ES: Lorrin's Story, part 3

Post your Errant Story, Errant Road, Exploitation Now, and Babylon Jones fanfiction here. Please note that Poe is not allowed to read it.

Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 3

Postby Graybeard » March 3rd, 2011, 9:21 am

Chapter 43: Errants in Altissimis

Ensigerum trainees were not exactly well paid, but Lorrin still had a bit of change in his pocket from his last escort mission, and how could he turn this poor man down? For half elf or not, he was still a man, and his resources for fending for himself were obviously limited, to put it mildly. Lorrin started toward the beggar, holding a few coins, but suddenly he felt a firm elven hand on his arm.

“Don’t,” Morchis said emphatically. “It just encourages them.” The look on his face was definitely not one of sympathy. He strode over to where the beggar lay … and administered a kick to the man’s ribs with a booted foot.

“Errant!” he hissed. “You defile the image of our god! Go, take your inner leprosy elsewhere, before I kill you on the spot for your blasphemy!” He kicked the man again.

As Lorrin watched in shock, the disfigured man struggled to his feet, squeaked “Yes, my lord,” in the same pained voice as before, and shuffled away. His gait betrayed a clubfoot, at the very least, and possibly more. His demeanor betrayed worse: complete hopelessness.

The elves weren’t sympathetic. “Damned Errants are a plague,” Seppala said as his brother cast a Hygiene spell to tidy up the statue, which, Lorrin had to admit, had a most disturbing stain on it where the disfigured half elf had lain. “They do that kind of thing all the time, fouling our holy places, making a public mess. One of these days we’re just going to have to get rid of them,” he concluded, not knowing how right he was, or how soon that day would be.

Lorrin was appalled. He’d been brought up to believe that it was the duty of the privileged to help the less fortunate. Who could be more privileged than an elf, and what could be less fortunate than the man he’d seen? “Are there many more like him in Altissimis?” he asked, trying to buy time to get his feelings under control.

“Too many,” Morchis nodded. “Hundreds, maybe even thousands. It’s reached the point where maybe a quarter of all half elf newborns have something badly wrong with them. That one must have been the child of a human mother. A mother from our own people would never have raised such a monster.” He left it unsaid as to just how an elven mother could avoid raising a deformed child … but Lorrin knew that there were still tribes among his own people that practiced infanticide, and he had no illusions about the elves being above such things.

“What do they do in the city?” Lorrin asked, not sure he wanted to know the answer.

Morchis shrugged. “Menial jobs, the things no elf or even human would do. Many are beggars and live on the dole. My – relation is right, sooner or later we’re going to have to get rid of them. There’s a religious faction that wants to do that already.” He snorted. “Not just the ones with the obvious physical deformities, the whole damned lot of them. They've got deformities inside, whether it shows on the outside or not. It doesn't matter, though, because the Great Houses don’t have the guts yet to do it. They see there are twice as many half elves in the city as there are elves, almost as many as you humans. They think it’d be a bloody war if we removed them.” Another snort. “Like shooting fish in a barrel, if you ask me.” Something about his demeanor implied that that last statement was based on actual experience, not just an expression.

Lorrin didn’t like that at all. Fish in a barrel … that’s not the way Pontus described that fight that left him with the scar. And besides, that wasn’t a fish, it was a man, no matter that his hands looked like fins. Another thought struck him. I don’t know that I could obey an order to kill someone like that simply because he was deformed.

He put his thoughts aside as the small group continued into the temple of Senilis. However, the grandeur there caused him one last, parting thought on what he’d seen of the Errant.

The most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in my life is a half elf. And the beauty didn’t seem just skin deep, either, the way this temple is … yet these two, from the sound of it, would look at her as just another fish in the barrel.

I don’t like that.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6700
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 3

Postby Graybeard » March 18th, 2011, 12:12 pm

Chapter 44: Duties

Lorrin was still trying to sort out his feelings about the sad, unfortunate Errant when he and his elven escorts emerged from the temple of Senilis.

