THE LEGEND OF DARBANE THE FIDDLER
BY LUCIRINA TELOR VEVAN



This is the story of a young human musician, who decides to study at the side of the Injerín elves of Lýeil'soulá to become a master of his art. But for what price? Read yourself how the talented Darbane the Fiddler became a nightmarish legend for the Injerín, how his arrogance and longing for revenge corrupted his art, and why you can still hear strange melodies when passing through the Shaded Forest...
 

CHAPTER II
W
EIL

he time Darbane wandered the wood after he was banished from the Lýlei’soulá was only used to plot revenge and woe the destruction of the school as he trampled his way trough the forest, aware of the many arrows that were pointing at his back, keeping him from turning back to the Lýlei’soulá.

Darbane reached the city of Elin'dor by daybreak and entered by the tree on the east bank of the river. He did not pay any attention to the impressive beauty of the two trees that grew around the city as they glittered like diamond covered towers as the morning dew caught and reflected the light of the rising sun. Instead Darbane mearly trudged his way to the commercial district where he bought himself a new fiddle with what little money he had been able to save in the many years he had passed in the school. The fiddle was old and worn and had a pitiful sound, yet it was enough for Darbane, for the moment.

Standing on one of the most concurred town squares, high above the ground, Darbane lifted his fiddle and placed it firmly against his shoulder and his chin letting the worn bow rest on the strings a second before he started playing, as usual he was just repeating a melody he had heard many times. The talent of the bard was not enough to hide the slightly out of tune sound of the worn fiddle, but it was enough to make people stop and listen for a moment, tossing him a coin or two before they hurried on to their own business.

Darbane felt the bitter taste of ager rising in his throat as people rushed by without even stopping to lend him an ear for a second. He knew that the melody wasn't touching the heart of the ones that were listening to him, he was not able to make them feel what he wanted them to feel nor dream what he wanted them to dream.

He had tasted the power of the melody for a few instants while he was playing Jan's song in front of the whole school, he had made them all feel and do exactly what he wanted them to feel and do, but now, with his second hand fiddle he was not able to reach his audience anymore.

Darbane played all day, submerged in a haze of anger and despise toward the poor fiddle he held in his hands, the fiddle that was blocking his talent, because it was not his fault that the melody no longer reached the people around him – or was it?

The day passed and soon night fell on the city of Elin'dor, thousands of small lights glowing like Quillý'eférs among the green leaves of the two trees, the river flowing under the arch of the trees, a monotonous sound that lulled the inhabitants of the city to sleep, while the wind blew gently among the branches.

Darbane picked up what people had tossed to him during the day and counted it, cursing he realised that it wasn't enough for a proper bed in a tavern or even a single meal. He glared toward the warm light coming from the tavern, hate blossoming even deeper in his heart against the ones that didn't give him money for his music, against the fiddle that was not good enough for someone of his talent and on his masters and co-students that had thrown him out of the bard school.

Pulling the old cloak tighter around his figure, Darbane walked until he found an abandoned alley where he thought he could find some shelter for the night, unfortunately for him most of the thieves and beggars of Elin’dór also thought of the alleys as good places to rest each night, and a good opportunity to suprise any hapless traveller or wanderers that dared to trespass their territory after nightfall.

Soon enough Darbane was surrounded by rag-clad figures that tugged at his humble clothings, begging for a copper, a silver or a crust of bread. These were the outcasts, the forgotten sons and daughters of the city, the poor, the weak, the plague stroken survivors, scared forever by the horrible illness.

Darbane tried to fend the riff-raff off as good as he could, but he was overwhelmed by them, stronger in number than him. The tugging became pulling, the pulling became tearing, sharp home made daggers gleamed in what little light was left in the night and soon they had robbed him of money and clothes, even the miserable fiddle had disappeared in their hands. Darbane was left on the ground in the alley, barely covered with his undergarments that they had let him keep to cover his dignity.

