Chapters 6-11

Chapter 6. Roe and the Dark Elves


  As the years went by without Thorundur showing up again, Roe realised that he probably had forgotten about her and was busy with his life with the elves. She would never forget her best friend even if they only had spent a short time together. But that year had been the best time of her life. There was not a day that went by when she didn’t think about the elf and the good times that they had shared together.
  Roe was, however, not unhappy. It was not in her nature to be unhappy for a long time and she still enjoyed her life with all the small adventures in the forest. One day she made new friends. A couple of dark elves, Ondina and Orm, had moved to a place in the mountains not very far from Roe’s family’s hunting grounds. Their blue eyes reminded her of Thorundur. At first she had thought that Thorundur’s eyes looked strange but very soon she’d started to like his blue eyes that were so vivid.  
  Ondina and Orm were much older than her and she didn’t share the same kind of familiarity with them that she had with Thorundur but she enjoyed spending time with the elves.
  Ondina smiled friendly. “You know everything that is worth to know about the forest Roe. Would you like to help us to collect some of the ingredients that we need for our potions? Perhaps we can help you sometime in return.”
  Roe was flattered. The dark elves made her feel special when they thought that she could help them with their magic. Some of the ingredients that Ondina and Orm had asked for were extremely poisonous. It was the kind of plants and mushrooms that she had been taught to carefully avoid. Roe figured that it was logic that strong magic required strong ingredients.
  “I used to have a friend who was an elf just like you. He’s name was Thorundur.” Roe smiled sadly.
  “That sounds like a light elf name.” Ondina’s eyes met Orm’s.
  “Yes, of course. Thorundur is a light elf.” Roe was puzzled by the strange expression in Orm’s and Ondina’s faces.


  “I’m sure that he was a nice person if you chose him to be your friend.” Ondina didn’t sound as if she really meant this. “But you should know that light elves cannot be trusted. There are things in the past that we will never forgive them. They started a cruel war against the dark elves and we will never forget our terrible losses. It’s probably better for you to keep away from light elves.” Ondina’s face hardened when she talked about light elves.
  This was a lot more information about the elves than Roe had wanted to have and the new knowledge disturbed her. Forest people had no enemies and treated everyone with respect. How strange that dark elves and light elves who were of the same kind did not get along with each other! She didn’t talk more about Thorundur and didn’t ask about the differences between light and dark elves because she really didn’t want to hear any bad things about light elves.

  “I don’t think you should spend so much time with the elves,” Otter’s ears twitched slightly and Roe had to look down to hide her smile. She didn’t want her mother to believe that she was being disrespectful. It was always so easy to tell when Otter was uncertain. Her ears revealed her. “We Forest people proud ourselves to be polite and kind but we don’t socialise with other species and only rarely with those of our own kind that are not family. I know that you had much fun with the light elf when you were a child but you are growing up and should follow the ways of our people.”
  “Why don’t Forest people socialise with others?” Roe couldn’t understand this. It was so fun and interesting to be with the elves.
  Otter’s ears twitched again. She really didn’t know exactly why she thought that Roe shouldn’t spend time with the elves. It just felt strange and wrong. She worried because it became more and more clear that maybe Roe was different from other Forest people, and according to Otter being different meant trouble. “Because it’s not how we are. It’s against our nature.” Otter realised that the answer was insufficient for Roe who just looked more questioning.

  Roe hugged her mother. “Don’t worry about me mum. I’ll be fine.” Otter gave up. Maybe being different could be something very good sometimes, she thought hopefully.
  Wolf sat down by the fire next to Roe. “It’s time for the Forest people meeting next summer. You’re now old enough to participate in the competitions, and I think that you will enjoy that.”
  Roe was thrilled. She still remembered her first and only meeting as a very special event in her life. She would indeed enjoy competing with other hunters of her own kind.
  Roe had seen a colony of bees in a tree some days before and had decided that she would surprise her parents with honey today. She was thinking about how happy Otter and Wolf would be when she came home with the honey when her sharp nose picked up a very familiar scent that she had not felt for many years now. The scent brought back so many memories from the past, but it was not possible, she must be mistaken.
  She was not mistaken. Suddenly he stood there in the forest looking straight at her, just like the first time that she’d met him.
  “Hi Roe, I think that you have grown since last time I saw you.” The familiar smile made his eyes glitter.