He’d found the temple somewhat disappointing. Oh, it was full of gaudy elven sculpture and paintings and architecture, and visually, it was impressive enough. However, it seemed to be as much a museum as a place of worship. Not a single elf could be seen in the sanctuary other than the two priests, and they seemed to be going through the motions as they met the newcomer and his guides.

At least the senior priest seemed pleasant enough, something that Lorrin had come to understand was by no means automatic among the elves. “Greetings in the name of Our Lord Senilis,” he intoned. “Let me show you where you will be stationed when your duties call on you to guard this sacred site.” He motioned the human to an enclosed booth beside the main entrance. Lorrin recognized magical one-way glass on three of its sides, the better to observe without being observed. A high stool within promised a rather more comfortable guard duty than some that he’d had during training; at least he could sit and rest. In general, in fact, the duty station had the same kind of perfunctory look to it that the sanctuary itself had.

Lorrin couldn’t resist a question. “Guard it against what, sir? I thought the elves were at peace, having dominion over the whole world. Well, the trolls are still out there somewhere, but there haven’t been trolls anywhere near this city for a long time – have there?”

The priest produced a most un-elven smile. “Oh, no, no,” he said. “The trolls leave us alone, and we leave them alone.” (Lorrin didn’t think it expedient to tell the man about a troll-hunting expedition that Drasko had been on, and had described to his fellow trainees before his falling-out with Lorrin. Maybe some of the elves practiced a live-and-let-live attitude toward trolls … but others most certainly didn’t.) “Really, the only things you’ll need to guard the temple against are Errants. Of course, that’s enough.” The other priest, who’d been silent to this point, grunted agreement, as did Morchis and Seppala.

I don’t like the way this is going, Lorrin thought. More and more, it was sounding like the elves were starting to treat half elves not as kinfolk (even though every last one was descended from an elf, obviously), but as potential enemies. How could one reconcile that view, which seemed to be held by most of the working-level military as well as the priests, with the official position about the three races working as partners on things like the flying city? Even as young and politically inexperienced as he was, this sounded like class warfare just waiting to break out.

Little did he know.

“What are my other duties to be?” he asked Seppala, glad to be shut of the temple of Senilis for now.

“Well, there’s another temple,” the elf told him as they walked through town. “That’s the temple of Anilis, with much the same setup as here.” An unexpected and incongruous leer crossed his face. “As I understand it, you’ll find the guard duty there a great deal more … enjoyable. Then there’s guard duty at the chambers of the Great Houses, things like that, pretty boring stuff. You’ll probably be excused from the duels; what we heard is that you’re not much of a fighter.” (Lorrin flushed, but nodded agreement; he knew that his combat skills weren’t on a par with many of his classmates.) “You’ll still get hauled off on some expeditions,” the elf continued, “but most of those are cut-and-dried, more ceremonial than real combat duty. Then generally, you’ll just get told to tag along whenever one of the nobles decides they need an entourage so they look important.” Seppala’s rolling eyes communicated clearly what he thought of that part of the assignment.

Lorrin started to say more, but they were coming to another temple, from the looks of it. He rounded a corner, to be met by the statue out in front of this one …

“Good lord,” he gasped for the second time in an hour, but for very different reasons.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6700
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 3

Postby Graybeard » March 21st, 2011, 11:42 pm

Chapter 45: Beneath the Statue of Anilis

“Impressive, isn’t it?” Morchis said, his face sporting much the same look as his brother’s had a few minutes earlier. “That’s just the way most humans react when they see the goddess for the first time. That’s not the biggest statue of her in existence, though. There’s one at least twice that size in Praenubilus Astu, that’s the Cimmerii capital, of all places.” He rolled his eyes; every non-Cimmerii that Lorrin had ever met seemed to have that same look on their faces when talking about the homeland of the underground-dwelling elves.

Lorrin really wasn’t paying attention to the huge, winged, naked woman’s statue, however; it was what was going on at the statue’s base that had shocked him. Arrayed around the figure were a number of couches, big enough for two elves not merely to sit on, but to lie down on … and many were occupied. By couples. In a reclining position.

Reclining, naked, and superposed.

