And There Were Three: Chapter Eighteen

Fiction By Clare Marie // 9/26/2009

"Settle down, Elinor.  My poor head can hardly think with all your gibbering."

Eltar and Elinor were spending a few quiet hours in their room, waiting for the pouring rain to cease; rather, Eltar was trying to do so, and Elinor was making it impossible.  Since Bettle had sent messengers to Emperor Armir of the Elves, her tongue would not stop clacking, chattering about what elves were like, and what they wear, and what their manners are, and what they eat.  A magpie would soon grow weary of her talk, to her brother's mind.

"Oh, but Eltar, this is just so exciting!  Do you think they'll be anything like fairies?"  And Elinor brushed Eltar's complaint away happily.

"I've heard tell they are," Eltar answered, shrugging his shoulders casually.

"Then tell me what fairies look like, please?"

"Elinor, go away and leave me alone.  I've told you about fairies hundreds of times." 

She looked pouty.  "Have not."

"Have too."

"Fine then, maybe just once or twice...it really wasn't that much."

"Ha!"

"Humph, well, perhaps a few times more!"

"Doubt it."

"Just tell me again, won't you?"

"Elinor!"

"Wha-at?"

"GO AWAY!"

"Tell me once more, please, please!"

"Do I have to fight you?"  Eltar's voice grew hard.

"Oh, I'd like to see you try!"  Elinor tossed her head.

"Alright, we'll fence.  Five touches."

"Fine then.  If I win, you tell me about the fairies.  If you win, I won't bother you for the rest of the day."

"That's all?"

"What, are you going to tell me about the panthers, too?"  She smiled.

"No, I meant, that's all on your side of the bargain."

"Take it or leave it.  I was thinking of asking you about somethine else--"

(Hastily.) "Let's go."

They grabbed their wooden swords (used, of course, for practice fighting) and marched to the throne room.  They often fenced there since the dwarves had no gymnasium.

As it turned out, Eltar won the bout, and Elinor --true to her promise-- let him alone.  She quietly set down her sword, turned her back, and walked with dignity to the throne room door.  Stealing a look back at her brother --already seated comfortably on the throne and deep in his book-- she quickly put out her tongue and tripped away.

What do I need with him, anyway?  She stuck her nose in the air and straightened her back indifferently; although really, her pride was crushed and she felt more than a little offended.  Eltar's impatience with her caused more of a wound than the lost bout did.  Striding by the dwarven workshops, she blinked back a few hot tears, for she was what Eltar would call "waterworks".  She masked a tender, easily hurt heart with a boyish scorn of tears.

Her attention was drawn by a voice calling out to her, and a horny hand grabbed hold of her skirt.  She turned, swiping away the drops.  A crinkly old dwarf sat in the corner cross-legged, his mountainous beard a snowy white, and his clothes a deep purple.  He was nodding his head, as if he understood her tears.  She smiled faintly.

"Hello," she ventured, yet the old dwarf said naught.  She stood watching him as he continued to bob his head cheerfully; she glanced down amusedly at his wrinkled paw still grasping the cloth.  He let go of a sudden, and stuck his hand in his waistcoat pocket.  He pulled out a ring made of the metal Zarwin, the most beloved of the dwarves, prized for its glassy beauty and durability.  Grunting slightly with the effort (for he was rather on the portly side), he reached out and firmly slipped the ring on her finger.  Her eyes widened, and she hesitantly stroked the flowery ring.

"For me?" she whispered.

Old Dwarf grinned broadly, and the wizened head nodded more vigorously.  Being impulsive Elinor, she threw her arms around his neck and kissed his spacious nose.

"Thank you, oh thank you!" she sobbed, utterly touched.  The old dwarf patted her back soothingly, and as she pulled herself away, gently chucked her chin.  Spirits uplifted, she skipped blithely down the halls and out the gate, scarcely knowing where she was headed.  The downpour had lessened to a tickly mist, and though already the sun was setting, the light hurt her eyes for a moment.  She closed the lids, listening.  Birds strove to sing their last songs before the sun was gone, and frogs began to croak.  A faint rainbow appeared above the mountains in the East, disappearing behind the blanket of clouds.