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Chapter 7. Happy Reunion

  ”Thorundur!” Roe threw herself around Thorundur's neck. “I’ve missed you so much!”
  “I missed you too Roe. My parents wouldn’t let me leave home until now. I was so afraid that you might have moved so that I wouldn’t be able to find you again.”
  It was like they never had parted. They could still talk about everything and spent almost all time together. Thorundur enjoyed hunting and was more than happy to learn from Roe who had improved her skills during the years that had passed. 

  “I have such a good time with you Roe.” Thorundur said and Roe felt warm and happy. “You’re the best sister I could have.” Somehow these words didn’t make Roe as happy as they used to.
  “I met two dark elves who became my friends.” Roe worried about how Thorundur would react to this information considering what the dark elves had told her about the relations between light and dark elves. But Roe didn’t want to have any secrets for Thorundur.
  “Dark elves!” Thorundur looked upset. “Dark elves are evil. How could you be friend with such people?” he asked accusingly. 

  Roe was hurt and angry. “They were nice to me and they are my friends. Ondina and Orm said that light elves are cruel. I can’t understand why elves cannot get along with each other.”
  She got up and walked away.
 “Wait, Roe. I didn’t mean to be angry at you. It’s not your fault. You couldn’t know how cruel dark elves can be. Please don’t be angry at me. Do you still see the dark elves?”
Roe hadn’t seen Ondina and Orm for some time before Thorundur showed up. She didn’t know if they kept away because they knew that Thorundur was here or if they just were busy with other things.
  “I won’t see them again as long as you’re here if you don’t want me too,” she said.
  “I better stay then,” he said with a smile.
  Thorundur was upset to learn that Ondina and Orm had settled down in the mountains not very far away from his brother’s home. But Thorundur and Roe didn’t talk more about the dark elves.
 
 

  “Father you can’t be serious!” Princess Aliendre was upset.
  “You’re the only elf here who’s about the same age as Prince Alexander,” King Eraldor said. “I think that it’s more than reasonable and polite that you spend some time with him. He’s going to be treated as an honoured guest in our palace.”
  “But a human!” Aliendre was not happy. “Am I supposed to be a nanny to a human?” She could think of thousands of things that she’d rather do than spend time with a human.
  “Humans may be mortal and different from us but they are our allies. We have not forgotten the help that they gave us when the evil dark elves started the war hundreds of years ago. You were not born then but most of the light elves are old enough to remember how the humans helped us to win the war when it looked hopeless. Our numbers were seriously reduced and never has there been a sorrow worse than what we experienced because of the war. The human king who supported us was an ancestor to Prince Alexander and therefore the prince must be treated with respect.”
  Aliendre sighed and bowed her head.
  Although Aliendre had no other choice than to do as she was told, she didn't look forward to the visit by the human.
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Chapter 8. Travellers


  Alexander had looked after his horse Galaxy and was walking back to the camp fire when he heard that the guards were talking about him.
  “I would very much prefer to be at home with my family instead of looking after a spoiled brat prince in the middle of nowhere” Robert said.
  “I know, but the payment is good,” Roland answered. 

  Alexander was chocked and sad. Was that how people thought of him, as a spoiled brat? He realised that lately he had probably deserved such an opinion about himself. But he would change that. He walked slowly to the camp.

  “Where is the axe Robert?” Alexander said.
   Robert looked puzzled. “Why?” he asked.
   “Obviously we need some more wood for the fire.”
  Alexander grabbed the axe and walked away. It was harder than he had thought but finally he had a nice pile of logs. Satisfied with the result he decided that he would show everyone that he was a lot more than a spoiled prince.

  “We’re not very far away from the elven palace now,” Roland said. Can you see the mountains over there?”
  Alexander looked in the direction Roland pointed and nodded.
  “Never go to close to the mountains. It’s said that dark elves dwell there,” Roland said. “They can put a spell on you so that you’re lost in the wilderness forever.”
Alexander shuddered. He had read about dark elves and their black magic and had no intention to have any closer contact with them. It was good the light elves’ palace was in a completely different direction.