Trembling with shock and anger and with several shallow gashes over his skin the bard got to his feet and spat at the ground in disgust. This city was even worse than Lýlei’soulá where he had been spared for the crude realities of the greater cities. He did not care much for the little money he had earned during the day, after all it was not many coppers. Yet the loss of the fiddle, no matter how ill sounding it had been, did pain him a great deal. How was he supposed to earn enough money to buy another and better one if he had no means to make people give him the money he needed?

The cold mind of Darbane worked frantically even as he leaned against a wall to regain his breathing. The city had taken from him his tool of office without any mercy. “Are there no guards in this miserable city?” He balled his hands into tight fists and slammed them into the next wall several times, venting the anger inside him while he cursed the city, the elven kind and all Aér’ái’chán for his miserable luck.

After the long tirade of curses had worn him out he looked around if he could find something, anything, to cover himself for the night. Raiding the garbage like a stray dog he found the mold covered remains of an old cloak and despite the horrible smell he finally put it on, at least he would not be completely uncovered during the night.

Not wanting to run into any of the ones that had robbed him, Darbane started to walk to the exit of the city, being chased by hungry dogs and finally thrown out by the same guards that had failed to protect him during the hold up.

Fuming still with anger Darbane walked to the edge of the river and found a dry place between the tall reeds where he could sleep for the night. Curling up on the uncomfortable bed he eventually closed his eyes and slept.

As the sun broke next morning Darbane was awakened by many laughing voices, slowly peering out from his hiding place among the reeds he looked around to spot the source of the laughter. On the bank of the river, not far from where he was hiding, several young elven maids were washing clothes in the stream, laughing at something one of them said and letting the water of the river cleanse the soap away from the clean clothes and rubbing the dirty fabrics with rocks to help the soap remove even the hardest stains.

Darbane watched as the maidens chattered and washed, throwing their hair back from their faces when it fell forward and lifting their skirts up high when they had to wade into the river to retrieve any piece of clothing that the river had pulled from their hands.

Any normal man would have been delighted by the sight of the lithe figures laughing and baring some of their skin to the rising sun, yet Darbane was so filled with hate towards Dania, the elven student that had caused his downfall, that he saw nothing in the washing maids that stirred his heart. He only saw them as noisy, squawking geese that had woken him up from his slumber. But he also saw something else - an opportunity...

Waiting among the reeds he waited in silence for one of the maids to stay behind. One by one the washing maids retrieved their clean clothes and walked the path that led to the city, four became three, three became two and soon there was only one maid left.

Sneaking in silence out from the reeds, Darbane approached the maid from behind, waiting for the exact moment when she bowed over the clothes in the basket to grab her from behind... Within a moment he pushed her into the river, forcing her head under the water.

His intention was to scare her enough so she would freely give him the clothes he needed and any money she was carrying in her pockets, but the long locks, so similar to those of Dania made something freeze inside the heart of the bard. The maid struggled against his grip but Darbane was a strong man and he kept her in a vicious grip, his face hard and cold as the stone his heart seemed to have turned into.

Soon the body of the maid went limp and Darbane finally let go of her. The body, now floating lifelessly in the water slowly rolled around and Darbane could see the horrified face of what he had thought to be a maid. She had been but little more than a child, the round plumpness so typical of a child’s face was still to be spotted in her now unmoving features.

Darbane covered his face and slowly sank down to his knees in the cold water. He didn’t know what had happened to him, he never had intended to kill the maid, yet now she was floating in front of him, her wide open eyes showing unspoken terror as they stared at the sun, unseeing, her long hair floating around her like sea weed.

Darbane slowly shook his head, the last drop of kindness that had been in his heart crumbled to dust as he lost all that made him human. Left was only the thirst for revenge, the pride and the wish for recognition.

