And There Were Three: Chapter Twenty

Fiction By Clare Marie // 12/3/2009

A figure stood alone on the top of the dwarves' mountain-fortress.  He was watching the sun sink into the west, a globe of fire among cushions of purple.  Around him -- north, south, east -- all was dark.  A crescent moon rose in the dusk of the east, the same sliver that had shone down upon a far away fairy wood -- almost 14 years ago now.  The same boy looked up at it, marveling at its mystery.  He heard the trees rustling in a cold wind far below, whispering secrets to each other.  This was Eltar's favorite place to be, and he often came up on an evening, to rest and think.  Tonight he wanted to ponder the events of about ten days ago, when Elinor was almost taken captive by Southerners, and an arcane Zarwin-ring saved her.  Elinor for some reason had been unable to clearly remember the dwarf who had given it to her, and she had done her best to describe him; but either hers was an erroneous description, or he was avoiding the King's men, for he could not be found.  Ever since the incident, Elinor had not quite been herself.  She had -- seemingly -- recovered soon enough, but Eltar was still worried about her.  She had bouts of depression and silence, which was extremely uncharacteristic for the bubbly Elinor.

Eltar had other things on his mind as well.  His parents and his foster family were always there anyway; but elves now glided through his thoughts.  No word had yet come to King Bettle, concerning whether or not the elves would welcome the human travelers; and although Ropsy told Eltar again and again that it was at least a week's journey from Emperor Armir's palace to that of Bettles, and they would be lucky if the elves even set out from their empire within a week (they couldn't make decisions quickly, or so the dwarves claimed); but the boy was still impatient.  He moved restlessly about the mountaintop.

A sudden horn blew faintly in the crisp evening air.  Eltar paused and eagerly watched the western road.  Out of the sunset, seemingly, came a great legion, with banners held high and snapping in the air; with horses prancing; with armor sparkling; and with royal voices uplifted in a marching aria.  As nearer they came, he could see their hair flowing out behind their lordly faces, and he could hear snorts and an occasional neigh from the horses, stepping high with arched necks.  The armor of the horses and riders alike was pure white, but it glowed gold in the sunlight; and it stood out like a diamond against the midnight black of the horses.  Each horse was the same dark color, with a single star of white on the broad forehead.  As Eltar watched, the heralds in the front of the line lifted up their honrs again, and the rich tones flew high and wide in the clear air, fading only reluctantly with the sun.

Eltar scrambled down from his perch, going at a pace dangerous enough to break his neck.  But he did not care.  If these are only the message-bearers, he thought, then what must their whole army be like?

He dropped off the rock, landing on his feet in the deep grass.  The troop of elves -- for of course that was who they were -- had not yet emerged from the shadows of the forest path.  He rushed past dwarves who were speedily lighting the red lamps along the road, and he collided with Chot just inside the stone door.  The little dwarf was so anxious he couldn't talk, but could only issue commands by a series of squeaks and whistles, gesturing wildly at a group of young dwarves who seemed unsure of how to man the gate.  Elinor followed him about, offering a handkerchief to mop his sweaty brow.

"You had better get out of the way, Chot!"  Eltar told the gatekeeper, glancing suspiciously at the gate and the dwarves who were raising it.

"Eh?" piped Chot, glasses falling off his nose.  Just then the gate came down with a crash, and the twins ran to help yank it back up.  Fortunately none were hurt.  Ropsy and Bettle came running, with the Royal Bodyguard trotting along behind.  Ropsy alone seemed unperturbed by the coming of the elves, for Eltar and Elinor were working feverishly, Bettle hopped rabbit-like here and there with confusing orders, and Chot was so worked up he was obliged to blow his nose. 

But at last the gate lifted up and stayed.  Ropsy shooed his brother back to his throne, who hissed, "Where is Tortei?  He is the Master of Ceremonies, is he not?  Ropsy, stay behind and fill in for him, there's a good fellow."  Ropsy -- being the real Master of Ceremonies -- smiled at poor discombobulated Bettle and obliged, standing calm while the other dwarves and the twins filed in behind him.  Chot began squeaking something about elves ("Never liked elves, never did, hmph") whereupon Elinor pinched him, and silence fell.  All listened while the hoofbeats neared and soft discourse replaced singing.