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Chapter 9. The Light Elves' Palace


   Alexander had never seen elves before except at the banquet that was hold to his honour when he was little. Of course he could not remember that. All elves looked like they were the same age with one exception, a young girl about his age. She must be Princess Aliendre he thought. The princess looked steady at him with her large blue eyes and an expression that indicated that she was bored.
   Alexander thought that she was the most beautiful girl that he’d ever seen.

   Aliendre’s bored expression did not change when it was her turn to greet the guest.
   “I am pleased to meet you Prince Alexander.” Her voice was soft and graceful but her facial expression did not match her words. There was not a trace of a smile on her lips.
   The guards only stayed to get a couple of days rest from the travel before it was time for them to return home. When Roland bowed and said “Goodbye Alexander it was a pleasure to escort you,” he sounded sincere and when he looked at Alexander it was with a respect that hadn’t been there before.
  The guards left and Alexander was the only human left. But the elves were friendly and kept him busy. There were always new and interesting things to learn. Alexander worked hard, determined to make a good impression and to improve himself.
   The palace garden was magnificent. Pleasant flagrances from colourful flowers filled the air. Bees and butterflies drank from the nectar. Archways, fountains, footpaths and statues added to the beauty.
Most fantastic of all was the statue of the elven queen. It was perfect with real clothes and hair.
   “I hope that you have settled in and that everything is to your satisfaction.” The friendly voice
made Alexander jump because he had thought that he was alone.

  “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you Alexander. I was lost in the past. Sometimes we elders forget the present and loose ourselves in past times.”
Now Alexander realised that it was not a statue at all. It was actually the queen herself who had been completely still in the same posture for a long time. He could swear that she hadn’t even blinked.
 
 

  Despite all new things to explore and learn Alexander felt a bit lonely and missed his friends and family. He had hoped that he and Aliendre would become friends. After all they were the only teenagers here. She did, however, seem to avoid him. He greeted her every time they occasionally met but she answered shortly and did not stop even to exchange a few polite phrases. Usually girls were more than happy to talk with Alexander, but on the other hand he had never met an elven girl before.
   To Alexander’s surprise and delight Aliendre approached him one day. “Would you like to come with me on an excursion?” she asked. There was still not a trace of a smile in her face.

   They went by horse to a place close to the palace. All colours were more intense than they were at home in the human kingdom. The grass was greener and there were colourful flowers that Alexander had never seen at home.
   "It looked almost like an enchanted landscape," he said this to Aliendre in an attempt to open a conversation.
   “Of course,” she said. The king and queen use their powers too keep this place as we like it.”
   Alexander was dumbfounded. He hadn’t really expected magic to be involved although he had known that some of the elves from the oldest families had strong powers. It was one thing to read about magic powers and another thing to see evidence of it.
   “Would you like to practice archery with elven bows?” Aliendre said.
   “Yes, I would love to.” Alexander had always enjoyed archery. Aliendre provided him with a bow and arrows.
   The first arrow hit the target in the bullseye and the next was not very far from it. Alexander found that his results were better than ever. He had never used such a good bow. “Has this been prepared with magic?” he asked Aliendre. It seamed reasonable that the bow could be enchanted if the landscape was.
   “No,” she said as if he was stupid to ask such a question. “We have very skilful craftsmen.”
   Alexander shot some more arrows and was satisfied with the result. Aliendre picked up a bow and started to practice on another target and Alexander noted that she was skilled. Obviously she had done this many times before.
   “Would you like to compete?” Alexander asked.
   Aliendre nodded. Although Alexander couldn’t deny that she was very talented he was satisfied to note that he was better. He was too competitive to consider letting her win just to be polite.
   A small wrinkle formed between Aliendre’s brows and her otherwise full lips narrowed to a thin line.
   “Let’s increase the distance,” she said.
   Okay, she’s a bad loser Alexander thought amused and accepted the challenge. He felt confident about his skill with the bow. All the hours of practice had given result and with the elven bow he was better than ever. But when he saw how far away Aliendre had meant he protested. “I can hardly see the targets there. How am I am supposed to be able to aim?”
  Aliendre smiled content. “Do you give up?”
  Although Alexander did well Aliendre won this time. I was clear that elves had better vision than humans. Aliendre was not only a bad loser she was also a bad winner. Although Alexander could tell that she tried to hide her content she did not succeed very well.