Slowly he lifted his head and looked at the dead girl, his eyes as cold and dark as those of the most evil of orcs. “She must not be foundd,” he muttered to himself as he slowly raised from the water and moved toward the corpse. He pulled of the dirty and wet cloak and grabbed her by the long locks, swimming as fast as he could. He towed her to the centre of the river where the stream ran strong and there he released her, the river carrying her away as if she was a piece of drift wood.

Swimming back to the shore he quickly raided trough the basket of clothes she had left standing there. He found a pair of black briefs and a simple wool shirt. Darbane grabbed the items and threw the rest into the river along with the basket. The clothes sank easily to the bottom as water made them heavy and the basket was carried away as the body of the girl had been.

Above him he could hear that the city was starting to wake up. He was quite a lucky that no one had spotted him from above as he drowned and disposed the girl, most of the guards were too busy with the morning inspection in town to even notice that something had happened on the bank of the river.

However, Darbane decided not to push his luck too far. As soon as his undergarments were dry he put on the stolen clothes and as the sun was starting to rise in the sky he headed to the south east, toward the city of Weil where he hoped he could beg or steal enough money to buy a new fiddle so he could start playing again.

An insane plan had started to form in his head. Since he was sure that he was the most talented bard in all of Aér’aí’chán it was only correct for him to have the best fiddle in the world. Did he not deserve only the best?

A feverish glow was born in his eyes that day, a glow that would not disappear until he had proved once and for all that no bard, dead or alive, was better than him. He didn’t care the cost it would take, he was going to be the masterbard of all Aér’aí’chán, once and for all.

Barefooted and covered in his stolen garments, Darbane started his wandering toward the land of the Mynian kingdom, the plains providing no cover from the burning sun during the day and the wind blowing him cold and stiff during the nights, yet he was determined to get there and find some transportation, maybe a commercial caravan, maybe just a group of adventures, that could take him to his new destination, Ximax, far away in the Sarvonian south. Ximax, the City of Mages.

He knew that he could have headed south toward Worldquest and from there taken a ship down the Luquador river, but he also knew that the Arthyrón elves frequently traded with the Injérin elves of Elin’dór. And his stolen clothings and the fact that he had murdered a washing girl made him decide to keep as far away from the Injérin as possible, at least for now.

After days of wanderings Darbane spotted several horses pasturing in the grassy plain and with a small smirk he started approaching them, so here was his mount for the long voyage to Ximax. He looked out a large stallion that seemed filled with energy and slowly started to walk toward it, speaking words in a soft and soothing voice. The stallion snorted and turned to look at the human intruder, the words spoken by him were soft, even if they were in a foreign language, but he did not smell as the ones that he knew so he kept his distance.
Darbane continued talking softly to the horse and approaching him slowly - he was determined to get the stallion as his own. But an arrow digging itself deeply into the ground by his bare feet made him stop abruptly, so that he lifted his head and looked around. It seemed that the horses had a herder, a tall man clad in some kind of armor, who was now looking at Darbane, a stern gleam in his dark eyes: “No one may take what does not belong to him, “ he said, “...and even less when it belongs to the king of the Mynian people. I do not think my lord, the warden, will appreciate to know that some casual peddler tried to steal one of his steeds. You are coming with me boy!”

The man started walking toward Darbane. The unarmed bard did not understand the harsh language the human was speaking, having learned only the elvish tongue during his stay in the bard school, but knew he could do nothing against the man in armor, so he nodded slowly. Thus Darbane was taken to the city of Weil and presented in front of the warden as a horsethief.

Lorelin was not of noble birth, merely a servant in the fortress of the warden of the Luquador province belonging to the Mynian people. She had been brought here when she was very young and the current warden was yet an undreamed hope in the mind of the adolescent man that would soon receive the title of warden of the Luquador province, to be the king's eyes and ears and to impart justice among the people.