Elinor felt a nudge from her brother.

"Remember your manners," he hissed.

"Only if you will," answered Elinor, much too loudly.  "Shh!"  "Shh!" came hastily from the dwarves.  And then appeared the elven banner-bearer.  He held a great standard: four many-pointed stars upon a background of deep blue.  His other hand held a small silver horn (he held onto his horse with his knees, as all good riders do).  As the rest of the company surged in, he lifted up the horn and blew.  It was a quiet blast, but in the dusky caverns it echoed like a forest of horns.  The rider just behind him dismounted and walked with dignity up to Ropsy.

"Hail, O Master Delver," spoke the elf, coldly but courteously, and executing a fine bow.  "Our high Emperor Armir sends thee and all thy noble folk, our allies, his greeting; and with it my company and I make a request, on behalf of our renowned Emperor, to speak with thy most honored King, Bettle; concerning, as is natural, the question of the two Small Folk."  Here he bowed to Eltar and Elinor.  They were too excited to notice the waves of disapproval radiating from the elf, or to care that they were called 'Small Folk'.

"Whew!" whistled Eltar softly to his sister.  "If I could talk like that, I could be a King, I guess!  Sounds stuck-up, doesn't it, almost?  Wonder how he gets it all out without making a mistake?"

"Maybe he reviews it before hand," chucked Elinor.  But then she immediately shushed Eltar when he started laughing too.  "Shh, I want to hear what else they're saying."  But they found themselves getting hustled along with the other dwarves by Chot -- "Never liked elves, and never will either!  Humph" -- and Elinor, looking back, saw the elves following.

"What's going on?" asked Eltar.  "What did Ropsy say?"

"Oh, he gave them a pretty answer," piped Chot, wiping his spectacles indignantly.  "Prettier than that elf's.  Now we're all marching to the throne room to talk to King Bettle.  Why you young things like elves so much, I don't know; those hoighty-toighty, prettier-than-thou --"  The twins laughed so hard at this funny little display of dislike, Chot was a little hurt.  "Well, go ahead then," he said, peering at them through his owl-lenses incredulously.  "Like them, if you will.  I won't stop you."  Elinor gave him a kiss and a squeeze, whereupon the funny old owl beamed and was instantly good-natured.

At length they came to the throne room, and all the dwarves -- except Ropsy -- pressed against the side wall to let the elves pass through.  Ropsy beckoned to the twins and bade them stand to the right of the throne.  Then he nodded to the Royal Bodyguard, who came out and announced the Dwarf King.  Bettle entered, attired -- to the twins' surprise -- not in his common clothes as usual, but in his crown and royal robes.  They had, after all, never seen him in his kingly attire.

"Hail!" spoke Bettle, bowing to the elves.  "I bid you welcome to my kingdom."  The same elf who had spoken with Ropsy stepped forward, bowed, and gave his message.  He also introduced himself as Deyn, Emperor Armir's counselor.  Bettle motioned to the Royal Bodyguard, who quickly brought forward two chairs.  Bettle sat in one, Deyn the other.  Immediately, elves and dwarves left the room, the former to take off their armor and rest, the latter to escort them.  Only Ropsy and the Royal Bodyguard were left of the dwarves; the banner-bearer of the elves.  Eltar and Elinor still stood where Ropsy had placed them, watching Deyn and listening to the conversation.

"....It is, then, my Lord's pleasure," Deyn was saying, "to house the Small Folk at thy earliest convenience; they may join our company, if thou will it."  But that seemed the last thing in the world Deyn desired, from his set jaw and just the slightest hesitation.  Bettle took no notice.

"That would be best," he sad, nodding.  "When do you leave?"

"Next sunrise, I hope."  (He tried desperately not to emphasize 'hope', but he failed miserably.)

"Very well.  Now may I present to you the subjects of our conversation..."  Bettle waved the twins over.  "My lord Deyn," continued Bettle, "may I introduce to you the brother and sister, Eltar and Elinor."  Eltar bowed his best and Elinor, being nervous, could only bob a quick curtsy.  Deyn stood and bowed in return, sat again, and fixed his scornful eyes upon them.

