• Chapter I

    As the sun sank down over the treetops, coloring the leaves in a wash of pink and gold, Ehllarah Oakrinelle stood on the balcony, staring over the horizon. She didn’t see the sunset, looked right past it, into the plains beyond, trying to find some sign of the battle. Her unborn son kicked in her womb.
    “Yes, little one,” She smiled and patted her belly, “Your father is out there somewhere. May Corellon protect him.”
    She turned to reenter her bedroom, and her attendant was at her side immediately, taking her by the arm.
    “I’m fine Sorelius, I can walk,” She said softly, “I’m not an invalid.” She laughed gently, and Sorelius couldn’t help but smile.
    Laughing, she offered him her elbow, and arm-in-arm, they walked through the curtain to her chamber.

    * * * *

    Thorynne Oakrinelle was one of the Megilarrim, an elite order of elven swordsmen who serve Gildien as military leaders and guardians to the Magi. As the Megiltura, the highest of the order, it was his responsibility to oversee the battle and to send orders to the lieutenants.
    The war had been going on for three decades now. Thorynne returned home once per year, to visit his wife, and now, his unborn son. She would be giving birth to him any day now, being in her eighteenth and final month. When the time came, Thorynne would be returning home for good, and command would pass to his second-in-command, a magus named Dyerik. Dyerik was a very talented sorcerer, and a wise leader, although, as he was not yet in his third century, was much younger than Thorynne.
    Currently, Thorynne stood in a temporary sort of headquarters among the branches of a massive oak tree on the outskirts of Gildien. The battleground was a wide plain north and east of the forest. It was an open area, sparsely populated by hills and few trees. It was early in the morning, still as dark as midnight, but he could see the small watch parties dotted throughout the hills. Beyond those, he saw the campfires that marked the enemy encampments. To the north, Orcs: massive, green-skinned monsters that know nothing but war, death, and destruction. To the east, the men of Leona: an evil breed, selfish, and bent on conquering the entire continent. What will happen after they've conquered the land? Thorynne wondered. Will the Leonans and Orcs kill each other?
    Interrupting Thorynne's thoughts, there was a knock at his doorway.
    "Enter," he spoke without facing the entrance. Two elves came into the room. First, Dyerik, followed by his lieutenant, a young woman named Krysendil. Like their superior, both were dressed in armor: a suit of chainmail forged of mythril. Over the armor, each wore a long cloak decorated by a silver brooch. Thorynne and Krysendil wore cloaks of rich violet, signifying their status as Megilarrim. Dyerik's cloak was light grey, the colour of the Magi.
    They stood on either side of Thorynne, excitement in his eyes, impatience in hers. Krys had a reputation as a fierce warrior. She wasn't fond of the idea of a Mage in charge; she thought it was a warrior's job. With time and a little patience, Thorynne knew, she could be a great leader.
    "My lord," Dyerik addressed his commander, bowing," We have received word from Gildien. Your son shall be born by the morning; you should be with your wife."
    Thorynne knew this was coming soon, but still his mind raced with worry. He let none of it show.
    "I must leave immediately"
    "My lord, I shall gather your guards--"
    "No, Dyerik. I'll go alone. They are your guards now."
    Thorynne unclasped the pin from the front of his cloak, a silver crescent moon adorned with five amethyst gems. He pinned the crescent to Dyerik's cloak.
    "You're in command now, Lord Dyerik." He placed his hand on his friend's shoulder.
    Thorynne left that night, alone and on foot. He traveled light, with just his clothes and his violet cloak. He did not wear his armor, but he carried his weapons; a bow made of ash wood and his longsword, Nim'Carak.
    Nim'Carak: The White Fang, perhaps the greatest of elven swords. Its pommel was carved of Gildien Red oak wood, its hilt a steel-silver alloy, polished to a shine. And the blade, forged from Mythril, the mysterious elf-silver, light as a feather, harder than steel, and with an edge that never dulls. The sword was forged specifically for Thorynne, when he was promoted to the rank of Megiltura, the Sword-Master. Its blade was infused with powerful magics, designed to protect the wielder and slay his foes.
    For an elf, who would know all of the paths in Gildien, it was about a day's journey from the edge of the forest to the city. The hours passed quickly, and without excitement. Dawn broke, the sun rose, then day gave way to evening, and in the twilight hours, Thorynne approached his home.
    As Thorynne stepped out of the thick trees, into the clearing, he heard a sound, rough, repetitive: breathing, and far too loud to be an elf. He grabbed his bow and dropped to a crouch, creeping forward, but he could not locate the source of the sound. A twig snapped, and he turned in time to see a shimmer of light, and an orc materialize from the air. Then another shimmer, bringing another orc. And another. And another. Dozens of orcs appeared before Thorynne’s eyes, mere feet from his home, friends, and family.