She remembered many a lonely years as a servant, not having anyone of her kind to talk to.
The truth, unseaming as it may sound, is that Lorelin was nothing but a gift, a bribe, given to the new warden by the Injerín people to assure free passage on the Luquador and Quest river. She was an orphan, an unclaimed child that had been living on the streets of Elin'dór, more a burden than anything else. Offering her as a gift was a easy way to get rid of her in a way that needed no bloodshed and that assured her a life where she would run no dangers of starving to death, plus it assured the economic blossoming of the elven city.

What the elders had not thought of was the love Lorelin had for her birth city, the glittering lights of the lanterns among the leaves of the two trees had filled her nights with floating fairys and the wind blowing trough the branches had lulled her to sleep so many times. Here, on the open and vast plains, she felt lost. She felt that the same wind that had sung so gently to her now whipped the long hair around her as in anger, screaming more than it sang, the sun was too bright and the openness of the plains scared her at first.

But as years turned to decades she started to forget the memories of her home Elin'dór, only the soft lullabies the wind had whispered to her remained in her mind, singing again and again, haunting her.

The warden had been generous to Lorelin, giving her a private quarter far away from the rest of the servants, unaware of the fact that he was isolating her even more, not letting her get to know the people that shared the destiny of serving the warden for life.

As she grew more mature she had become the mistress of the warden, but he treated her as what he thought she was, nothing more than a way to pass time, a toy that gave him pleasure whenever he wanted her to. Lorelin let it happen without protesting, not feeling anything for the warden but the feelings a servant should have to a master. She showed loyalty, but nothing more.

Avá was kind enough to not let any new life grow in her entrails, not adding another burden to her, but the warden was not so happy about this fact. Fearing his seed was too weak he found himself a wife of noble birth that gave him many sons and daughters and left Lorelin be, alone once more.

Seasons changed, summer to autumn, winter to spring, years went by, the warden growing old and weak, then dying to leave one of his sons, Echlór, in his place. Echlór was becoming a generous warden of the province, yet known for his lack of mercy towards any kind of criminal.

Lorelin was little more than a shadow living in the fortress, serving her master as she had served his father, her eyes growing more dull and distant with every year that passed, loneliness eating her up from the inside, yet she stayed true to her master, not letting herself fade into the Dream of Avá.

Then one day she heard of a prisoner that was caught wandering the plains close to the place where the horses of the king usually pastured, the soldier that had captured him said that he suspected that he was a horse thief but he was not certain, he couldn't ask the prisoner anything for he spoke nothing more than elven, Injerín elven in fact, and even when the people of the Mynian kingdom frequently traded with the elves all treaty was written in human characters and all deals were settled in the human language, very few knew to speak the tongue of the light people.

The heart of Lorelin jumped over a few beats before she managed to control herself once more. Injerín, the language she had not spoken for so many decades and that she still remembered with ease! How she longed to hear its soft sounds once more instead of the harsh language of the humans. She knew that the prisoner had to be interrogated, and she also knew about the fact that Echlór did not speak Injerín. An idea started to grow in her mind, maybe she could offer herself to act like a traducer for the warden, just to hear her own language once more, and maybe help the hapless wanderer.

For the first time in many years Lorelin walked into the room where Echlór had his work study, lifting her voice slightly over her usual whisper as she knelt in front of him and spoke her wish of helping him interrogating the prisoner.

Echlór looked at the elven woman that was kneeling in front of him, trying to remember her name but he was unable to right now. She had been by his side for so many years that she had almost become a part of the building surrounding him, nothing more than a shadow that followed his steps and tended his every need. Blinking slightly as she mentioned the prisoner he wondered for a second how she knew about him, he had just been brought in by Turic, one of his most trusted horse herder, to interrogation.

Not revealing his puzzlement he nodded gravely to her, his dark voice speaking to her as one would speak to a dog that is wagging its tail at you.

“I hear your words, elf, and they seem quite filled with sense to me. You are allowed to be present during the interrogation of the prisoner and traduce for him my questions and to me his answers. – But now leave me, I have much to do.”

