THE RAVEN PRINCE
by Dalá'Valannía


Torn apart by constant wars, Avennoria during the 8th century b.S. is but a shadow of its former glorious self. An uneasy truce now reigns and the survivors try to forge a future for themselves and their children. However, the peace proves to be short-lived. Led by an usurper king, a new conflict looms on the horizon between the men and elves as the sound of swords clashing and the scent of blood spilt shall be carried along the winds once more.

Unware of the machinations of the outside world, the village of Twynar and its inhabitations have farmed and tilled their lands quietly for the last few centuries. Generations have been born and returned to the arms of Queprur in that little village and in all those years, the spectre of war has never once touched and tainted their boundaries. Never, that is, until the day when Caled Gwohann dared to venture into the forbidden Auturian Woods with his friend. What the two children found there, within the territory of the elves, would unsettle their previously peaceful world as they realise that not all that is good will remain so...


t was the two children who found the prince at the very boundaries of the forest.

Before the story can start, it had to be noted that Caled and Jivyan were not supposed to be in the Auturian Woods. They were not even allowed to hover around the outskirts of it as it was forbidden territory since everyone in the village knew that elves lived there and that the latter was a most peculiar race that had a love of isolating themselves as much as possible from the other Caelereth tribes.

However, when one was twelve and eleven of years and Caled had just gotten a new bow as a present from his father, rules about venturing into the woods… well, rules just did not mean all that much when one was in a fiery eagerness to test out said crossbow on various, unsuspecting small animals.

Caled had snuck out of the farm early in the morning when the mist was still lying heavy over the fields. His parents and two elder brothers were already up and pottering around the kitchen. Soon they would begin the day by milking the cows and then tilling the land to start planting for the new harvest. Caled normally was allowed to sleep in a little later than his brothers because he was the youngest. His jobs were mostly to feed the chickens in the late morning and the pigs in the afternoon along with other minor tasks.


Twynar was not a very big region with only thirteen farm settlements in all excluding a few other non-farming livelihoods such as the miller, the blacksmith, but the land was richly fertile, perfectly suited for growing vegetables and rearing poultry. There had been Avennorian farmers in Twynar since the time of Barek Swanhild and probably will be until the Ages ended according to the elders.

The long, unbroken line of farmers was attributed to mysterious reasons never really fully explained. For the inhabitants of Twynar, past and present, had largely been left alone throughout turbulent historical events such as the devastating Seven Hundred Years War.

It was as if no one really remembered there was a small little farming village in Twynar when kings, sorcerers and princes were too preoccupied fighting each other for ephemeral supremacy over the other.

Thus it was, the people of Twynar just shook their heads whenever news of the turmoil happening on the outside world reached them, clucked sadly at the distressing state of affairs beyond their little village, and went back to wondering whether Grothar and Jeyriall will see fit to bless them with enough rain for a good harvest to last them through winter.

Since last harvest had been good, Caled’s parents had felt generous enough to give out presents to their children as rewards for their help and that was how Caled got his bow and a quiver of arrows which he had asked for as he fancied himself a great hunter of the woodland realms from the old stories told.

However his parents did not approve of him shooting practice arrows at the squealing hens and his brothers made fun of him whenever his aim flew wide (which was often) so that was why Caled saw himself forced to sneak out into the Auturian Woods one fine morning, hoping to bag a small rabbit although, secretly, what he really wanted was to kill a wild boar and wouldn’t his doubting family be surprised and impressed with his skills as a hunter then, when he walked through the door and fling the carcass of the boar on the floor at their feet!

Fortified with this cherished fantasy, Caled hurried to the end of the farming village where the outermost boundaries of the Auturian Woods would be but an hour's brisk walk away.

As he passed the last farm, much to his annoyance, he bumped into Jivyan Alaevir who had woken up early too and was sitting underneath the sprawling and ancient oak that marked the end of Twynar. Her knees were drawn to her chest and she was stroking the head of her cat lying sleepily next to her.

“Caled, where are you going? Is that your new bow?” The small girl had asked immediately when she caught sight of the boy.

She was a year younger than Caled and they had often played together when their respective parents did not need them to do chores but on this morning, all he wanted to do was to practice with his bow without Jivyan tagging along.

“Never you mind,” Caled said impatiently and continued walking, hoping the girl would lose interest, but Jivyan was not discouraged. She gave a quick hug to her protesting cat and ran after him, following like a puppy dog, her braid bouncing up and down behind her back as she did.

“You haven’t answered my question, where are you going? Can I come along? I’m bored! It’s too early to do anything,” she complained.

Caled ignored her but Jivyan, though small for her age, was an observant little thing. As Caled made his way to the direction of the Woods, she exclaimed with awestruck eyes, “This is the way to the Auturian Woods! You’re going to the Woods to try and shoot something, aren’t you?”

The boy stopped. “Shhhh! Not so loud, you nit!”

“You are! Aren’t you afraid of the elves?”

“Not I. Don’t be silly. Anyway, no one has seen the elves for ages and ages now. Not even when my granddad’s granddad was alive. I don’t think they even live in the Woods anymore.”

“Dena says they’re there, hiding, and they’re watching us. And they have horrible looking ears that’s three times larger than ours!” Jivyan shivered with part fear and part delight as she remembered the scary stories that her best friend, Dena, has whispered to her. “I’m going to tell your parents what you’re doing, Caled Gwohann!”

“You do that and I’ll, I’ll take your doll and drown her in the pond!” Caled threatened.

“You wouldn’t!” Jivyan shrieked with outrage.

“Yes I would!”

The two children glared at each other, nose to nose.

It was Jivyan who relented as she took her long braid in one hand and started to chew on the end of it, a habit her mother was despairing of breaking. “All right, I won’t tell.”

Caled breathed a sigh of relief. “Swear?”

“I swear…but I want to go too!”

“What? No! Just go home, Jivyan!”

“If you don’t let me come, I will tell your parents and see if your father won’t punish you then. I’ll bet he’ll take away that new bow of yours too,” Jivyan said with a certain degree of smugness that only eleven-year-old girls were capable of when they knew they had outsmarted someone of the opposite gender.

Caled scowled fearsomely at the girl for a few moments before muttering a grudging ‘fine’.

“And you’re not allowed to borrow my bow once we’re there,” he added quickly in an afterthought.

Skipping excitedly next to him, Jivyan nodded as they went on the path that would lead them to the outermost region of the Woods.