Elinor drew a long breath and danced merrily down the hill, exulting in the soft raindrops and sunshine.  Grass clung to her bare feet and the wind tossed her loose hair.  It felt so good to be alive, just at that moment; and she rejoiced, twirling in circles with her arms out.  She paused, breathless, and let her arms fall to her sides.  A thought struck her, and there flashed through her mind a scene from her childhood.  Her foster brothers and sisters were beside her on a hill, much like the one on which she stood outside the dwarven halls.  They were rolling down the hill in her daydream, racing to see who would reach the bottom.  Naught did they care about clothing, which were all a streaky green when they got to their feet.  She remembered being so dizzy, she had fallen down again when struggling to stand.  Anya had scolded them roundly when they arrived home.

Smiling now at the reminiscer, Elinor looked about her slyly.  Espying no other person, she giggled and threw herself on the grass.  She tumbled ungracefully to the foot, where she plopped in a tussled heap, shrieking with laughter.  She had forgotten how fun it was.  Brushing in vain the grass off her skirt and preparing to climb back up the hill, something suddenly caught her eye.  It was far off in the midst of the woods, and she wasn't sure she had seen anything.  A fiery hope flamed in her breast, that perhaps a wood-nymph was what she saw (she had never met one before, or she might have been wiser of their ways).  She wanted to go find out.

 

+++

 

The sun had fallen quietly behind the hills when Elinor realized that she was lost.  She had seen no dryad, nor anything to excite her curiosity, and now she merely wanted to get back to familiar territory.  Had there been daylight, perhaps she could have found her way; but all was dark.  The trees loomed hauntingly above her.  There was not a sound, which frightened her more than the most terrible screech.  She imagined bats wheeling silently overhead on naked wings, and cold fingers reaching out to snatch her.

Drawing a shuddering sigh, she sank down on the forest floor and sobbed.  Her hands clenched and unclenched, and her whole body was rigid.  She tried her best to smother the tears so she would not make noise, yet her grief was too great.

"Please, oh please," she moaned, "I just feel so alone."  She didn't quite know what she was saying exactly, nor to whom her words were addressed; but somehow they eased the pain.

A sound reached her ears, loud in the forest's smothering silence.  There were voices!  She scrambled to her feet.  In the distance shone a cheerful fire, inviting her to come and enjoy its warmth.  It had to be a search party, and crying "Eltar!" she ran to the flames, regardless of the branches whipping her face and vines entangling her feet.  As she drew nearer the fire, she saw a glimmer in the moonlight to her left, and realized that the road was near.  

The figures hunched around the fire jumped up when they heard her crashing through the brush.  Elinor leaped into their midst, a bruised and muddied figure.  Laughing hysterically in her joy, she was about to speak when she realized her mistake.  Horrified, she stood still while the tall cloaked ones stared at her in silence. 

They were her uncle Glayde's men.

They were Southerners.

 

+++

 

The dwarves Bettle had sent to receive an answer from the Elf-Lord Armir were singing solemnly as they trooped down the road.  They could see their mountain home in the distance, before the sun set, and they were cheered by the knowledge.  Tortei was their leader, but he alone seemed crestfallen out of the whole brigade.  He plodded in silence, his brow furrowed.  Another dwarf, Trex, broke off his singing and stepped next to Tortei.

"You look sorrowful, Tortei my friend," he said softly.  The moon peeked out from behind a cloud and lighted their way.  Tortei looked up at it and shrugged. 

"Why is it that you alone are sad while the rest of us are so merry?" persisted Trex.  "Something displeases you, perhaps."

"Trex, I am not in the mood to talk," snorted Tortei, and he tugged his cloak tighter about him.  Trex merely stared, but then he walked away and joined again in the singing.  Tortei stared at the road, muttering and frowning.  The truth of the matter was that Tortei was regretting the message he was to bring Bettle, for it meant the removal of the twins; and although Tortie rarely displayed it, in his heart he loved his young friends and knew he would miss them sorely.  He was rather crusty, after the manner of dwarves, and so disliked to admit this, especially to his fellows.  Thus he grumbled to himself, opening his heart to himself, telling himself his troubles and patting himself on the back: characteristics not unusual for a dwarf.