He waved her away and Lorelin obeyed him immediately, slipping out of the door of the study and walking in silence to her quarters once more, her heart fluttering slightly as she thought of the interrogation of the prisoner. Soon she would hear her own language once more.

Darbane sat alone in his cell and stared at the wall. He understood that it had been foolish of him to even try to take that stallion as his own, he should have known that such a magnificent beast did belong to someone, and now he was paying for his foolishness.

He wondered what they would do to him, if he was judged as a horsethief he would most certainly die hanging from a tree, the Mynian people were proud of their horses and the thievery of one was severely punished, that much he knew.

He could hear the beating of his own heart in his ears, a slow and calm beating. He hadn’t left the elven country just to be slain by fellow humans, even when he did not understand anything of what they said.

The wall in front of him was slick with humidity and now and then a single drop would fall to the ground making a soft “plick” as it hit the stone floor. He could not see them but he could hear the rustling sound of the feet of many rats hiding in the corners. The dungeon might have been void of other prisoners but it was not empty, nothing further away from the truth. Cockroaches and rats thrived on the little scraps of food and garbage they found in the darkness. And now they could feel a scent they had not felt for a long time, fresh blood, living flesh, tender, sweet.

Darbane was growing uneasy in the cell. He was not used to the smell of decay coming from the half rotten hay in the corner where he was supposed to sleep nor to the filthy smell coming from the bucket at the other end of the cell that he supposed was his own private toilet. He had never been forced to stay in the glumness he found in the cell, even his own cell at the bard school had a small window that let in the light and the soft smell of the green. Here was nothing but a smoky torch that filled the air with the acrid smell of burned wood and the smell of decay, of humidity and of death.

He was tired, but the beady eyes he could barely see in the dark kept him from sleeping. He had heard tales of people being eaten by rats in their sleep and he did not wish to share destiny with those unfortunate ones. Hugging his knees to his chest and sitting with his back against the cold wall, Darbane waited all night for daybreak to come, not daring to close his eyes even for a second.

Morning came over the vast plains of the Mynian kingdom, the Injéra casting blood red rays over the city of Weil, a cold wind made the grass on the plain move like the surface of the ocean. The wind smelled of rain.

Lorelin stood in the window of her chamber and looked at the slightly red sky. “Rain is coming,” she muttered to herself as she slowly let her garments come to place on her body. She often spoke to herself, as no one else seemed to care enough about her to actually share words with her. Most of the servants treated her like she was invisible, and the warden and his men had ceased to notice her at all. She was but a shadow more in a castle filled with flickering lights. Yet she still could speak to herself, even when she got no answers except those she already knew.

But today, today was going to be special. Today was the day they were going to interrogate the supposed horsethief brought in yesterday by the guard known as Turic, and she was going to traduce his words to the warden and all of his people. She had not felt this exited for decades and she was quite looking forward to it.

Lorelin walked in silence toward the great hall where she knew the prisoner would be interrogated, her steps barely audible as she slid like a shadow across the empty corridors, the guard giving her nothing but a short sideways glance as she pushed open the doors to the hall and moved to a shadowy corner, sitting down on a simple chair put there just for her. In silence she looked at the door and waited for her master and the prisoner to arrive.

Darbane blinked several times as the door of his cell opened, letting the light of a lantern flow into the room, shattering the dark and blinding him with its brightness before the silhouette of a man blocked out some of the light and a harsh voice said something in a language he could not understand. Slowly he got to his feet from the sitting position he had remained in all night. His joints protesting slightly, stiff after a night of vigilance, making small cracking and popping sounds. He stretched, trying to loosen them up and to get rid of the chill that had been in his bones during all the night. Yet his eyes were defiant, the many hours spent in the dungeon had not taken away his pride and he wasn’t going to give his captors the pleasure of seeing him scared or begging for mercy and forgiveness. With firm steps and a slight smirk on his lips he strode out of the cell where two guards grabbed his arms and started guiding him to the place where he would be judged.