The children have only ever spied the Woods at a distance, seeing the tall, densely packed trees forming a dark green canopy against the blue sky. The Auturian Woods were not small, despite the rather misleading description; it was more akin to a sizeable forest that spanned at least five times the size of a city. Like most forests rumored to have elves dwelling within, the trees were of an abnormal height, taller than most trees in other parts of Caelereth, and magnificent in their rooted, unmoving majesty.

When they reached the outskirts as the flat grassy lands ended and the faraway range of the Mithral Mountains could be distantly seen, the first trees of the Auturian began. The children slowed their steps until they stopped completely. Their eyes widened as they craned their heads to slowly track the height of the trees as they rose into the sky, branching into canopies of brilliant green. They seemed to go up forever.

“Caled, maybe we should go back,” Jivyan said uneasily, tugging her friend’s sleeve.

In truth, Caled was feeling ill at ease too. There was something about the Auturian Woods that defied two children in all its ancient beauty. The trees before them were nothing like the well-tended and tamed fields and gardens of Twynar where each grass and weeds knew its proper place. The Auturian was not tamed or controlled under men and it never will be. It was at once wild and fierce, harkening back to the days before the race of men stepped foot upon these lands. It seemed to Caled that the forest itself was looking at him and Jivyan with the tolerant amusement of a predator.

Still, he was but only twelve and he had a new bow and he did not want to appear weak in front of a girl so he shrugged off Jivyan’s hand to say roughly, “You can go back if you want.”

He reached back for an arrow with one hand and notched it clumsily.

Jivyan bit her lip and then she hurried after Caled.

Into the Woods, the two crept, quiet as mice. Jivyan kept close behind Caled and almost bumped into him a few times, earning her irritated looks when she did.

It was so still inside the Woods. The dappled sunlight shining through the branches was an eerie golden-white, turning Jivyan’s brown hair into a coppery red. Nothing stirred, not even a ceruwing butterfly, except for a faint rustling of leaves here and there.

“Caled, can we go home? Please? I don’t like it here,” Jivyan whispered.

All boyish enthusiasm vanished by now, Caled was about to agree.

Then Jivyan screamed. A dark shape burst out towards them from beyond the trees and hurtled straight at the two children.

Though he was as shocked and scared as Jivyan, Caled managed to bring his bow up and let loose the arrow quickly. The arrow flew wide and embedded itself against a tree trunk as he watched in dismay.

“Run, Jivyan!” he shouted but the child was frozen to the spot, her face terrified.

The older boy quickly fumbled for another arrow in the quiver strapped to his back, his breaths hitching in great pants, certain he and Jivyan would be rendered to bloody pieces in a short time. But incredibly the black thing hurtling towards them abruptly halted, swayed and then collapsed in a heap, barely a few peds from where they stood.

Caled slowly lowered the bow, realizing that he was trembling.

“What is it?” Jivyan asked in small voice that shook as badly as Caled’s body was and though she was not crying, her face was pale and her lips were quivering.

“I don’t know. We should go.” He grasped Jivyan’s hand and was about to tug her along when the girl shook his hand violently as she stared at the thing that had so scared them moments before.

“Caled, look! There’s an arrow!”

Sure enough, when Caled looked, on the back of the hunched thing on the ground, there was a long, slender arrow tipped with greenish blue feathers protruding, the end of it obviously embedded inside the flesh.

“It isn’t my arrow, I missed,” Caled admitted.

Jivyan was squinting hard at the thing, and then she suddenly shook Caled’s hand loose to run forward.

“Jivyan! You come back here, right now!”

“Caled, come look!” Jivyan was kneeling down next to the thing, heedless of Caled’s warning, and gesturing frantically. “It’s not an animal at all. It’s a man!

“I don’t care if that thing’s the King of Avennoria himself, get back here!”

“He’s hurt, oh, he’s bleeding! We have to help him.” Jivyan fished around her pockets to draw out a none-too-clean grubby handkerchief and started dabbing at the wound around from which the arrow was protruding out.

“Jivyan!”

“Please, Caled.” Jivyan looked at him pleadingly, her eyes wide and worried and the boy groaned.

Jivyan’s heart had a tender spot for little beasts that had been hurt in myriad small ways and she was forever bringing them back to her home, trying to help mend their wounds. Her room was filled with small birds that had hurt their wings or wild cats that were battle-scarred and who spat and bristled at anyone who approached them, everyone except for Jivyan.

“Even if that thing is a man, it’s not an animal that you can bring home,” he argued and was rewarded by a stubborn tilt to the girl’s chin.

“I don’t care, he’s hurt and I’m going to help him. With or without you.” Saying so, Jivyan tried to push the thing over…no, it was a man, Caled could see that now, that the hunched position was a jutting shoulder, broadening to a back and a head covered with a pelt of dark hair.

A man but black everywhere, black hair and black clothes, Caled thought uneasily. Black like the deepest hour of the night.

Meanwhile, Jivyan was still trying to turn the insensible man over to his uninjured side, hoping to make him more comfortable even though he was obviously unconscious. He was heavy though, and she started to huff, her face turning red as she did but she persisted and finally managed to roll him slightly over.

The man reared up and grasped Jivyan’s ankle.

She gave a stifled shriek and involuntarily kicked out with her other leg but the man hung on, persistent and unrelenting. His face was caked with dirt and streaks of bright blood and his eyes were blazing with awareness as he glared at Jivyan, sobbing with undiluted terror by now.

“Jivyan!” Caled dropped his bow and scrambled around the man to the girl’s side. He heaved his arms under hers to try and drag her away but Gods, the man was strong, even when wounded.

The man snarled something in a language that was unknown to the children as he hung on to Jivyan’s foot.

“I don’t understand you! Let her go,” Caled garbled out frantically. "Let her go!"

The man winced in pain as Jivyan’s foot connected with his wounded shoulder but his grip did not loosen.

He stared at the children. Then he said clearly, “Help me. I am wounded. My enemies…they are near…the Forest is…danger…”

He collapsed, his fingers finally relaxing around Jivyan’s ankle.

With a grunt, Caled pulled the girl away. “Are you hurt?”

She shook her head, dragging a sleeve hurriedly over her eyes to mope her tears as Caled examined her ankle. There were the beginnings of bruises where the man had grabbed her but they did not look too bad.

“He asked us for help,” Jivyan whispered solemnly.

Caled looked at her with incredulity.

“We can’t turn down a plea for help. We have to help him now. He might die.”

Caled turned his attention at the unconscious man and reluctantly, he knew she was right. The man said the Forest was dangerous and Caled agreed…likening the Forest to a sleeping predator had seemed quite apt when he first saw it but now, he had another new feeling: that the predator was waking up. Fright renewed itself within him and he wanted to get away as soon as possible.