“Is there a problem?” Morchis asked as Lorrin goggled at the copulating elves. “We thought you’d appreciate the statue, not turn pale when you saw it.”

“But – but – look at what they’re doing!” Lorrin managed to choke out. “Right there, at the base of the statue of your goddess! Isn’t that – blasphemous?”

Sincere puzzlement crossed the faces of the two elves as they looked at each other. “Why?” Seppala asked. “Anilis is a goddess of fertility, among other things. All they’re doing is asking her to bless them with a fully elven child. Perfectly reasonable thing to do, don’t you think?”

Spots swam in front of Lorrin’s eyes. He felt as though he might be having a very peculiar – and lifelike -- dream … but he was wide awake. “But why – why do they have to – well – I mean – in pubic – no, in public like that?” His pale face had turned to a beet-red blush at what a different age would call his Freudian slip. “I mean, when people want to – make a baby, we do it in our privates – in private, don’t we?” It seemed impossible for the blush to have deepened, but it managed.

“Why?” Seppala repeated. Then understanding dawned. “Oh. We elves forget sometimes about the hang-ups you humans have. But really, aren’t you over that, after all that time with your trainer?” He winked.

Lorrin had now made it all the way to an improbable plum color. “I – don’t want to talk about that. I just don’t understand why – why this is all happening. A community orgy for fertility?”

The elves finally had had enough of tweaking their human charge’s sensibilities. “It’s not an orgy,” Morchis pointed out patiently. “They’re all having sex with their partners of the moment and with nobody else. The things you’ve heard about orgies among the elves are all lies. (Well, except among the Rinkai, maybe.) And there’s something you have to understand.”

The seriousness on the elf’s face finally got through to Lorrin, and his embarrassment subsided. “What’s that?”

“There hasn’t been a full elf child born in Altissimis in three hundred years, that’s what.”

And now Lorrin’s demeanor changed entirely.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6700
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 3

Postby Graybeard » March 26th, 2011, 10:27 am

Chapter 46: Fertility

“Three hundred years,” Lorrin repeated hollowly.

“That’s right,” Seppala confirmed. “Three hundred three, to be more precise. I remember it well.” His eyes got a strange, faraway look, and an almost wistful smile played across his features. “You wouldn’t believe the party that House Salaeia threw. That was the first elven birth in over two hundred years itself, and they were damn concerned that there was never going to be another one. That party must have lasted two weeks.” He laughed, unexpectedly, as he rubbed his brow. "Elves generally don't have a lot of trouble with hangovers, because we can get rid of the poisons and let our bodies adjust. It doesn't work quite that way when you don't stop drinking at all, though. I thought my head was going to explode when the damn thing finally stopped."

Lorrin stopped to think about it. He’d seen children in the elven cities he’d visited on escort missions while he was in training. Young humans were everywhere, and half-elven children weren’t unusual either. But had he ever seen an elf child? Not that he could recall, although he hadn’t particularly been looking for one.

“Has it always been that way?” he asked, to be met with a shrug. “How should I know?” Seppala answered. “I’m only a mere two thousand or so myself. Most of our history happened long before I showed up. I have no way of knowing things like that.” He glanced at his improbable brother, and Lorrin got the impression that some communication was going on between the two, communication that they were taking some measures to conceal from him.

“I’m a bit older than that,” Morchis stepped in, “and yeah, I can remember, when I was just a child of thirty or so, there were three or four other kids about my age in Altissimis, plus or minus maybe ten years, not much at all.” He chuckled humorlessly. “The nobles made jokes about a population explosion. Fact is, elven fertility has never been all that high.” That exchange of glances again. “It’s kind of a problem in some ways, and it’s why we have all these Errants running around. Elves want to have kids just like you humans do, it’s just biology, basic drive to reproduce and all that. So since it’s so hard among ourselves, we just go out and do it with a human or a half elf. Too often the result is what you saw back at the temple of Senilis.” The guarded, secretive expressions on the elves’ faces gave way to more obvious distaste.

