Chapter 4: Black Knight Takes A Pawn
Night had turned to day, but the sky was still darkened with the violent storm. Reed, Windsong, and Duskrider trudged through the rain. They sank into the deep mud and the razor-like raindrops slashed at their skin. The thunder was deafening and the darkness of the forest was dispelled only for brief periods of time after the lighting struck.
"Damn it!" screamed Reed. Reya's disappearance had affected him in the worst possible way. "I can't believe this!" It had been nearly six hours and they still had found no sign of Reya or the dark horseman. Reed walked over to a tree and pounded his fist against its large black trunk. Small droplets of blood trickled down his arm as the tree's jagged bark bit into his hand. Windsong walked over to him and placed her hand on his shoulder.
"It was not your fault." She said calmly glancing over at Duskrider for support.
"Yeah, don't worry about it. We'll find her." Duskrider chimed in half-heartedly but they all knew how bad things were.
"It was my fault. I should have stayed awake. It was my responsibility to protect her and I failed." Wept Reed as his shoulders shook slightly.
"We all should have been watching her more closely. We all failed but we still have time to make things right." Windsong said
"You know we could just stop the rain so we could have some tracks to follow." Duskrider said as he plucked a few berries off a bush and popped them into his mouth.
"What?!" Reed said turning around quickly; his eyes were filled with anger.
"I said, you know we could just stop the rain so we could have some tracks to follow." Duskrider repeated as he swallowed several more berries.
Reed lunged at Duskrider but Windsong stepped between the two once again.
"You mean you could have just stopped the weather at anytime? Just POOF and it could have been sunny? We could have found her sooner?" Reed growled.
"Yeah, that sounds pretty accurate." Duskrider said unblinking. Reed leapt forward again tackling Duskrider.
"We don't have time for this!" Windsong yelled as she tried to peel Reed off of Duskrider. "We have to go find her now and we are wasting time by fighting amongst ourselves."
A horse screeched loudly. It was the same scream the dark shadow's horse had made as he rode off into the darkness with Reya. Reed and Duskrider quickly jumped up.
"The horse is close." Windsong whispered. "If we find it we should find Reya and her kidnapper."
They dashed through the woods, searching desperately. When the found the horse, their worst fears were confirmed. The horse was the kidnapper's horse. Its light blue coat shone brightly in the sun. It was drinking from a small river. The horse's name was Delucia. She was a kelpie that was a distant relative to Merkain. It was well known that the Night of Chaos had tamed this horse.
"This is not good, murmured Windsong.
That was an understatement. Everyone knew about how the Night had tried to wipe out the entire elven race 200 years ago. People didn't know why he had stopped his reign of terror though. Some had said that he had died, and others claimed he became sick of the bloodshed and had decided to go into hiding. No one really knew what happened to him though. Delucia's return to the land meant the Night had returned with her.
The kelpie were an ancient breed of horses that had control over certain elements. It was know that Delucia's ability was control over water. Long ago many of the kelpie were captured by the elven people and used as war horses during the elven wars. Most were killed during battles so the race was now almost extinct.
Delucia, like most of her kind, had been a slave to the elven people. The elves had been fighting against the chameleon clan during the elven wars. The war started over a forbidden love long ago. Nicholas, the prince of the chameleon clan fell in love with Adrianna, the youngest daughter and princess of the elven royal family. The chameleon clan was looked down upon by the elves. They were seen as an inferior race due to their human-like features and their cultural beliefs. Nicholas and Adrianna met in the woods. Adrianna loved to roam the woods and while she was out in the woods a snake bit her. Nicholas had been out hunting and came across her. His people hunted with sleeping darts and many contained small amounts of snake venom. He always carried viles of antidotes incase he ever was stabbed by one of his darts. When he found her he dashed to her side and knew right away what must have happened. He quickly gave her a shot of antidote and searched her body for the puncture marks. Two tiny piercings were on the ankle of her left foot. He sucked as much of the venom as he could out. Nicholas and Adrianna were inseparable after that. One day Nicholas and Adrianna decided to run away together because they knew that their people would never allow their love to exist. They were caught by the elven army after a few short days. The princess begged for mercy and that her lover should be returned to his homeland but the queen in her rage ordered his execution. The prince was executed at first light shortly after the king of the chameleons and his army entered elven territory and slaughtered the queen and many innocent elves including Adrianna. The king, his eldest daughter and his son escaped the slaughter.