“Help me carry him,” he said even as something inside him told him that he would regret this act of charity.

How they made it back to Twynar was a minor miracle. Caled was tall for his age and strong as befitted a farmer’s son used to farm chores but he was still only twelve. Jivyan was even smaller and though she tried her best, heaving one arm of the man around her shoulders and valiantly dragging him along, both children despaired of getting back to Twynar without exhausting themselves in the process.

Thankfully, halfway on the road back to Twynar, the man seemed to wake to semi-conscious grogginess and he helped ease the children’s burden by dragging his feet along, though they still had to bear some of his weight.

By the time they reached the outskirts of the village, Caled and Jivyan were sweating and panting profusely. Caled thought his heart was going to burst out of his chest while Jivyan’s face was shiny red.

They propped the injured man against a tree that was hidden from the main road by some tall weeds. His head lolled back against the trunk and Jivyan tried to dab away some of the blood from his face again.

His skin was extremely pale although Caled was not sure if the paleness was due to the wound.

“He stopped bleeding,” Jivyan said anxiously. “That’s good, isn’t it?”

“We cannot leave the arrow inside. We have to take it out soon or else the wound will rot and he might get blood sickness.” Caled replied. “I don’t recognize the markings on the arrows. It doesn’t look like anyone’s from the village. Father might know.”

“Are we going to bring him to your house?”

“Not much choice is there. You and I, we’re not healers.” Caled said glumly, thinking of the scolding he’ll get once his parents found out that he had ventured into the Auturian Woods.

“No!” The man suddenly spoke.

Jivyan yelped in surprise. Caled immediately dragged her away, both children then regarding the stranger from a safe distance.

“Let no one know I am here,” he said.

“But… we don’t know how to take the, the arrow out,” Caled stammered. “My father...”

“No one.”

Jivyan and Caled looked at each other helplessly.

“All right.” Caled agreed reluctantly. “But the arrow…”

The stranger spared a brief, disdainful glance for them. He reached up and using one hand, he grabbed the arrow shaft and pulled. The arrow, surprisingly, came out easily, followed by a burst of fine crimson mist and the only sound the man made as he did that was a small groan.

Caled went white as the arrow came out while Jivyan uttered a tiny, sickened gulp that she quickly stopped by stuffing a fist against her mouth.

“Make a bandage around the wound.”

“Us?!” Jivyan squeaked.

He merely looked at them with eyes that were so cold that the child involuntarily clutched Caled’s sleeve.

“You have to tell us how to do it.” Caled said grudgingly, recovering some of his color. He did not trust this man they had rescued. But the deed was done and like Jivyan said, he had asked for their help and bound they were now, to give it as much as they could.

Using a long strip of cloth torn from the stranger’s cloak and following his terse instructions, Jivyan and Caled tried their best to staunch the renewed flow of blood.

“Tighter,” the man muttered.

‘We’re trying!” Jivyan was feeling faint from the copious amount of blood smearing her hands, none of her injured animals had so much blood spilt when she tended them, but she bit her lip and persisted on. Both children wrapped the cloth as tight as they could around the man’s chest first and then over his wounded shoulder. The man winced, features clenched in pain as they went about their clumsy ministrations but did not tell them to stop.

”Done,” Caled said, leaning back, sucking in a deep breath. If he ever decided not to become a farmer like his father, at least he knew he was not going to be a healer or cleric!

“It will hold.” The man craned his head over his shoulder to inspect their work. “I need time for the wound to heal. I am too weak to travel.” He spat the last sentence out bitterly, as if furious that he had revealed a frailty.

“No one must know I am here,” he repeated once more with the same intensity.

Jivyan thought for a while and she brightened as she recalled something. “The old mill! It’s been deserted for ever so long. We get flour for our bread from Pellan now and his mill is on the other side of the village. It's only a short walk from here. No one ever goes there… Dena says it’s haunted.” The girl fidgeted as she revealed the last bit of information.

Caled groaned. “It is not haunted, Jivyan! You are much too old to let Dena frighten you like this,” he told her sternly.

Jivyan flared and retorted, “I am not frightened, not in the least!”

“Be quiet.” He did not raise his voice but the two children sensed his irritation rippling underneath and fell silent. “Take me to this mill. I will see its suitability for myself.”

It was not a long walk to the mill but the stranger was wounded so the going was slow and he rejected the two children’s help now, walking slowly by himself. Once he almost fell. Jivyan sprang forward to steady him but he growled at her like a wild dog would and Caled pulled her away. After that, they walked behind him instead.

Overgrown weeds and trees hid the path so no one from the village saw the curious trio.

“He’s not very nice, is he? And very proud. Perhaps he’s of noble blood,” Jivyan whispered.

Caled shrugged. Highborn or not, the stranger made him wary and fearful. Whatever comes of this would be no good, he intuitively felt. The man had been pursued and shot at, that much was clear. He was not friend yet, but was he foe? Perhaps he was someone who has done a bad thing and was running away from those who would bring him to justice. Caled agonized within the confines of his mind, afraid that he might have brought trouble upon Twynar.

“This is the place.” Jivyan pointed to the ramshackle looking building next to a small stream running. The roof was caved in at some parts but most of it was still intact and the windows were gaping holes that stared accusingly at them as if they were to blame for the old mill’s sorry state now.

“It’s a little dirty,” Jivyan trailed off uncertainly as they entered. The inside of the mill, though dusty and overlaid with spider webs hanging from the rafters, was slightly better off than the outside in that it was dry at least and warm.

“It will do. I have stayed in much worse places than this.”

It was on the tip of Jivyan’s tongue to ask where the man had stayed that was worse but she swallowed her question. The stranger had spared a brief glance for her, as if knowing what she was going to ask and that look was not one of kindness or indulgence.

He doesn’t like us, Caled realized. We saved him but he’s not glad. In fact he really hates us for having helped him.

And quick upon that realization, came the prickling fear that the stranger’s urgent need for secrecy might result in danger for him and Jivyan. What was to stop him from strangling the life from them both in order to keep his whereabouts hidden from those who had wounded him with that arrow?

He looked at the man and found cold dark eyes staring back at him.

He knows what I’m thinking, he knows, he knows, Caled’s mind whirled in a haze of panic. He’s going to kill us.

He grabbed Jivyan’s hand, ignoring her look of surprise.

“We have to go now. Our parents will be wondering where we are. I have chores to do. I have to feed the chickens. And help father mend mother’s spinning wheel. It broke.” He was babbling but he could not stop. “I won’t tell anyone, neither will Jivyan. We’ll come back tomorrow. With food. Lots of food and water. You need food and water to heal.”