The corridors resounded with the steps of the two guards and their captive prisoner, but no voice interrupted the sound of the two pairs of boots and the pair of naked feet on the stone floor. The guards spoke not to the man they were guiding toward the hall where he would face Echlór. The prisoner said nothing as well - what could he say? They did not even speak each others language. So it was in a very silent fashion they arrived the hall. The guards led Darbane to an empty chair and left him there before walking back to stand one on each side of the door to prevent him from escaping.

Darbane let his dark eyes move around the room. He saw immediately why they had choosen exactly this room to make the trial. It had no windows through which a prisoner could escape, there were only two door, both of them guarded quite heavily. The atmosphere of the room was dense and he was almost certain that he could cut through the air with a knife if he had one. After a while his eyes landed on the only other person in the room besides himself and the guards, a woman sitting in silence on a chair, almost hidden in the darkness of a corner. He looked at her for a while and soon he realized that she was an elf, the lithe figure, the long and shining hair, the long ears and the timeless look on her face were the things that gave away her heritage.

He frowned slightly as he looked at her, the hate he felt for those of elven kind flared up once more but a more rational part of his mind spoke to the irrational one: She can be of use, she will be my voice in front of the ones that will judge me. I better go and make my aquantiance before someone barges in here and give her the wrong impression about me.

Getting up from his chair he walked slowly toward the maid, giving her plenty of time to see him, a soft, almost charming, smile on his lips. He pulled an empty chair close to her and took a seat. As he spoke his voice was like a melody, soothing and slightly rythmic. “Greetings, fair maiden, my name is Darbane and I was wondering if I could be bold enough to inquire what name a gorgeous creature as yourself has for a name.”

Lorelin looked at the human as he approached her, the soft smile on his lips filled her stomach with sudden tickling feeling. For the first time in so many years someone had noticed her, actually seen her. And as he spoke in the melodic language of the Injerín elves it sounded like music to her ears, a music that went straight to her heart and pulsed strings there she thought had rotted away many lonely years ago. She looked at him, her blue eyes shining with joy as she replied to his question. “Greetings Darbane, my name is Lorelin. I am amazed to hear you speak the language of my people so easily...” - Before she could say more Echlór and his folk entered through the door on the north wall and with a look he rendered her silent and a short and barking order sent Darbane back to the chair he had been assigned.

Echlór and his council took seat behind a large desk, the gray eyes of the warden looked over the man that he had in front of him, the clothes that seemed too small to him, the lack of shoes, those things spoke of a beggar, maybe even of a thief. But the slightly arrogant smile and the straightness of his back could not belong to one that followed the paths of crime.

“You have been brought here so we can judge if you are indeed a thief. If you are you will hang by your neck until you die. Thievery is not taken lightly among my people.” He turned to Lorelin and nodded. The elf nodded back and spoke to Darbane, the soft and melodious language of the elves flowing from her lips as if she had been speaking it all her life. In short phrases she told Darbane in what kind of trouble he had gotten himself.

The bard paled slightly at the mention of hanging. Had he escaped murder only to be executed for a attempt of stealing a horse? Swallowing to not show his fear he spoke to Lorelin, explaining that he did not know where he was nor that the horse he had tried to ride had an owner. He was amazed over how easily lies came to his lips as he told her a story of him being part of a caravan from Elin’dór. He told her the caravan had been assaulted by several highway men with their faces hidden by masks that killed everyone in the caravan except him and two others. He told them how he had managed to escape from this shrouded in the velvet of the night. How he had stolen some of their clothing and fled from their camp, trying desperately to find help for the other captives then finding the horse and hoping to use it to ride for help.

Lorelin listened in silence. Blinded by the sound of her own language she could hear no lie in his voice and she traduced his story, word for word, to Echlór.

