“The Emerald has conditions. Iolas is to remain here as eyes to reveal when the infiltrators try to follow through with their task. Everyone else goes through. Afterwards, all return, including you, Ehrendil, and all those exiled. Your task is to regain control of the Ljósálfar and banish all who stand against you.”
“Beware the darkness of dragons,Tui T. Sutherlands
Beware the stalker of dreams,
Beware the talons of power and fire,
Beware one who is not what she seems.”
“And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.”The Bible
This is another short story for this month’s prompt. Part of the WIP that is now near an end.
Dragon Stone: Portal
Elijah and Raenisa arrived at the council chambers to see Ehrendil holding his head as the Caucus fell into disarray and bickering. Inside, his anger grew. Was this how The Black felt watching its world crumble into dust? The dark elf just stared in disbelief. To her, this was no different to the shambles Xalordryn oversaw.
The mage strode to the table and smote it with his staff. It impacted, sending sparks flying in all directions. Under his cloak, the Eye woke. The last time power surged like that, a wight was vaporised. He drew it out and cast it to the centre of the table. From it, green smoke wafted and formed into the image of The Emerald. The silence that followed was palpable. Ehrendil looked up and smiled, a wave of his hand dismissing guards that had entered in response to Elijah’s approach. Raenisa just stared. This was a mage she did not know.
“Ehrendil, this council is not fit for purpose. Are they so insular that nothing your daughter asks finds of concern? This,” he flung his hand toward the Stone, “is the beast of lore. She sees what I see, and in kind, we see fatted cows sitting while the world dies.”
“You use old magic, wizard. The like of which has not been seen since the days of the empire.”
Elijah turned his head to gaze on Lina Fearmer, daughter of Hironna. That she was a sorceress was obvious. Her eyes spoke volumes, swirling centres of knowledge that he knew the rest of the council either ignored or put down as the ramblings of a fool. He held her stare and felt a powerful send enter his mind.
Your presence brings death, Elijah of Darrow. If they follow your wish, then both Ljósálfar and Dökkálfar will unite and be lost. All we hold dear will be sacrificed unless you can bring her back.
Her hand arced toward the dragon hovering over the Stone. Elijah understood the meaning and already knew both clans knew little or war. Together they might hold firm, but only briefly unless relief came to their aid. Whether that would be The Emerald depended on the whims of a dragon. Instinct said she would return, but his heart said she would not.
He flicked his eyes to look at her, then switched to Ehrendil. Gracie’s father had sat up, knowing more was said privately than spoken. He looked as if the trust was broken. Elijah considered that might be the send. A quick look around the table saw eyes still locked on the pendant and dragon. Only Ehrendil seemed to know some other discourse had occurred.
Raenisa touched his arm, “What is it?” she whispered.
“Conspiracy. Within this council are factions. Look at Ehrendil.”
The dark elf approached the table, closed her eyes and felt the atmosphere. It was stale and full of pheromones. Fear mostly and tinged with corruption. Elijah was right. At least three were plotting to kill Ehrendil. The witch was onside.
“Lord Ehrendil, it is with great humility that I stand before you asking for an audience on behalf of the Dökkálfar. The outside world is on the verge of war. Both our peoples sit in bubbles filled with ignorance and greed.” Her eyes moved to each council member hoping Ehrendil would take heed. “Xalordryn Beltalyon of the War Council requests a truce and seeks ambassadors to visit the Underdark and negotiate new agreements for trade and prosperity. In return, they offer strategic alliances. Should war come, they will stand side by side with the Ljósálfar as it was in the days before the sacrilege of my ancestors.” Again her eyes gave him a pleading look. She hoped he would see the urgency that private council might serve better.
Well-spoken elf. The cravens seated here would seal us all in a tomb. Lock the wyvern in a cage and either over the centuries. Four seek to assassinate Ehrendil Eiljor and his daughter. None will seek an audience with your kind.”
Elijah squeezed her hand beneath the table line to indicate he had heard the witch. From Ehrendil, there was a perceptive nod. “My Lord, if it pleases you, I have matters to attend of some urgency. Raenisa sought this council. Hear her words.” He took back the pendant, and the charm broke. The council members sat back, glaring at the outsiders. Only Lina smiled.
“Go, Mage. I will come to you once this meeting is adjourned.”