They were chanting merrier tunes when the uneasy silence of the forest was broken by a terrible clamoring noise.  It was like the sound of a void opening in the sky, swallowing all the life forms on earth with a sucking screech.  Yet mingled strangely with it were noises like the ring of hammer on steel and the deep voices of a choir of dwarves all singing one note.  Tortei's company halted dead in their tracks and closed their mouths.  Wonder and fear filled their faces; and somehow hope was in their eyes.  They stood still, entranced.  As swiftly as the Noise came it stopped, and a white light sprang into the air, contesting with the stars.

"Come!" shouted Tortei, startling the dwarves out of their trance.  "Let us investigate this light."  He turned and led them through the wood, heedless of all else.  He was eager to find the source of the Noise and the Light, though they frightened him.  The company, as eager as Tortei, obeyed quickly.  Nothing was now heard but their panting, for they were running with great haste.  The trees began to look charred in the moonlight, and thousands of green leaves covered the forest floor, as if a fierce wind had shaken them from the boughs.  The company paused, looking about them.  Tortei espied a wisp of smoke some hundred feet ahead.  Silently, he pointed to it, and his fellows nodded.  Stealthily they crept, crouching low to the ground.

They reached a small clearing.  Tortei held up his hand, and they halted.

Around the clearing lay bodies of men, Southerners they seemed to be.  From this distance the company could not see if they were dead or unconscious.  All were flat on their backs, pale and cold.  A fire had been there, but it was nearly extinguished.

Tortei squeezed the dwarf nearest him (who jumped slightly, startled) and whispered excitedly, "Look!"

They followed his gaze.

In the midst of the fallen men, one was standing.

But the one was a girl.

The girl was Elinor.

In her hand she held a shining white flower, tiny but piercing.

And she was trembling.

 

*~*~*~*

Comments

A rather suspensiful chapter break.

It's keeping me hanging.  But at least Elinor is safe, that's good to know.

James | Sat, 09/26/2009

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"The idea that we should approach science without a philosophy is itself a philosophy... and a bad one, because it is self-refuting." -- Dr. Jason Lisle

How can you leave me hanging

How can you leave me hanging like this?!?!?!?!? More, more soon....Pleaaaaaaaaase! Pretty please with sugar on top?!?!?

Ariel | Sun, 09/27/2009

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"To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be that have tried it." -- Herman Melville

Wow!

How did I ever loose track of this story? I'm so glad I went back and reread it all!!!!

How COULD you stop there? Not fair at all!!!! :0)

I really like this story--really, eeally, really. I LOVE the dwarves, especially King Bettle, he's cool! And I like their name for tea--"CHilled Foliage". :0) LOL!

Heather | Mon, 09/28/2009

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And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"

James: Is Elinor

James: Is Elinor REALLY safe??  Mwahahaha! ;D

Old-Fashioned Girl: More is coming...soon, I think...be patient! :)

Heather: (I love stopping at suspenseful moments, it's so strangely fun. :P) Thanks so much, you don't know how encouraging your comment was. :)  Bettle's one of my favorites. :D

Clare Marie | Thu, 10/01/2009

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"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve." -Bilbo Baggins [The Lord of the Rings]

Wow, sweet and moving! I knew

Wow, sweet and moving! I knew almost immediately what had caused the white flash. Keep it up, chief! Keep it up!

Laura Elizabeth

Anonymous | Fri, 10/02/2009

This is my FAVORITEST chapter

This is my FAVORITEST chapter so far!  And I like the flower  she's holding; I kind of got the impression it was magical.  (Isn't it cool the way you can make your readers feel whatever way you want them too?)

Bridget | Fri, 10/02/2009

"I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth. Then I ask myself the same question." - Harun Yahya

Thank you. :)  And yes, I

Thank you. :)  And yes, I absolutely LOVE making my readers feel whatever way I want them too.  It's kind of hard to accomplish, though.  ;)

Clare Marie | Tue, 10/06/2009

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"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve." -Bilbo Baggins [The Lord of the Rings]

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