Jivyan was looking at him like he had gone mad but the stranger… the lines of tension on his face eased and the sense that he had averted something remained with Caled.

“Very well. Go then,” the man said.

As Caled hurried out the door, Jivyan turned and asked, “My name is Jivyan and this is Caled. What’s your name?”

He paused and then replied, “You may call me Raven.”

Raven.

Alone now, the human whelps having scuttled through the door like fire had been licking at their heels, he allowed himself a small, mirthless smile at the name he chose to give.

Briefly, he wondered if his decision not to kill the children was correct. They did not know it but he had a dagger strapped to his belt, hidden underneath the folds of the cloak, and that dagger had been close to being unsheathed and laid across both their throats. Even injured, he could have killed them easily and kept his whereabouts safe from those who were bound to be looking for him now.

He drew back his lip, snarling silently in frustrated anger over his own carelessness in allowing his presence to be discovered by those Tethinrhim dogs. He had been chosen because he could almost pass for one of them as his skin was still free of scars except for one near his belly when he was almost gutted by a rival but clothing easily hid that. His hair was midnight black like most of his tribe but he had solved that problem by dying it red.

He had lived among the Tethinrhim for almost five months, establishing contacts and gathering information, before his real identity had been revealed. The only satisfaction he got after being discovered was that he had managed to track down the one who had betrayed him and had time to inflict much pain on him by cutting off every single finger on both hands, one by one, and then blinding him. He did not kill the traitor but as a final insult, he had mutilated the ears as well, cutting off the tips. After that, he left him bleeding copiously on the floor and whether the traitor lived or not, was no longer his business. His business was now of survival long enough to escape the Woods to return back to his tribe.

His wound was caused when he was running from a band of Kaierians who were hunting him. He still remembered the one who leashed the arrow from her bow, she had been fair with red hair coiled around her head and her eyes were full of hatred and triumph as the arrow struck him. He had dodged, twisted his body somehow in the last second, so that the arrow penetrated his shoulder instead of the heart she had been aiming for.

The only thing that kept him going after being struck was the thought that the Kaierian’s hate towards him was nothing compared to his against her and her tribe. And that he will hunt her down one day as she had hunted him that day and he will not kill her when he finds her. He will merely inflict far worse pain to her than he had to the Elf who had betrayed him and let her live with her mutilations.

The one who called himself Raven regretted not having killed the whelps now. If they should divulge his location to anyone, he was as good as dead.

Yet something stayed his hand for Raven had seen the fear in the boy's eyes. And perhaps the fear would stop both their mouths. It was a chance he had to take for the boy had mentioned food and much as he detested the idea of being dependent on humans, he knew without sustenance, he would not heal as quickly and it was too dangerous to risk going out from the confines of this mill to forage for himself.

So. He would let them live. For now.

There was someone standing over him.

Rolling to his feet in an instant and ignoring the fresh lance of pain coming from his torn shoulder, he snatched up the dagger that lay next to his hand as he slept.

Jivyan gasped, staring down at the blade that was nailsbreadths from her throat.

Caled, coming in through the door a heartbeat behind Jivyan, shouted, “Stop!”

Raven withdrew his blade when he saw who it was. “Never touch me without my permission,” he snapped at the girl.

“You were sleeping… I wanted to look at your wound,” Jivyan stammered. “I brought a poultice. I use it when one of my animals gets hurt.”

“Healing herbs for animals. How appropriate.” His mouth twisted bitterly.

“I’m sorry. I couldn’t get anything else.”

“It was the best we could do,” Caled said heatedly. Raven’s attitude of superiority and obvious disgust at them was beginning to irritate him. Picking up the bread and cheese he had dropped when he saw Jivyan's throat nearly being slit, he thrust them at Raven.

“This was all that I could get without my parents’ noticing.” His eyes glared at the man, daring him to refute the simple fare.

Raven’s face merely relaxed and if anything else, he seemed almost amused by Caled’s hostility.

He did not offer thanks but he ate the food without further complaints while allowing Jivyan to redo the dressing on his shoulder, applying the poultice as she did.

“That should stop the wound from infection. I think. I never tried it on a person before,” Jivyan said doubtfully. She looked at Raven’s long black hair with interest. “You have wonderful hair, it’s really dark. I don’t think I’ve see hair so black before.”

“It is a characteristic of my tribe.”

Encouraged by this little information, Jivyan went on, “It’s very long, would you like some string to tie it back? It looks hot, covering your ears and cheeks like that.”

“No, it is not hot.” Raven snapped in annoyance.

“Oh.” Jivyan subsided.

The two children awkwardly sat facing the tall man, dressed still in blood-soaked clothing, and they sat without speaking as Raven finished the bread and cheese.

He slipped down once more upon the old pile of hay gathered and closed his eyes, clearly dismissing the two children.

Caled could only shrug, as Jivyan asked with some bemusement, “Is he snoring?”

“…very handsome. Just like a prince...remember that story?”

Raven considered slitting their throats just to have peace and quiet. It was always quiet in the mill, except for the soft bubbling of the brook or the occasional curious cooing of a bird in the rafters, but that recuperative silence was shattered the moment the two human whelps bounced in through the door. The human girl especially seemed to have taken a delight in talking to him, blatantly ignoring that he most definitely did not wish to talk to her. She would prattle on and on, heedless of whether he was listening or not, telling him about life in the small village or what she had done and the things her friends told her. As if he cared about her miniscule, unimportant, miserable life!

“What story?”

Five days since he came to the village to hide from his enemies and though he knew the boy’s mistrust of him had grown steadily as each day passed, Caled as he was called, did not betray him. He and the girl both had kept his secret with a faithfulness that surprised him at times. Men were not the most loyal of races in Caelereth. In fact, they have made a dubious history for themselves in traitorous dealings and numerous betrayals that had brought down empires. Raven smiled wryly to himself. Maybe Men were not that different from the elves in that respect.

“Shhh, not so loud, he’s still sleeping. The story of the raven prince. Remember? Ordra told it to us last winter at the harvest festival.”

“Jivyan that was only a tale to entertain the younger children.” Even with his eyes closed, Raven knew the boy Caled well enough by now to also know that he would be rolling his eyes as he made that remark.

“A sorcerer jealous of a young prince and turned him into a raven that was then exiled to roam forever and ever in the Auturian Woods. And Raven… his name is Raven too and his hair is black like a raven!”

“I do not think Raven is his real name.”