The elves sent out their army and razed many of the villages of the chameleon clan. Delucia was hit with multiple flaming arrows during one of the raids. The elven people abandoned her leaving her to her death. A small boy who appeared to be around ten years old came across this scene. He seemed much older than ten though. Something about him was strangely ancient. He had been out in the woods collecting firewood for his mother when the attack on the village occurred. When he first entered the village he dropped his bundle of branches he had collected and ran to his home. He disappeared into a small earth-colored hut. An unearthly scream erupted from the hut. The boy exited the hut covered in blood. His mother, father, and younger brother had all been brutally slain. He was the last one alive in is village. The boy moaned piteously. Delucia, who was ling close by let out a weak whiney. The boy looked up and came to her side. He put his hands on her bloodied side. Delucia mad a feeble attempt to knock him away. He looked deep into her eyes and then reached into his blood-stained tunic and pulled out a small finely engraved orcania. He played a few soft notes that calmed her and lulled her into a deep sleep. When she awoke from her slumber her wounds were bandaged and she was lying next to an open fire. The little boy lay asleep across the fire from her. He was shivering from the cold. He had taken a blanket, probably his only one and had laid it over Delucia to keep her warm. Delucia slowly stood up, her long legs shaking as those of a newborn. She limped over to the boy and curled up around him to keep him warm. She and Marcus were bound together after that day that happened 1000 years ago. Their similar fates had brought them together. By chance or by another divine plain it was not know. All that could be told was they were each the last of their kinds.
"This can only cause great suffering, especially among the elven people. We must find Reya. I'm sure he has her with him." Reed said solemnly, his eyes focusing solely on the horse.
"Where do you think he is though? I mean it's odd that he'd allow his horse to drink and graze openly like this. Especially with all of his gear still packed on her." Duskrider inquired as he glanced over at Windsong and Reed.
"She may have been frightened by the storm, but I'm sure she did not stray too far from her master. We should be on guard." Windsong warned, turning to meet Duskrider's stare.
"If he's without his steed he would probably take shelter somewhere nearby." Reed observed. He seemed deep in thought. "We should search the surrounding area."
Quietly they slunk away from their hiding place being so careful as to not make a sound.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
"The rain appears to be lightening up." Marcus muttered to himself as he drew his black hood over his head. Reya was still. The sleeping dart had still not worn out. Marcus sheathed his sword. He walked over to the fire. Quickly he smothered the remaining embers covering it with dirt from the cave floor. He went outside and picked up a branch and swept away the footprints that covered the floor. Even to a trained eye could not distinguish the marred footsteps. Marcus admired his work for a moment. Then he reached into the depths of his hood and removed a small orcania from around his neck. He played a few high pitched notes that sounded very much like the twitter of a small song bird.
Marcus knelt down next to Reya.
"Isn't it funny how war proves not who is right, but who is left?" Marcus murmured, thoughts of his tragic past flooded his mind. "That is why I killed half of the elven race 200 years ago. I slaughtered them in their sleep wiping out entire families and villages, night by night. I never gave warning because my family never had warning. Only once was someone awake when I came to kill. An old elven priest who was reading a large set of ten scrolls out loud to his apprentice. After the priest had finished reading the scrolls that held the legend of the Light Keeper and her warriors he said to his apprentice, "Jamal, my apprentice, my son. We must not allow the elven race to fade from existence. Two hundred years from now the world's existence will depend on the Keeper of the Light's protection. Only she can wield the light to save the world from darkness. Perhaps she can recreate the world that used to be and correct the mistakes of the past."
"How could someone do that? Change the errors of the past and recreate the world?" asked the apprentice who was bewildered by what his father had said.
"The Light Keeper when she comes into maturity will have great power. She will possess the power to change the world for good or evil. Some have even said this suggests she could bring back races that have passed away from existence." The old priest said. "My child the elven race has had a dark past. I pray that we may have a better future."
"I left the priest and his son, the apprentice alive. That night was the night I was stopped the slaughter of the elven race. I knew if I destroyed the elves then I destroyed my people, the kelpie, and all of the other lost races."
Marcus smiled and cradled Reya in his arms as he picked her up. Delucia had arrived at the mouth of a cave and it was time for him to flee from this hiding space. Marcus had never told anyone why he became the Night of Chaos 200 years ago or why he had stopped. Reya, even when she was asleep, had something unique about her, something Marcus couldn't put his finger on exactly. She was strange yet beautiful. As she slumbered innocently in his arms he longed to keep her for his own. Then he quickly shook the idea from his head and refocused on his goal. He trudged out of the cave and placed Reya on Delucia's back and then swung himself over. He must not let a pretty face get in the way of resurrecting the lost races, including his own. He held Reya tight on Delucia's back as Delucia darted of towards Krad Modgnik, homeland of the dark forces.