"How old art thou both?" questioned the elf.

"Fourteen years, just turned, my lord," replied Eltar.  "Both of us."

"Art twins, then?"

"Yes, my lord."

"May I ask why thou dost travel alone?  Where is thy sire, and thy mother?"  Elinor's brow furrowed for a moment -- she hardly knew what Deyn meant by 'sire' -- but Eltar was raised by High Folk, and knew.

"Our parents both our dead, my lord."

"No other relations?"  The elf sounded surprised, but his expression did not change.

Eltar hesitated.

"None that we would own," blurted Elinor, bluntly. "We have an uncle, but he is our enemy.  His name is Glayde."

 

Deyn turned white and trembled.  He gazed with horror at Elinor.  Even the banner-bearer gave an involuntary cry.  But Eltar and Bettle and Ropsy stared at Elinor too, for they knew that that information should have been kept for the Emperor's ears only.  Elinor, suddenly realizing what she had done, almost burst into tears.  Deyn rose quickly.

"I am grieved," he said to Bettle, "to disappoint thee, but I cannot, without any apprehension, bring these Small Folk back with me, they who are related with such close ties to the Evil One...Glayde."  He shuddered.  "I must speak to my Lord Armir.  At once."  He turned to go, with a hasty bow.

"Wait, please, my lord!" cried Eltar, running after the counselor.  "Please!  You must take us with you!  You just said you would!  Please, my lord, don't go back on your word."

The counselor stood silent, pondering, and giving no answer to Eltar.  He did not speak for a long while.

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Comments

evuhl!

You are too mean to not post the next part. :(

Otherwise, it was a part I quite enjoyed although I am not understanding how the ring is causing Elinor to be depressed.

Sarah | Fri, 12/04/2009

"Sometimes even to live is courage."
-Seneca

Blogging away!
busyscribbler.wordpress.com

Wait, have we heard about

Wait, have we heard about Glayde before?  That sweet old owl!  I could hug him. :-)

Bridget | Fri, 12/04/2009

"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

Ah, my good Lady Clare, art

Ah, my good Lady Clare, art wondrous with thy pen, ah, pardon me, with thy keyboard.

Post more!

Laura Elizabeth | Sat, 12/05/2009

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The best stories are those that are focused, unassuming, and self-confident enough to trust the reader to figure things out. --

http://lauraeandrews.blogspot.com/2014/05/dont-tell-me-hes-smart.html

  I still like the goofy

 

I still like the goofy Bettle best....and awww, is it really time for them to leave the dwarves?

Have we heard about Glayde before? I don't remember....I must have missed something.

And why did you have to stop there? We have enough cliffhangers on this site! LOL, one of these days, I'll get a heart attack because of some cliffhanger on this site.

Heather | Sat, 12/05/2009

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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"

Sarah:  Well, I'm actually

Sarah:  Well, I'm actually not quite sure myself how the ring works (my characters have failed to give me all the details :P), but I do know it's dwarven magic, and dwarven magic, when wielded by humans, does not have good results.  In my big edit of this book, I'll definitely have to explain that. :)

Bridget:  Yes, we've heard about Glayde before...way back in chapter...hmm...I think it's chapter twelve.  Pretty sure.   Yeah.  Anyways, I'll have to make that more clear with the big edit. 

Laura:  Thanks so much!  :)  More will be posted, but, actually, I'm not sure it will be very soon.  I have some other things I'd like to be posting, but we'll see. :D

Heather: I'm so glad you like Bettle.  I was aiming for a goofy, ridiculous, lovable little dwarf so I feel prett satisfied. :D  As for Glayde, I told Bridget that I think he's first mentioned in chapter twelve, but when I do my big editing on this book I'll have to make it more clear that he's the bad guy.  LOL, I actually love writing cliff hangers. :D  But I hope you don't get a heart attack...we would lose one of the best writers on this site. :)

Clare Marie | Sun, 12/06/2009

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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]