Yes, he would do well not to underestimate the boy. Despite the rough hands and simple clothing of a farmer’s son, Caled was not the naïve innocent that Jivyan still was. Not to say that he was as worldly as a courtier in a king’s court but Caled possessed that rare acumen of instinct. He distrusted Raven because somehow, though he was not yet consciously aware of it, only as a vague awareness, he knew Raven would not hesitate to kill either child to protect his own life.

“So maybe he is hiding his real name because of the sorcerer?” Jivyan’s delighted excitement caused Raven to come out from his pretended dose. The child’s exuberant innocence made him slightly ill.

Immediately, they stopped talking. Caled passed him another bundle of food as Jivyan grinned, her freckled face beaming.

He unwrapped the bundle to see a portion of chicken that was dried and shrivelled-looking and bread lathered with a dark, sweet jam on it.

At least it was not bread and cheese again, Raven thought with a sigh.

On the seventh day, he was not sleeping but sharpening his dagger on his whetstone and testing the healing muscles in his hurt shoulder when the two children burst in.

“Raven! You have to go now!” Caled shouted frantically. "There's people asking about you!"

Rolling to his feet quickly, Raven looked down at the children.

Jivyan and Caled abruptly stepped back together in tandem, their faces pallid with sudden shock and fear that splashed like a bucket of ice-cold water. The aura of menace that had first surrounded Raven when they saw him had returned but back then, it had been like the simmering menace of a hurt creature. Frightening, yes, but endurable to the point where the children could shake off their alarm to help him. This time, standing up, a smear of daunting black against the mill’s dusty browns, he seemed so much more… dangerous somehow. He was utterly terrifying.

Raven said tersely, “Tell me.”

“They’re very tall with skin very white. Like yours. I’ve never seen people like them. They say they’re elves,” Here, Caled’s rambling voice took on a note of disbelieving wonder. "And they’re looking for someone they wounded a few days in their Woods.”

The young boy tried to remember as much as he could of what happened this morning as he poured it out to an intently listening Raven.

He had been in the hens’ house, feeding the squawking things when his brother had hurried over.

“Caled!”

Antar was hovering at that age when his voice would quaver between a boyish squeak and a baritone. As he shouted Caled’s name, his voice first went high and then alarmingly low.

“Come now to the house. Mother and Father wants to see you!”

On his guard immediately because of Raven, Caled asked with deep suspicion, “Why? I have not finish feeding the hens.”

“I don’t know but I think it has something to do with the visitors,” Antar said excitedly.

“Visitors?”

“Dressed all in leather armour and with bows and swords. Even the women were as tall as the men! Come on! Hurry up.”

While his brother hustled him along, Caled’s feeling of impending peril grew stronger and he would have sprinted over the section of broken wall behind his house to warn Raven but Antar’s enthusiastic tugging of his arm towards their house stopped him from doing so.

As he stepped into the house, the incongruousness of the scene before him struck and he would never forget that scene, etched like a still picture, inside his mind till the day he breathed his last.

His parents were standing at one side of the room; his father’s arm around his mother and both had similar expressions of awe, respect and trepidation on their careworn faces.

In the middle of the room, around the large oaken table that his father and eldest brother had made two winters ago, were several, a half-dozen at least, tall personages dressed in a kind of brown leather armour that covered the top part of their bodies down to their thighs. From the underarm openings of the leather armour were long strips of forest-green cotton sleeves. Strapped to some of the waists were leather scabbards with sword pommels jutting out and every single one carried long bows.

All were very fair and tall and their hair colours varied from the blazing sunset of a red autumn sun to the gentle warm glow of firelight in evenings. There were also mysterious and elaborate insignias tattooed on each of their left arms.

Perhaps strangest of all was that their ears were thinner and longer than most men.

As he entered, everyone in that room turned to look at him and Caled’s instinct screamed at him to run, run, RUN! As far as he could and as fast as he could.

He had never seen warriors before but he knew at once that was what the six before him were. Soldiers who had seen and dealt more than their fair share of death.

He was afraid. He was only twelve and he was afraid for himself and the stranger in the abandoned mill.

“This is our youngest, Caled.” His father cleared his throat to announce.

“Caled Gwohann,” one of the warriors called him and Caled realised that it was a woman. She was very beautiful with long limbs and bright red hair like rubies or split blood. She was like no woman he had seen in all his short life spent in Twynar. She was unknown, lovely and inhuman to his eyes. “We bid you well.”

“Who are you?” he asked baldly.

“Caled!” His mother hissed.

The woman smiled. “It is only natural for children to be curious. We encourage that trait in our own young. My name is Reollár and I am of the Tethinrhim tribe of the elven race.” She inclined her head slightly.

In the background, Caled heard his parents gasped softly.

“What do you want with me?” He thought of Jivyan who dreamt of elves and raven princes and was frightened of haunted houses, and Caled suddenly wanted her here very badly. She would have cherished this moment in his house, unlike him, and ignored the fear and just… loved it with all her heart.

Reollár nodded to one of the elves around her and he came forth, holding something in his hand.

It was Caled’s bow. The one his parents gave him and which he had left and forgotten in the Auturian Woods days ago.

The elven woman beckoned for him to come nearer and he obeyed reluctantly. When he was before her, the male warrior placed the bow into Caled’s hands which clutched it tightly.

“A good bow. You left it in our Woods.” Reollár smiled again but the smile did not reach her eyes which were flinty and grim. “It is yours, is it not?”

Caled nodded.

“We are looking for someone. Someone who trespassed in our Woods and he is, how do you say it in your tongue,” she paused to think, “a lawbreaker. Yes. He has broken our laws and we seek him to bring him to justice. Do you know where he is?”

Caled shook his head, mouth dry.

“If you know, you must tell us. Your bow was found in the boundaries of the Woods.”

He found his voice with difficulty. “I don’t know. I, I went to the Woods to practice with my bow. But something came out from beyond the trees. I was frightened. I ran. I’m sorry.”

She does not believe me, Caled’s mind babbled. She knows I’m lying.

"My boy says he does not know and so he doesn’t.” It was Father who spoke, a steely note in his words. Caled blinked in surprise. “If you have no other business, please leave my home. We are but simple Avennorian farmers.”

He was so proud of his father then that he thought his heart would burst from it.

Two of the Tethinrhim elves stepped forth and from the corner of his eye, Caled saw his father’s posture tensed. However, Reollár waved them back with a flick of a hand.

“A brave child. Very well. We have tarried here long enough. My thanks for allowing us into your home,” Reollár said as, one by one, the other elves filed out of the room, silent as graves. Only the ef woman was left and as she passed by the family, she spared a glance for the young boy.