“Anyway,” Seppala resumed, “elven births are rare enough now that the great houses are offering rewards – rather substantial ones, I might add – for elves who can produce a fully elven child. So the couples come here and try to get the blessing of the goddess while they do their best.” The dry, humorless chuckle again. “Not that it seems to do much good. Of course, nobody has seen Anilis for one helluva long time, since long before either of us were born, so maybe she just doesn’t care any more.”

“Don’t say that,” Morchis said, his voice more serious than Lorrin had heard it before. Had a raw nerve just been touched? Lorrin decided he wanted to know more about that, but now wasn’t the time to explore it; the three were making their way past the mating couples, to where an elven priestess stood at the entrance to the temple of Anilis. He put the subject of elven fertility in the back of his mind while he learned about his next possible set of assignments … but he’d come back to it.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6700
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 3

Postby Graybeard » April 3rd, 2011, 10:08 am

Chapter 47: House Salaeia

Lorrin wasn’t sure what to expect at the temple of Anilis, but whatever he had been expecting, he again found himself mildly disappointed, although it did seem a bit more interesting than what he’d seen before. The setup was generally the same as at the shrine to her exaggeratedly male counterpart, and so was the diffidence shown by the priestesses and, to stretch the term slightly, worshipers. Well, at least there were worshipers at this one, half a dozen or so elf women who were saying something incomprehensible in front of another nude statue of the elven goddess. (Fertility prayers? They felt like it, and Anilis seemed to be the goddess of fertility, after all.) Lorrin noticed with mild interest that there were several tiny, winged human figures hovering around Anilis. That was intriguing; attendant spirits, like those the Mother Goddess had (or at least was believed to have) in the trees and the mountains? He resolved to ask his escorts about them some time, but not here, not now.

“The last stop for the day is the home compound of House Salaeia,” Morchis said as they emerged from the temple. “You’ll be spending most of your time there.” The trio walked into the center of town, which was dominated by a sprawling half-palace, half-fort; the home compound, apparently. The elves conferred with a human manning a guard post in front of the main entrance (and wearing a uniform like Lorrin’s), and the main gate levitated open on a cloud of magic.

A realization was growing in Lorrin’s mind as he proceeded toward the main building, one that he didn’t like at all. It looks like 98 per cent of all Ensigerum duties are the routine things like this – standing guard at a temple or a castle. That isn’t what I signed up for. Even the escort duties look exciting compared to this. How am I going to be able to keep my sanity just standing around and waiting for something to happen that’s never going to happen in a society as settled as this one?

Of course, that wasn’t the way things would work out, but he had no way of knowing that yet. And besides, the alternative at the moment would be dueling … and that wouldn’t have gone well for Lorrin.

At least the grounds were immaculately kept. Humans and half elves were hard at work tending flower beds and groves of trees. (If Lorrin noticed that some of them were giving him the same kind of resentful look he’d noticed on the first escort duty to call on Kiyan Nizami, he’d become used to it by now.) A shimmering curtain of light veiled what he would later learn was a small construction project, to add another granary to the compound; muffled human and half-elven voices could be heard beyond the curtain, along with similarly muted construction noises. That all made sense, Lorrin thought; even a culture as magically adept as the elves’ still needed to have things built by the sweat of one’s brow. It didn’t occur to him yet that having the other races work on such a project was a comparatively harmless way of keeping them occupied. As for the magical curtain, well, the lofty nobles of House Salaeia couldn’t be expected to have to watch such a mob as they went about their work, could they? The same matter of elven sensibilities explained the damping field that had been set up to keep the construction noise to a minimum. Anyway, it was all very impressive – maybe his professional duties weren’t going to be all that exciting, but at least he’d get to be bored in a very beautiful and wondrous and -- orderly place.

Lorrin hoped he wasn’t looking like a complete rube as he goggled at the palace, but no matter; waiting for him and the elven brothers as they mounted the steps to the main building was an elf in the most ornate armor he had seen yet, flanked by two human Ensigerum.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6700
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 3

Postby Graybeard » April 15th, 2011, 8:35 pm

Chapter 48: Hunting trolls

“Welcome to House Salaeia,” the elf in the ornate armor said without preamble. “Your timing is good. We’re about to leave for a troll-hunting expedition, and we’re short-staffed.” He turned to the two uniformed humans. “See that he’s made ready for it.”