    How? How is this possible? Thorynne asked himself. What magic do these orcs possess?
    Then he spotted them. To his left, a mammoth of an orc, dressed in dirty white pelts and carrying a wooden staff. Atop the staff was a skull, about the size of a human’s, with rubies in its eye sockets. But that was not all. To the orc's right, stood an elf, one that Thorynne did not recognize. He was taller than any elf of Gildien, taller than even the orcs. He carried a cane, but he did not lean on it. Actually, he stood straight, proud, almost regal.
    They had come to attack, and Thorynne had to do something quickly. He crept quietly into the forest city, careful not to be detected. The dull-witted orcs did not worry him, but surely that elf would have sharp eyes and ears. He managed to hide behind one of the city's massive trees. He was outnumbered, and could not call for help without alerting the orcs. He thought quickly: he had his bow and about fifteen arrows, and he knew a little magic, but he was no wizard. He knew a few spells, but they drained so much energy, so he would have to choose carefully. One spell, maybe two. then he could get a few arrows into them before he would be forced to fight. The orcs were fodder, but the big orc, probably a shaman, and that elf, were more of a threat.
    "I have no choice" He whispered as he made a few hand motions, the beginnings of a simple spell.
    By this point, the orcs were moving closer. Thorynne leapt into their view, screamed aloud, and waved his left hand. A burst of colored light exploded into the orcs, blinding their sensitive eyes. They screeched and ran in different directions, many of them knocking each other down. The strange elf and the big orc didn't flinch.
    Thorynne raised his bow. His arrow, imbued with elven magic, glowed blue as he nocked it to his bow. His first arrow hit an orc in the shoulder. The orc's flesh sizzled, and smoke poured from the wound. It coughed up black blood, then its eyes rolled back and it fell, dead.
    Thorynne emptied his quiver into the distracted orcs, killing about half of them before he ran out of arrows. Then he drew Nim'Carak. The elf-sword shined in the moonlight. The orcs, regaining their vision, screamed a hideous war cry and charged him. He sidestepped the foremost, smashing its head with the flat of his sword, then swung upward, cutting the second orc, the sword's magic burning its flesh. A third orc swung at him with a wicked-looking black axe, which he barely managed to parry. A flick of his blade opened the orc's throat.
    The first orc shook the pain from his head and came at Thorynne from behind. The elf's sharp ears sensed it, and, spinning his sword around, he stabbed blindly, catching the orc in the belly. But, when he tried to pull his blade out, it didn't budge. The orc's thick hands, bleeding and smoking, were wrapped around the blade, holding it fast. Orcs were quickly surrounding Thorynne.
    "I shall not fall!" Thorynne growled in the orc-tongue, a disgusting sound that startled his foes. Releasing his sword, he leapt forward, his foot smashing the face of the nearest orc.
    Thorynne clapped his hands together and shouted "Sikil Tincmaeg!" Knives of blue light appeared in his hands. He danced around the orcs, slashing and stabbing. But, without a good weapon to parry with, he took several wounds as well.
    In a matter of seconds, only two orcs were left standing, and Thorynne had lost a lot of blood. His breath rasped as he examined his last two foes: the one with his sword in his belly, somehow still alive, but unarmed; the other was bigger than most, wielding a huge curved sword. Both were covered in old scars, marks of experience.
    Thorynne could see the shaman and elf in the trees. The orc was tapping his staff on the ground repetitively and chanting. But the elf stood like a statue. Why are they just watching? Are they actually enjoying this?.
    Yes, we are, a voice rang in Thorynne's head.
    Thorynne shook his head. What the...? For a moment, he thought he saw the strange elf smile, but it vanished as soon as it appeared.
    But he had no time to think about that. There was a battle to be fought. But Thorynne didn't want to make the first move. The orcs finally did. The sword-wielder leapt straight at Thorynne. He dodged to the right, slashing with his magic knives. The orc was dead in seconds, didn't stand a chance, never even tried to stop his attacks.
    When Thorynne looked up, the others were gone. The shaman, the elf, the other orc.... and Thorynne's sword.
    Surprise! the voice was back in Thorynne's head.
    Horrified, he turned around. There was the strange elf, holding his cane in his left hand like a weapon. His eyes glowed red.
    Thorynne raised his hands to block, but his knives had vanished. The elf smashed his cane across Thorynne’s brow. He fell down, still conscious. But when his vision cleared, he saw the elf standing over him, holding Nim'Carak.
    Thorynne knew he was finished.