Elijah left the Caucus calmer than he felt. At least with the Dökkálfar, treachery was expected. They had previous history, which stuck. To see it inside the Ljósálfar council was unexpected. It made their hopes of securing passage through the mythical Dragon Gate even more precarious. He needed to find Gracie and persuade her to stay close while Raenisa led a distraction. It also gave him time to go through his memories, searching for lost enchantments that might help if matters worsened.
As luck would have it, he accidentally found her as he passed a silver tree with a bench seat wrapped around the trunk. She was oblivious to the world and lost in thought. He approached slowly. “Gracie, your father wishes you to accompany me unto the meeting adjourns.”
“He does?” She sounded sceptical.
Elijah nodded. It was a lie that he hoped was true based on the look Ehrendil gave him as he left. A pleading eye suggesting the witches send also reached him. If so, that made her a powerful ally. To perform a multiple send required great skill. In his mind, only one elf sorceress he knew of could do that, and she was still at the Keep in Tor Angra.
“He does. I could do with the company as I feel insignificant in matters requiring political minds.”
“I wouldn’t if I were in your shoes. Those people are boring, talk a lot and do nothing.” She stood up
Elijah smiled. He knew one day she would mature into a great High Elf if she survived the next few days. He might even recommend to Ehrendil that she join the Thaumaturgical Guild at the Keep and serve an apprenticeship that might lead to greatness.
“Come, show me around, and while we are at it, get some things from your chamber. If Raenisa does as I expect, you and your father might be travelling with us for a while.”
Excitement and disbelief battled inside her mind. Going beyond the woods had been a dream since reading about Elder Magi. But to hear her Da condoning it was unexpected. The Mage was holding something back. “Are we in danger?”
She looked into his eyes in a way that said a lie would fail. He nodded, “One on the council warned of a conspiracy. Both you and your father are in danger.”
Gracie’s heart sank, “That would be Lina, my mother’s sister. They talked a lot, and I overheard her saying she was considering stepping down. The others are next to useless. What was it she said?” Gracie thought for a minute, “Lazy arrogance enriched by greed that preferred to sit in pointless meetings doing nothing.”
Elijah thought for a moment. It had just got more complicated. Any assassination attempt would remove all leadership lineage, including Gracie’s mother and the witch. His head stirred as words of the Assassins Guild flooded back, “To take out a general, first gain his trust. Infiltration is key, the target must be isolated, and any links associated with them must be befriended or watched. When the strike is imminent, simultaneous delivery is essential. No traces, just corpses. Leave as you arrived here.”
The Stone pulsed as The Emerald read his thoughts. The vibration became the heartbeat of a dragon stirring for war. They are here, wizard. The Magi of Enigma have agents deployed within the council. Lure them in, go through the Gate, and I will slay them if they follow. If not seek the witch, I will speak with her only.
“Gracie, we must move now. Find your mother and pack. We leave as soon as the meeting concludes.” Elijah spoke with calm authority. Gracie looked into his eyes and, seeing the urgency went to do what he asked.
Raenisa waited until Gracie left before turning to the Mage, “Are we in danger, Elijah?”
He nodded, “Yes, The Emerald dragon spoke, and we are divided. We must regroup and speak plainly.” He paused, wondering if he should say more. It was no time for indecision, “The Magi of Enigma has infiltrated the Caucus here. They are about to assassinate Ehrendil, Gracie and her family.”
Raenisa gasped, “How can that be? Do you know which ones?”
“No, but our only ally is Lina. This witch is someone The Emerald will speak to, but first, we have to extract Ehrendil and expose the cult. If possible, lure them after us to the wyvern. She wants to see them burn.”
“And if we can expose them, the Ljósálfar may rally around the exile. Maybe all is not lost after all.”
“Agreed, follow the child and bring them both here. I will try and extract Ehrendil. Be ready to leave if we return; if we do not, go without me and take them to Xalordryn. With his help, matters might yet be turned to an advantage.”
“That path has risks, Elijah. We do not yet know if my husband sent rangers to find us or if the cult was allowed to pass.”
The mage sighed, “Plenty of knowledge rests in a useless plane.” He thought for a while. “If the Gate still exists, then Ehrendil will know where. We follow the plan of the dragon.”
Raenisa nodded, gathered her things and went after Gracie. “Good fortune Elijah. Just make sure you stay safe.”