The warden seemed to doubt the story of the young man, but it was true that the trading caravans were frequently assaulted by highwaymen despite his attempts to prevent this happening.

The thing that did not make any sense to him was the fact that Darbane had been spared while the rest, except two others if one was to believe what the man said, were slain by the robbers.

”Why were you spared?” The question was short while the cold eyes stayed fixed on Darbane.

Lorelin translated the question to Darbane who sighed slightly, as if the sole memory of his captors and their prisoners were too heavy to bare. “We were...are bards. They told us that they would sell us to wealthy tradesmen in a city far away, as one would sell an injóh.”

He looked to the ground and blessed his good memory for remembering the stories that the teachers told the students to keep them from venturing too far away from the school. It was not an unknown fact that many rich people liked to keep a bard by their side giving them riches in exchange for their talent until the bard decides that he or she wants to continue their way. But some people, ruthless and greedy ones, wanted to keep the bard forever, paying nothing for the endless stream of melodies that would come from him or her to comfort their souls.

As Lorelin traduced for Darbane Echlór continued looking at the young man. He had also heard the story of such trades and he disliked it profoundly, even when he was a simple man he knew how to appreciate the gift of the bards, the talent to weave songs and melodies out of thin air as one would weave silver and silk threads into the most exquisite embroidery. He frowned and fell into thought, ordering everyone to silence with a movement of his hand. Long moments passed both for the council as for Darbane and Lorelin as the warden considered what to do next.

Echlór had come to a decision. Slowly he raised from the chair and looked at Darbane. “Prove us that you are a bard! Show to me the gift given to you and we will not only provide you with food and a place to sleep, but I will give you whatever you may need to rescue the other two that are still captive.”

Lorelin could hardly believe what she heard and her mouth stayed open for several moments before she actually managed to regain herself long enough to traduce for Darbane what the warden had said, a slight tremble in her voice.

Darbane nodded and stood up from his chair. He lifted a hand as to grab an imaginary fiddle and looked at Echlór, trying to make him understand that he could not sing without his fiddle. The warden understood immediately and ordered to bring a fiddle to the prisoner. One of the guards nodded and ran out of the room, only to return few moments later with a fiddle that he placed on the table in front of Darbane. The bard looked at the fiddle and nodded. It was not as good as the one he had used at the bard school but it was absolutely not as pitiful as the one he had bought in Elin’dór only to lose it at the end of the day to the hands of the thieves.

He lifted the fiddle to his shoulder and placed his chin slowly upon its body while the fingers of his left hand grasped the neck of the instrument almost lovingly. The other hand reached for the bow that was still on the table in front of him and then lifted it to rest on the strings.

Closing his eyes Darbane digged one of Jan’s melodies out of his memory and started playing.

The notes danced out from the strings, filling the air around the people that were listening to it. Echlór and his council and Lorelin were bathed in the soft tones of a melody belonging to a dead bard and in their ignorance they thought it to belong to the man standing in front of them. They could not spot the tainted glow in the eyes of Darbane as he kept his eyes shut all the time while he was playing, remembering every note and playing it perfectly yet not feeling in his heart any love for what he was playing nor for the sound of the music that floated in the great hall, echoing off the walls.

As soon as Darbane lifted the bow from the strings all the people present in the room slowly applauded him, as if they were emerging from a wonderful and incredible dream, eyes still foggy with unshed tears for the beauty of the melody they had just listened to. Echlór swallowed heavily, the melody touching his heart and piercing through its hard defenses as an arrow would pierce through soft flesh. Finally he got to his feet and bowed to Darbane. “I feel most honored to have such a wonderful bard in my reign. Forgive me for doubting your words masterbard. And as the man of honor I am I will keep my word. You are now free to wander my lands and consider yourself under my protection. Whenever you wish to part in search for your fellow bards all you need to do is tell me what you need in your search and it will be provided to you.”