“Yes, High Commander,” the humans chorused, and the elf turned without another word and strode back into the palace.

Well, I wasn’t expecting that, Lorrin thought as the two men came forward. He thought he recognized one of them, another recent graduate of the training camp who’d finished about six months before Lorrin had – Darko Karloviel, his name was. Lorrin felt a moment of nervousness as he looked the man over. Darko had a distinct physical resemblance to Vlado Ordiel and Drasko Commis, two people he had no desire ever to see again. However, this man seemed entirely cordial as he and his colleague, a tall, slender man whose name Lorrin didn’t catch, were introduced. Whatever quirk of genetics or culture had given the other two their surly dispositions and antipathy to Lorrin Elle wasn’t present in Darko, or at least not obviously. He breathed a bit easier as the humans and Morchis and Seppala headed for an out-building that Lorrin quickly recognized as the compound’s armory.

“Lucky you,” Darko said as they walked. “It took me a good month here before they let me outside the gates. Your reputation precedes you.”

“Reputation? What reputation is that?” Lorrin asked, puzzled and slightly alarmed. He knew as well as anyone that his “reputation” as a fighter wasn’t a particularly positive thing; why would this group want him along to engage opponents reputed to be able to tear even elves limb from limb … unless his role was to be cannon fodder? For a moment he wasn’t sure he liked this setup at all, but the two elves simply shrugged.

“Not many human Ensigerum are as adept at magic as you are,” Morchis explained. “That’s handy to have on a troll hunt. You’ll see why when we get out there.”

Lorrin’s puzzlement grew as they entered the armory. Everything he’d heard about trolls had told him two things that seemed at odds with this “hunt” he was accompanying. For one thing, the trolls had supposedly been routed into the Far North, many days’ march from even this northerly outpost of the Sanguen territory. There shouldn’t be any trolls near Altissimis to be hunted. For another …

“What am I going to need this for?” he asked as one of the armorers handed him a short sword. “I thought the right way to take on a troll was with magic, that they’d skin you alive if you tried to close with them, but that you could use stand-off spells all day and just pick them off at leisure. So why a close-combat weapon?”

He didn’t notice that the armorer was giving him a puzzled look of his own.

He also didn’t realize that “troll hunt” was a euphemism, and what they were really going to be hunting for the next few days weren’t trolls at all … but that realization would dawn on him with a very unpleasant shout soon enough.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6700
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 3

Postby Graybeard » April 17th, 2011, 10:26 pm

Chapter 49: Field camp

Lorrin’s puzzlement continued to grow as the hunting expedition left Altissimis.

There were an even dozen in the party, nine elves and three humans. Not a half elf was in sight. The elven high commander was traveling with a pair of elven nobles, presumably the current heads of House Salaeia, with most of the entourage arrayed around them at a distance; “for security,” Morchis, who was going along, had said. But security from what? Lorrin wondered. Altissimis was at peace, from all he’d seen and heard. The elves had made a big deal of the calm and prosperity of their own lands, now that the four races had ceased their conflicts. The trolls had been driven into the far north … so what was there out there for a security force to provide security against?

Another thing bothered him. The party was making its way down the mountain on a road that headed west, turning south to avoid terrain problems but generally keeping the midday sun on their left shoulders. Everything Lorrin had heard about trolls said that they now inhabited only the wastes of the northern lands … so why head west-southwest to hunt them?

He kept his doubts to himself as the group traveled, and studied his fellow travelers. Darko Karloviel and the other human were simply plodding along, not saying much, keeping their thoughts to themselves. (Just the kind of behavior that had been promoted in the camp, Lorrin noted.) The elves numbered six men and three women, all but one dressed in similar outfits with what looked like insignia on the shoulders; House Salaeia uniforms, Lorrin guessed, accurately. The last elf, one of the three women, had that cadaverous Cimmerii look to her. She was wearing a cloak of the kind of ornate design that Lorrin had come to associate with elven nobility, and the high commander and the two Sanguen nobles fussed over her from time to time. He guessed, again accurately, that this hunt might have been organized for the benefit of what looked like a visiting celebrity. That made some degree of sense, he thought; there weren’t any trolls down south in Cimmerii country, so it seemed like just the kind of entertainment to put in front of a dignitary from down there.