A flicker of the smile returned but there was nothing reassuring about it.

“We do not kill unless there is need. And we do not kill children,” she told them as she left.

“So you have to go as soon as possible before they find you,” Caled was telling Raven. “I ran to Jivyan’s house as soon as they left and I don’t think they followed me but Twynar isn’t very big, you can’t hide here forever.”

“No, I cannot.” Raven agreed.

“It’s my fault. I forgot about my bow.” He hung his head guiltily. “I don’t know how they knew it was mine.”

“They are Kaierian warriors. They can track a scent a week old to its source.” It did not sound like Raven was blaming him. Nevertheless, Caled still felt the guilt and his carelessness keenly.

“Your shoulder?” Jivyan asked timidly.

“Healed enough.” Then Raven asked Caled, “The elf woman. What did she look like?”

“She said her name was Reollár. Her skin was pale like she was sick but she didn’t look sick and her hair was red and braided around her head. Do you know her?”

“I know her.” Indeed he did and one day he shall pay her back in kind for the wound she inflicted upon him tenfold and she will beg him for her death by the time he was done.

Caled hesitated. “They said you broke their laws.”

“Do you believe her?”

“I don’t know.”

“What she says is true. I ventured into their Ria, the stronghold of their leader, and I stole from them.”

Jivyan asked apprehensively, “Why?”

“I am not an ensorcelled prince, child of men.” A thin smile stretched Raven’s lips as he swept his blacker than night hair from the sides of his face, which has so enthralled Jivyan before with its beauty, to reveal ears just as thin and angled like the Tethinrhim's. Caled stared incredulously while Jivyan gasped.

“I am of the Coór'hém tribe of the elven race and there is no love between my tribe and the other elven tribes including the Tethinrhim. Enemies we were when the Dark Father Coór turned his back upon Avá and enemies we shall remain when the day comes and this world is destroyed. They call us abominations but in Coór’s eyes, we are His beloved children.”

“I don’t understand.” Jivyan scowled with confusion.

“Be happy that you do not. It is your ignorance that saved you.” Once more, Raven thought of killing the children. A wisp of expediency and practicality going through his mind to ensure his survival. That they had not disclosed his whereabouts today did not mean they would not do it some other time. Unexpectedly trustworthy they had proved themselves to be but they were still only children.

“Here, we packed some food for you and water. ” Jivyan handed a bundle wrapped in clean linen and a flask to him. She blinked at him owlishly a few times and resisted the urge to run over and hug him like she would one of her injured animals after it had healed and she was setting it free. Somehow she did not think Raven was the type who allowed hugs.

“Bread and cheese?” He raised an eyebrow.

“Our parents were getting suspicious of the missing food.”

“Bread and cheese it is then.” He looked at Caled and Jivyan momentarily and then at the food and flask he held in one hand and finally shrugged. “Thank you.”

Caled was startled. “You thanked us. You never did that before.”

Their deaths would serve no purpose except perhaps hold off the hunters a day or two. He could afford that time lost. The Kaierian trackers would expect him to journey to the Cape of Strata in order to find a ship that will bring him to Nybelmar and they would look to the obvious roads that led from Marcogg into Stratania for him. What they probably did not know was that he planned to go overland and lose his pursuers through the Caeytharin Mountains on the way to the town of Ciosa where a small ship, its captain paid half in gold and the other half promised when he reached, would be waiting for him to sail him round the Yanthian Gulf and to the Cape of Strata. He would be safe once he reached there for the Tethinrhim would be hard-pressed to track down a lone fugitive across the border in Stratanian lands.

“Please, do go now. Don’t get killed,” Jivyan told him with worried earnestness. “And it’s all right, I don’t mind that you’re an elf”

Raven nodded distractedly and walked out of the mill without another word. The two children ran to the door and they stood, side by side, watching him go down the path in his black clothing, still soaked with dried blood and torn here and there and the heat of the day simmered around him.

Jivyan waved although he did not turn around. He continued striding until he rounded a bend, through some trees, and was gone.

Caled had nightmares after Raven’s departure, silent ones that tore him into wakefulness, sweating profusely as the dark closed in on him within the small room he shared with his brothers. Always in the dreams, he would watch helplessly as the red-haired elven woman, Reollár, returned to Twynar because they had somehow found out about Raven. Bright blood stained the walls of his house as the elves then slaughtered everyone in the village and he would wake with his fist pressed against into his mouth to stop the screams from waking his parents and brothers.

But the horrific dreams eventually passed as the days passed. Winter came and elves from the Auturian Woods did not come back.

Years went by. Jivyan and Caled grew, as children are wont to do. Caled’s eldest brother died soon of a sickness and was buried into the still frozen earth of a winter’s day. His family grieved and after the sorrow, life on the farm went on with Caled and Antar bearing the burden of their dead brother’s responsibilities.

Jivyan decided to follow the path of Nehtor, to become a healer of men, not just of animals and when she was fifteen, her parents sent her to a temple of the God of Healing in Marcogg. She did not return until she was two and twenty years of age. When she did, she became the village’s healer and was courted by two young men from neighbouring farmsteads but she laughingly turned them down and said she was not the marrying kind.

Her friendship with Caled continued and strengthened when he married her best friend Dena who used to frighten her with stories of ghostly mills when they were young girls.

As with everywhere else, Twynar saw its share of death from sickness or old age and harvests came and went and children grew up and had children of their own.

Travellers through the village still brought news from the outside world and in the village square, Verimar the blacksmith, Pellan the miller, his eighteen-year-old son Pelath and a host of other farmers would gather and listen to them. How Anir Snivild now sat upon the Avennorian throne and signed a shameful treaty with the Shan’Thai and because of ink signatures on a piece of parchment, civil war raged like dragon’s fire through the lands between those who believed that all men should live free without mastery and those who believed that some men are more equal than others.

Verimar would click his tongue against the roof of his mouth in disapproval at the sad state of affairs happening outside their village while Pelath dreamt of fighting in the war, to bring freedom to the enslaved. His father knew exactly what he was thinking of and explictly forbade him to join the war but a few weeks later, Pellan would find a letter pinned onto an empty bed and a year would pass before a battered-looking soldier would tap onto the door of Pellan’s mill and tell him that his only son had died in a skirmish and hand Pellan a small jar which contained Pelath’s ashes.

Caled did not join the war for his brother, Antar, like Pelath had, and when the war of slavery ended, Antar did not return for another war soon started, this time against the elves of the Woods and Antar had been commanded to fight in it. For Anir’s and Avennoria's glory, they said.