  Alexander picked some flowers nearby. “These are for the beautiful winner” he said with smile. “I will carry them back home for you.”
   To Alexander’s surprise and delight Aliendre’s lips formed bright smile that made her look radiant. For once the imperious princess was amused. “You shouldn’t have picked those flowers,” she said.
   “Why, is there a law against picking them?” Alexander looked horrified and threw the flowers on the ground.
   “No, there’s no need for a law. No one would be stupid enough to pick them,” Aliendre said with a laugh. “Almost no one” she corrected herself with a look at Alexander. “You will understand very soon what I’m talking about.”
   Before Aliendre had finished the sentence Alexander felt how his hands started to twinge and he could see vesicles popping up.
   “The flowers have a poisonous sap,” Aliendre said. The tone of compassion in her voice surprised Alexander. “It’s not dangerous but will hurt for a while. You’re lucky though. I have something in my saddle bag that will help.”
   She got an ointment and salved Alexander’s hands that started to feel better immediately. Aliendre’s hands were warm and soft.
   “It was worth it to see you smile” Alexander said when Aliendre met his eyes for a moment. That seemed to get her out of balance for a short while.
   When they rode home Aliendre smiled a little when he joked with her. She told him about the places they passed and asked a couple of questions about his family. In the short ride home they exchanged more words than they had since Alexander came to the light elves.
   Alexander smiled. He had known exactly what plants that he had picked. They grew at home also and he was well aware that they would cause a rash. It had been worth it to break the ice between him and Aliendre. An extra bonus was that Aliendre had had a healing salve so he didn’t even have to suffer much. He thought about the softness of Aliendre’s hands. It had been a very good day on the whole.

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Chapter 10. The Tribunal



   Alexander studied his image in the mirror for a long time while he combed his hair without being completely satisfied with the result. Maybe he should let his hair grow long like the elves, he thought. He changed clothes a couple of times before he was ready for breakfast.

   When he got out of his room he saw Aliendre and she was looking at him. She looked puzzled as if she tried to figure out something.
   “Good morning,” Alexander said, and for the first time the princess returned his greeting with a friendly smile.
   Alexander found that Aliendre smiled often now. They spent more and more time together. Aliendre wanted to know everything about the human word, something that she recently had seemed to consider being below her dignity. Alexander was cheerful by nature and his jokes made her laugh.
   Alexander woke up. It was dark and the moonlight trickled through the coloured glass in his window.
   Upset voices reached his room. There seemed to be several elves in the courtyard who talked about something that they were clearly not happy about. Alexander went out to find out what was going on.
   Between two light elves in armour was a teenage boy who Alexander thought must be a dark elf. The boy was obviously a prisoner and did not seem to be any older than Alexander.
   “It’s outrageous. We found him close to the palace,” one of the light elves said.
   “Don’t you know that this is forbidden area for dark elves?”
   The boy’s jaws were tense and his eyes filled with pride. He kept silent and did not answer any of the questions that he was asked.

  Everyone’s eyes turned as King Eraldor came out from the main door. The situation was quickly explained for him. There was a grim expression in the elven king’s face. “Lock him up for the night and we’ll have the trial here in the courtyard tomorrow.”
   Alexander was already awake when the sun rose. He hadn’t been able to get much sleep. The tribunal was going to be held in the courtyard and Alexander was expected to be in the audience. The expressions in the light elves’ faces gave him a bad feeling about what to expect. He did not envy the boy who was going to be judged by this crowd. The dark elf was pushed in front on the light elves.
   He still refused to answer any questions and looked steady at the light elves with pride and hatred.