Of course, the fact that there weren’t supposed to be any trolls here, either, still required some explanation.

They had been going for several hours, and the sun was starting to approach the horizon (now, improbably, in front of them – why go west to look for trolls? That was still bothering Lorrin), when the high commander held up a hand and the group paused. “We’ll camp here,” he said. “Viradior Morchis, you and the humans will prepare the camp site and stand guard. The rest of us will conduct a preliminary reconnaissance. The er—troll encampment is believed to be on the other side of that ridge.” He gestured to the southwest.

What did he start to say? Lorrin wondered. Something hadn’t sounded quite right. Furthermore, there was a clear sensation in the air of telepathic conversation among the elves; Lorrin didn’t have telepathy skills himself, but by now he’d developed enough of a sense of when magic was being used that he was pretty sure the mind-to-mind communication was occurring. He also noticed that the Cimmerii woman had shot the high commander a sharp glance when he issued his order. Well, that was almost a tautology; everything the Cimmerii did seemed to have a sharp edge on it, from their physiques to their clothing to their language, even their magic. But even by Cimmerii standards, she hadn’t looked happy.

Whatever; he had his orders. The elf and the three humans set to work setting up the camp site as the other elves disappeared into the sunset, leaving Lorrin alone with his thoughts.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6700
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 3

Postby Graybeard » April 30th, 2011, 1:51 pm

Chapter 50: Trophies of the hunt

Eighteen long, boring hours passed before Lorrin saw the elves (other than Morchis) again.

It hadn’t taken long to set up the camp; elven magic had seen to that. The Viradior and the three Ensigerum took turns standing watch, although Lorrin couldn’t make much sense out of the duty; who was there to stand watch against, after all? Indeed, darkness fell with no signs whatever of possible enemies beyond the encampment. Lorrin was lucky; he drew the first and the last watch, giving him a chance for an uninterrupted night’s sleep in between. Apparently the elves came back from their reconnaissance some time while he was asleep; at least they were all back in camp when he rose in the morning. (He was amused to observe that at least three of them snored.)

The sun was rising as the camp started to come to life. Of course, there was no need for a conventional fire, whether to warm the campers or to cook breakfast; magical “fire” took care of that. Lorrin noticed that the third human, whose name he still couldn’t wrap his tongue around – Zeliko something-or-other – had enough magical skill to help Morchis with the cooking. (When did our job description expand to include “cook”? Lorrin wondered, at first with a hint of indignation, but in the field, everyone chipped in – probably.)

As he ate his meal, the elven high commander came to talk to him.

“You will continue on guard duty today,” he said in a voice muffled slightly by his ornate helmet. “Eventually you will join us on these parties, but that would be asking too much of a – an Ensigerum on his first day of duty.” (What did he start to say? Lorrin wondered, once again getting the sense that important things were being not-quite-said in this camp.) “We don’t expect the hunt to take very long.” Now why did this high commander have such a predatory look on his face?

Darko snickered after the elf left, in exactly the tone of voice that Lorrin had heard from Drasko Commis and Vlado Ordiel in times past. “Don’t hold your breath waiting for the invitation to go on the actual hunt,” he said sotto voce. “I’ve been here for a year, and they haven’t taken me on one yet.” He snickered again. “Just as well.” He would say no more in response to Lorrin’s puzzled look.

There wasn’t much to do while the elves were gone; not only were there no trolls nearby, nothing else seemed to be, either. Bored, Lorrin patrolled the perimeter of the camp. Two or three of the horses that the elves had taken yesterday were hobbled now in a meadow, others that had been left behind on the previous day now having gone out instead. Lorrin puzzled over that for a minute, then decided it made sense. The horses now grazing in the meadow were unarmored and had only basic riding saddles, while the ones the elves had taken, if he remembered correctly, had the kind of ornate armor the elves favored. That would be to the point if they were planning to close with the trolls.