So Caled tended the farm and though sometimes he dreamt equally of the grandeur and misery of great battles before the fireplace as the embers glowed and flickered, he stayed to look after his parents who were growing old and Dena whose belly was rounded with their first child.

And the older generation continued to say that there had been Avennorian farmers since the time of Barek Swanhild and there will be Avvennorian farmers in Twynar long after kings like Anir Snivild became dust and ash in the palm of a hand.

So they said.

A loud banging woke Caled from his deep sleep. Tired from the day’s work, he was most definitely not pleased to be woken up in this manner.

Beside him Dena, his wife, clutched at his hand. “Who is it?”

Bending over for a quick kiss to her temple, Caled assured her. “Probably Durcyn needing help foaling one of his cows. Calf’s head is turned the wrong way, it’s not coming out properly. Go back to sleep.”

Dena nodded sleepily and watched him as he dressed and went out of the room.

At the door, the pounding continued, increasing in strength and volume.

“Durcyn, if you break my door down, you’re going to pay for a new one!” Caled yelled as he undid the latch and swung the door open.

It was not Durcyn. Jivyan was standing at his doorstep with her fist still poised in the air, ready to slam it against the door.

“Jivyan? What are you doing here? Dena’s not due for another month.”

“I am not here about Dena or the baby. It is…” Jivyan took a deep breath.

Caled noticed Jivyan’s dress looked as if she had thrown it on hurriedly, without care or concern. Her brown hair was not in its usual style, knotted into a neat bun at the base of her neck but was streaming messily down her shoulders.

Alarm gripped him. “What is it? What has happened?”

Jivyan opened her mouth to speak but before she could, a shadow detached itself from behind her and came forward.

Hurriedly lighting a candle on the table nearby, Caled brought the wavering glow up against the shadow’s face and almost dropped it when he realised who it was.

“Raven!”

The elf did not greet him and in the weak illumination of the candle, Caled saw that he had not changed at all in the sixteen years that had passed since he and Jivyan hefted him out from the Auturian Woods. No new lines of age creased the corners of his eyes and his hair was still blacker than the night that surrounded them.

He had not grown or changed and looking at him, Caled had the sense of time pressing in on him though he was still a man in his prime, only seven and twenty of age.

“So it is true, the elves do not grow old nor do they die, they are beyond Queprur's reach,” he murmured.

“Hardly. We die in due course, but the process is much slower for us than for you men.” That tone of scorn and contempt in Raven’s voice had not changed, however.

“What is it that you want? Why have you come back?”

It was Jivyan who answered. “Because we were going to die if he had not returned.”

“Speak sense, Jivyan!” The unexpected appearance of Raven had unnerved him so he spoke with greater than necessary force at his childhood friend.

“Caled, Raven came to warn us. The Tethinrhim elves are coming this way and they are burning settlements in their paths.”

“This is madness!” Verimar shouted, his thickset arm waving his forge hammer at an unperturbed Raven. “Why should the elves attack us? We have nothing to do with this conflict between them and Anir.”

“Believe it as you will, I speak the truth. Not a day’s journey away from your village marches a division of Tethinrhim warriors. They are under orders to burn all the nearby settlements around their Woods including yours,” Raven announced calmly.

The entire village of Twynar was gathered in what passed as their version of a town square which was nothing more than a square patch of brown earth sandwiched between the butcher’s shop and Verimar’s smithy. After Jivyan had seen Caled, the two had woken up their nearest neighbours and told them of Raven’s news and each in turn was told to inform the rest of the village and gather everyone into the square. There were about a hundred or so inhabitants of Twynar and they were squeezed into that bare patch of land and all gazed upon the tall elf with his black clothing, the glittering sword hanging on his belt, his black hair and skin like the pale side of the moon with confusion, worry and terror.

It was still the dead of night and torches were lit to provide light, creating a hazy glow to the air. Some of the women tried to comfort frightened children while others stood beside their husbands, fathers or brothers. Raven looked supremely unconcerned by the growing panic around him while Jivyan and Caled were each positioned next to his left and right respectively. Dena had insisted on coming with them as well and she stood a little ways behind her husband.

Another man shouted, “Let Anir and the elves fight among themselves. Let them murder each other to the last one if that is what they want! We are only simple farmers.”

A murmur of assent ran through the crowd.

“This is our home. We have lived here all our lives. Our fathers have lived here and their fathers and their fathers before them and so on. Twynar is our history, it is what we are, what made us and what will make our children and their children to come. We cannot abandon it,” said Tiran, a short, dark man who held the farmstead northeast of Twynar.

“Then you will die and so will your children and your history will become a burning pyre of corpses and blackened fields,” Raven said mockingly and though he did not raise his voice, everyone present heard his words as clear as if he had been standing next to them, whispering into their ears. “Whether you like it or not, war is upon you and war does not distinguish between farmers or soldiers. To the Tethinrhim, you are all Avennorians.”

“Listen to him. He speaks the truth, I swear it!” Caled said to his villagers.

“And what if he is wrong? What if this elf is lying? We have only his word.” Pellan spat on the ground, bitter, as he had been since his son’s death. “I have heard of these Coór'hém elves. That they are wicked and treacherous!”

“But if he is not lying? Pellan Ulothrar, would you take the chance and remain here? Pelath is dead but you still have a daughter. Would you risk her life?” Jivyan pointed out, indicating with a hand to the young girl that clung to Pellan’s side. At Jivyan’s words and reminder of his son’s death, the miller jerked and clutched his daughter nearer.

“Listen to me! Take what you can carry and go to Marcogg. Within the city walls, we have a measure of safety.” Caled told them. “The best chance we have is to leave Twynar.”

“Leave? And who will plant the fields when we are gone? What will we eat if there is no harvest?” A woman asked shrilly from beyond the outer reaches of the crowd. “Our homes are here, our fields cannot be left untended!” Once she said that, many in the crowd started shouting that she was right.

With growing dismay, Caled looked at Raven quickly, hoping the elf would have more to say in order to sway his fellow villagers but the latter shrugged elegantly as if the stubbornness of Twynar was no longer any of his interest.

“Why should we listen to that elf anyway? You heard what Pellan said. The elf’s probably a spy for those Tethinrhim he’s talking about! It’s a ruse.” The mood of the crowd grew uglier, louder and harsher until it resembled a lynching mob rather than a meeting of villagers and Caled began to fear for Raven’s safety.

“This is not good, Raven,” Caled hissed.

“Men really are the stupidest race on Caelereth. I do not know how your race has survived until now without being obliterated,” Raven replied, looking bored.