Darbane looked at the man behind the great desk, not understanding the words but seeing the meaning behind the words that were pronounced. He turned to look at Lorelin, as if asking her to traduce.

Lorelin dried away a tear that had been rolling down her cheek and turned to traduce the words of Echlór to the bard, her voice sounding slightly broken yet by the tears in her throat, tears that were more of delight than of sadness as she had seen in her mind the deep shadows in the forest where she had been born many, many years ago. On the wings of the melody she had been transported to her homelands. Once more had she heard the wind singing among the branches of the two giant trees of Elin’dór, once again had she heard the sweet honey of the Injerín elves whispered to her under the thousands of Quilly’eférs that fluttered among the leaves of the Shaded Forest.

Darbane looked at the elf and found her to be pathetic, touched like so by a simple melody that he found to be all too easy to play and all too easy to remember. Yet he gifted her with a soft smile and a slow nod in her direction before turning towards Echlór and planting his requests. “I am grateful for your generosity, great Lord, and do not worry for questioning me like you did. One can never be too careful when it comes to strangers entering one’s realm. I gladly would stay in your splendorous city but I fear for the destiny of my fellow bards. If it does not go against your will, Milord, I would like to part in search for them as soon as possible. I do not need much for the trip, only a pair of guards that can keep evil bandits from attacking me yet once more, a horse to speed the journey to my destiny and... if milord do not think me too bold... I wanted to ask the beauteous lady elf that so kindly traduced my words to come with me and teach me the common language so I can make myself understood.” He pondered. “As for where my companions were taken... I think I heard one of the bandits mention the name of the greater city of Ximax, and that is where I will head next,” he finished as he bowed to Echlór.

Lorelin froze in place at the last request of the bard. He wanted her to go with him on this journey, he wanted her by his side in the quest to liberate his friends. Taking her to the magical town of Ximax! Her, who had hardly seen anything else than the walls of this castle for the last hundred years! Blushing slightly she explained the requests to Echlór who looked every bit as suprised as the elf, especially at the last biding.

Falling into thought he looked at the elf. The guards and the horses he could easily provide, but the last request, the one of Lorelin he was not too sure. What if the bard only wanted her to himself as his concubine? And this tale of Ximax was nothing more than a lie?

The warden considered himself a good judge of character but somehow the bard was not easy to judge, his actions said one thing while his words and his music said another. The dark eyes of the warden went to rest on the face of Darbane.

The bard felt himself observed and turned to face the warden. His eyes were clear and open, except for a dark spark in their depth, a tainted spark that the warden did not manage to see.

Slowly nodding Echlór agreed to all the requests of the man standing in front of him, even the one concerning Lorelin, for if he was completely honest with himself he had no need for the elf anymore. She was like a piece of furniture that was not in use yet was never put away.

Lorelin could hardly believe what was happening... This morning she was resigned to a long life as a servant, as a shadow, in this enormous castle. And now she was free to leave, leave along with a man who spoke her language and played the melodies of her homeland. A bird fluttered in her chest, finally free of the cage she had put it, singing once more.

Preparations were done and soon there was a small caravan headed over the grassy plains toward a destiny far away, the city of Ximax.

In front of the two guards rode Darbane on the same stallion he had tried to steal, a gift from Echlór in exchange for another melody. And behind him, blushing as she kept her arms around him, sat Lorelin, admiring the green of the plain as if she had never seen it before.

As the day came to an end, the light drizzle that she had predicted fell upon the travellers that did not seem to care about the rain and continued their march heading south west. The voyage would last several weeks and many were the dangers that they would face but they would never turn back. Or at least Darbane would never turn back, his mind fixed on the revenge upon his former teachers. And Lorelin, oh sweet Lorelin, that had lost her heart, without even realizing it, to this man who sat in front of her. A man that no longer had a heart that could love... only hate.

Story written by Lucirina Telor Vevan View Profile