It was dark, but he could still hear Rolo’s steady breathing. “Everything is alright.” He wiped the sweat from his forehead, and reached down to feel his feet. Fear returned as he felt something strange covering his feet. He ripped off whatever had him, and the rustle of motion caused Rolo to wake.

“Now you have gone and woken up your friend,” a deep grumbling voice resonated in the darkness. “And you ripped off the leaves.” A small flame sprang to life deeper in the cave, and the elephant face was illuminated.

Rolo stood up his back legs, with his massive claws ready for a fight. Qari pulled a bone knife from his belt and went next to his anteater companion. The elephant creature did not move at all. He let the small human have a moment to work it all out. It didn’t take Qari to realize that if the creature wanted him dead, he could have easily killed him while he slept.

“I mean you no harm,” Qari started. “We just needed a place to rest. We will leave.”

“Don’t leave. Your feet need to heal. You need food and still you could use more rest. Are you hungry?”

Qari was very hungry, but he was still not convinced about the elephant’s motives. Rolo, who had much better instincts, dropped back down to all fours and walked over to the elephant man.

“Now that you are awake, we can start a small fire. My name is Calidorn. What is your name?”

“Qari, and this is Rolo.”

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