The initial shock had passed and it was rapidly replaced by furious anger and several of the men were eyeing Raven in a decidedly hostile way. A few started towards the elf and Caled was thinking how to hold them back when Jivyan suddenly darted forward to snatch Verimar’s hammer. He was so taken-aback by surprise that he relinquished it easily. Though heavy, Jivyan managed to heft it with both her hands.

She swung it against the advancing men, motioning them to step back and all of them looked at her if she had gone insane.

Then she swung the hammer against the ground with all the strength she could muster and it fell to its side as she let go, the sound of the impact reverberating dully.

“You stubborn fools! Not even Nehtor Himself can bring back the dead! If Raven is wrong, we lose nothing. We come back to Twynar and our houses will still stand and our fields will still wait for our hands to harvest them. But if he is right, then fields can be replanted, homes can be rebuilt but lost lives cannot be replaced!” The healer cried out vehemently.

Quiet until now, Dena spoke up as well, “I will go to Marcogg with my husband. Not for my safety or for Caled’s. I leave Twynar because I will do anything to ensure his survival.” She touched her belly carefully; face soft with tenderness which subsequently hardened to firm determination.

Reaching out, Caled grasped his wife’s hand and thought it was impossible to love another so much without losing something of oneself but he did not regret if that was the price. It was well paid.

He looked out to the suddenly silent crowd, still holding his wife’s hand. “Live or die. It is your choice.”

“How many followed?” Jivyan wanted to know.

“About seventy. The rest…they stayed behind.”

Uncharacteristically, Jivyan let loose a volley of curses.

“They made their choice. We did what we could.” Caled said heavily while gazed back at the direction where Twynar lay.

The seventy or so villagers who followed them were presently camped on one of the low foothills that surrounded the Mithral Mountains. The journey from Twynar to Marcogg was only a three days’ distance but to avoid any possible Tethinrhim patrols near the Auturian Woods, Caled and Jivyan decided to detour to the foothills and from there, they would go on to the Avennorian Capitol. It would take a week instead of the three days but Caled estimated they had enough provisions to last them until they reached the city gates.

“I know that, do you think I do not tell myself the same thing? But it is small comfort especially if that fool Verimar does what he said to us before we left and rallies those who remained to fight. Fight?!” She laughed, the sound harsh like a crow’s death knell. “What chance do they have against a band of experienced warriors? They will be slaughtered.” Having said that, the healer covered her face with her hands and wept angrily instead.

As she cried, Caled remembered that long ago day when six of the Tethinrhim came to his home and he remembered what the elf woman Reollár had said.

We do not kill unless there is need.

Thirty trying to protect their families, their homes, their fields. Would the Tethinrhim consider that a need?

His grief, like Jivyan, tore at his heart at that question.

“No. We have to go back. Make them come with us somehow. Caled, we cannot leave them to die!”

“It is too late. See you to where your village lies,” Raven said, leaning against an outcrop of stone, casually pointing to Twynar’s direction.

They looked and where Twynar was, thick columns of grey smoke now spiralled and twisted into the skies, stark and ominous against the crimson sunset.

Jivyan choked with stunned horror and she turned away, unable to witness further.

Caled did not turn away. He stood unmoving and watched as his village was razed by enemies he did not make and mourned for the deaths of people he had known since birth.

“Why?” he asked.

The elf shrugged. “It is war. War does not discriminate.”

“No. That is not what I meant. Why us? Why did you warn only Twynar? If you knew what the Tethinrhim were going to do, why did you not send word to Chrondra and Klinsor? Or even Marcogg? Why?” Caled demanded, his hands tightly clenched into fists.

Uncoiling from his position of repose, Raven stood to his full height and the familiar coldness and menace in his eyes intensified. Except this time, Caled was no longer a boy of twelve to be so easily intimidated. He looked full back into Raven’s face and waited for an answer.

“Whether other men of your tribe lives or dies is no longer any of my concern. Know this, Caled of Twynar. I risked my life to warn you of the danger you unknowingly faced because, sixteen years ago, two human whelps ventured into the Auturian Woods and saved one of the Coór'hém. And today, that debt has been paid in full. I owe you and the girl nothing.”

The man who was a farmer and the elf who had seen and tasted the darkness within locked gazes for an eternity and finally it was the latter who looked away first but it was a bitter victory for Caled and the taste of it laid sour in his mouth.

“Go south and you will reach Marcogg soon enough,” Raven said grudgingly.

That was how Caled knew he was leaving them.

As the elf walked away, Jivyan said quietly to him, “Thank you.”

He halted his steps and turned slightly. His black clothes made him seem like one of the shadows wavering on the rock face of the mountain.

Raven said nothing. Then a white thing thrown from a pale hand arced towards them and Caled caught it.

It was a bundle wrapped in linen and as Caled opened it, he and Jivyan saw a fresh loaf of bread and cheese nestled in the folds.

When they looked up, he was gone.

The war ended. Even the most destructive ones eventually do. And as wars went, this was a relatively short one as Anir Snivild soon yielded to the elves of the Auturian Woods after a few years. When Anir surrendered, the survivors of Twynar returned to their village and though the fields were blackened with soot and their homes burnt to the ground, like Jivyan had said, fields could be replanted and homes rebuilt which is what they did.

Whilst seeking refuge in Marcogg, Caled’s parents died, one soon after the other, their hearts too tired to take the strain and they simply gave. However, sometimes what Queprur takes away, she gives back, for in a temple of Nehtor, overflowing with wounded soldiers, the air reeking of illness and rotten flesh, Caled found his brother, Antar, who was grievously injured.

Jivyan took over the task of caring for her friend’s brother and though he retained a limp from when an Eeven arrow struck his leg and which never went away, eventually Antar was restored to his health. When Caled, Dena and their young son made the journey back to Twynar, he went with them, along with Jivyan.

In the month of the Sleeping Dreameress, on a clear day with a sky so blue that it seemed a gift from the Gods, Antar married Jivyan.

Peace reigned for a short time and then the winds brought the scent of steel and blood once more as the First Sarvonian War began to reach Avennoria.

However, as chaos raged outside and the one whom the elves called Avá wept for the folly of the creatures that inhabited Her Dream, the village of Twynar continued in the ancient cycles of planting and harvest and birth and death.

And the older generations still continued to say to those who will listen, that there had been Avennorian farmers since the time of Barek Swanhild and there will be Avennorian farmers in Twynar long after kingdoms crumbled to dust beneath one’s feet. Only the difference was that sometimes they speak too of a raven prince who came when the darkest days of a past war reigned and delivered them from peril.

 

Story written by Dalá'Valannía View Profile