Horses were a comparative rarity in Lorrin’s home village, where only the upper crust could afford them. Lorrin’s family, however, had had enough money to have a pair of their own, and Lorrin had become used to handling horses at a young age. (He’d never mentioned this skill to the elves, but on the other hand, they’d never asked.) To pass the time, he decided to give the animals some care. Poor practice, leaving them saddled while not in use, he thought. He started to remove the saddle from one, but something caught his attention.

Hooked to the saddle was a bundled-up bag that looked to be oozing some kind of fluid. With a start (and accompanied by a nervous neigh from the horse, which didn’t like having its burden disturbed, and probably didn't want to carry it at all), he realized what the fluid was: simply put, blood and gore. It looked like yesterday’s outing hadn’t just been reconnaissance. The elf riding this horse had hunted successfully, and had decided to keep a … souvenir. Yes, the bag looked just about large enough to contain a troll’s head, if he reckoned their size correctly.

Distaste passed across the young man’s face. Trolls might be inhuman monsters, but they were sufficiently man-like that somehow it didn’t seem right to keep a troll head as a trophy of the hunt. Wouldn’t it be more tasteful to keep troll armor, or troll weapons, or maybe troll religious artifacts? And give the bodies a decent burial? Something just felt wrong about this violation of another sentient being’s body.

He didn’t know yet that worse was to come … far worse.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6700
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 3

Postby Graybeard » May 15th, 2011, 10:37 pm

Chapter 51: Casualties

The day passed slowly, as Lorrin grew more and more uneasy about the hunt.

The elven high commander had said the party wouldn’t be gone long. Well, maybe not in elven terms, but Lorrin had grown sufficiently used to the elven concept of time to know that “not long” might mean anything from a few minutes to a few days, depending on context and elven whim. In this case, the longer-term meaning appeared to be the one that applied. Nobody had come back to camp by noon. In fact, there almost seemed to be no evidence of the elves’ presence at all … except for one loud kraaack that echoed across the hills to the west. The sky was clear; it couldn’t be thunder. That left only magic.

“Should we go after them?” Lorrin asked Morchis, feeling uncomfortable about what he’d heard.

“No need,” the elf answered, stifling a yawn. “That was elven magic, not – troll magic.” (Lorrin had the impression he’d been about to say something else, but he couldn’t tell what.) “I could sense it. All routine stuff, they probably scored a kill or two. Or three or ten.” Lorrin didn’t like the leer on his superior’s face as he said that.

Lorrin was still trying to figure out how to pass the time when, around mid-afternoon, the elves returned, looking smug. At least that was the description that came to his mind; he scolded himself mentally, trying to convince himself that it was a reasonable body language for a successful hunt. Indeed, there were indications that the hunt had been successful enough. One of the horses was laden with a sack of what looked like weaponry. That was mildly reassuring; troll weapons, in Lorrin’s view, were more appropriate trophies of the hunt than troll heads. On the other hand, there was another horse with a sack that had the same lumpy appearance to it as the one that held the trophy head and had been left at camp. Lorrin didn’t really want to think about what was in it.

“Good hunting, my lady?” Morchis asked the Cimmerii woman.

The woman smiled back, a look that struck Lorrin as chillingly like that of an animated skull. “Very good,” she said. “We wiped out a whole village of the vermin. There might have been two or three out hunting somewhere that we missed, we’ll have to come back for them if they hang around. It’s been a most enjoyable visit to your territory.” The smile deepened into something that would have made a wolf tremble.

“Any casualties?” Morchis persisted.

The high commander stepped in. “No fatalities,” he said. “Your brother took a Flame Dart from a sentry.” He nodded toward the middle of the camp, where Seppala was apparently receiving magical medical care. “We’re on it. It shouldn’t even leave a scar. That and a few minor bruises and scrapes, that was all.”

“Sir, should we go tend him?” Darko asked, surprising Lorrin; he didn’t expect the other man to have magical skills at all, yet alone healing skills … and that thought set off the thing that had been lurking in the back of Lorrin’s mind ever since the party had returned. The rest of the conversation didn’t particularly interest him, so he had time to pull the mental string.