  When Alexander for a short moment met the boy’s eyes he could tell that there was fear behind the pride in them. Some kind of conviction seemed to be made after a very short trial.
   Eraldor stood up to announce the sentence. “Your memory and your sense will be taken away from you before you will be released in the forest far away from here.”
   This was a sentence Alexander had never heard in any human trial that he had attended but it did not sound good.

  The boy’s jaws became even tenser and his face paler but he kept his eyes steady and did not say anything. His name was still unknown as he had not said a word since he was caught. Eraldor lifted his arm and the silence was compact. The power of the words coming from Eraldor’s mouth was obvious even for Alexander who did not understand them. A light bolt went from Eraldor’s fingers and hit the dark elf whose face became totally blank. He was dragged away by two light elves. No one spoke. Alexander met Aliendrie’s eyes and could tell that she had also been deeply shaken. To be released in the forest without memory or sense could be nothing else that a death sentence Alexander thought. What had the boy done to deserve such a destiny? All Alexander knew was that the dark elf had been too close to the light elves’ palace.

  Eraldor sat down looking tired and worn as if all his energy had been drawn out of him with the spell. He went slowly into to the palace, supported by his wife, and stayed out of sight for three days.
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Chapter 11. Boar Hunt



  Roe waited at the usual place. She loved early summer mornings and the sensation when the rising sun started to warm her skin.
  
  When she saw Thorundur her heart started beating faster and all colours became brighter. She loved how the sunlight made his blond hair shine. Everything was so much more fun when she shared it with Thorundur.
   “I’ve never seen you use any magic,” Roe said. “Don’t all elves have magic powers?”
   “It’s mostly the oldest elves and sometimes their children. I don’t have much power but there’s something that I can do. Look!”
   Thorundur closed his eyes and concentrated. He reached out his fingers and started to say some strange words that he repeated many times under deep concentration. After a long while Roe could see a small flame of fire coming from his fingertips. With a last effort he lighted a fire.
   “That’s fantastic Thorundur. You’re so skilled.”
   Thorundur had to sit down to rest. The spell had drained him of energy but he looked very content. Roe didn’t have the heart to tell him that she could have lit the fire much quicker and with less effort without magic.

   It was getting colder each day. Roe took a deep breath letting her lungs fill with the fresh autumn air. She took a new breath but this time only with her nose. “I can smell the boar here. It must be in this direction,” she said. She could feel the adrenaline running through her veins, sharpening her senses and making her feel really good.
   “You’re right. Here’s the track. It looks fresh,” Thorundur whispered.
   “Are you ready?” Roe nodded in the direction of the wild boar that was drinking from the lake.
   Thorundur raised his bow and aimed. Just as he was about to fire the arrow the boar looked up and ran away. The arrow went through the air and hit the ground where the boar had been half a second before. “I can’t believe it! I had him! Something scared him.”
   There was a movement in the bushes by the lake and a dirty skinny figure appeared. He looked ragged and his eyes bewildered. When he saw Roe and Thorundur there was a look of total terror in his face before he turned away and ran through the forest in an amazing speed as if something horrible was hunting him. Soon he was out of sight.

  “What was that? Surely that was an elf but he looked as if he had no sense at all,” Roe said.
   “He was a Dark elf so of course he wouldn’t have any sense. He made us loose the boar.”
   Despite the harsh words from her friend Roe could see that the strange behaviour of the boy had disturbed Thorundur as well.
   “If he acts like that he will get himself killed really soon.” Roe shuddered at the thought of the boy who had seemed so lost in the forest. There had clearly been something terribly wrong with him.

  
  “Next summer I will go to a Forest people meeting,” Roe said.
  “Can I come with you?”
  Roe hesitated, not knowing how to tell Thorundur that only Forest people could go.

   Thorundur laughed. “I was joking. I know that your people would be shocked to se an elf at their secret meeting. Besides I’m going to visit the King’s and the Queen’s palace with Toraldor and his wife. It’ll probably be about the same time as your meeting. As I told you before, my brother Toraldor’s wife, Liandra is a very distant relative to Queen Eliene. We’ll have so much to tell each other when we meet again after I have been at the palace and you at the big secret Forest people meeting.”
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