Wait a minute, he thought. They said Seppala took magical damage from a “sentry.” From everything I’ve ever heard about trolls, the males do all the fighting, and they can’t or don’t use magic. Only the females do, and they wouldn’t be doing sentry duty. So what was going on there?

After a moment’s additional thought, he reached a conclusion he didn’t like.

I don’t think the things they were hunting were trolls at all … and I’m not sure I want to find out what they actually were.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6700
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 3

Postby Graybeard » May 22nd, 2011, 3:34 pm

Chapter 52: Unpleasant Discovery

“Well, let’s start getting packed up,” the elven high commander ordered his troops, as soon as Seppala was patched up. “That all went more quickly than expected.” That same feral look again on his face, Lorrin noted.

Darko didn’t look happy as the humans set to their packing task. Lorrin had barely met the man, and he wasn’t sure whether to approach him; if he shared the dispositions of his apparent countrymen (based on the bald heads, at least) Vlado Ordiel and Drasko Commis, he might not take well to attempts at conversation by a near-complete stranger. On the other hand, the man had seemed approachable enough earlier. Eventually Lorrin decided to take a chance. “Is something wrong?” he asked. “You don’t look happy to be leaving.” Not as happy as I am, anyway.

Darko snorted (after first looking to make sure none of the elves were watching the conversation). “Dammit, I’m getting tired of going out on these damned troll hunts and doing nothing more than being a porter and camp guard,” he said. “This is the fifth or sixth one I’ve been on, and I’ve never seen a troll yet. I joined the Ensigerum looking for action. We ain’t getting any.”

Lorrin made sympathetic noises, but inwardly he wasn’t sure he agreed with his colleague. He was remembering something the weapons master Sarine had told him: “the best battle is a battle unfought.” It was a rather un-elven thing to say, which he’d found ironic; most of the elves seemed perfectly happy to squander lives in battle, never mind that they’d live forever if they didn’t throw lives away that way. (Maybe they get tired of living, Lorrin had speculated, then decided not to pursue that thought.) However, as usual, the puzzling (if … appealing) woman made sense, and Lorrin thought her wisdom might be applicable here. From everything he’d heard, the trolls had generally been routed into the far northern territories, where elves didn’t normally go. Maybe it was necessary to fight them if a rogue band tried to re-colonize elven territory, as apparently was happening at the site across the ridge. But why want to fight? Surely a show of force would suffice to keep them at a distance, without actual blood being shed (troll, elven or human), and that was the main thing the Ensigerum were for. Wasn’t it? He was still puzzling over Darko’s attitude when it came time to break camp.

It would have been an uneventful drive back to Altissimis if it hadn’t been for the cave bear.

The huge animals weren’t really a threat to horses, even without the elven firepower traveling with them; their usual diet was surprisingly pacifistic, consisting mainly of berries, the moths that emerged in extraordinary profusion at certain times of the year, salmon that filled the streams at the time of the annual spawn, such carrion as they could chase smaller predators away from, and the occasional small animal that they somehow managed to take. However, the horses didn’t know that. (Lorrin would look back on the encounter afterward and remember a saying he’d been taught when he was first handling horses in his village, a reminder of their skittishness: “The first thing you have to remember about a horse is that it tastes good.”) When the party rounded a bend in the road and found the bear in the middle of it, unannounced by odor because of the swirling wind, the horses panicked.

It only took a moment for elven magic to shoo the bear out of the road, and not much more to calm the horses. In that moment, however, the pair of horses pulling the cart with the nobility – and the trophies of the hunt – reared, almost in unison. The elves scrambled for balance as the luggage jostled … and as Lorrin watched, a bag opened, and a trophy head rolled out and onto the ground.

A trophy head that was shaped like that of a sentient species, but wasn’t that of a troll … but it did have pointed ears. Very slightly pointed.

And now Lorrin understood what the hunt was really about.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6700
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

PreviousNext

Return to Fanfiction

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest