Read The Last Elf of Lanis Online
Authors: K. J. Hargan
The Last Elf of Lanis
K. J. Hargan
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The Last Elf of Lanis
10 by K. J. Hargan
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the
author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark
owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The
publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
r illustration by Damian Hawes. Copyright Kurt J. Hargan. Used with permission.
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The author would like to thank Annette and Roy for their support and love, and Zack who enjoyed this work, as it was written chapter by chapter and read to
him by his mother Koral, who I thank as sister, editor, and most ardent fan.
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The Last Elf of Lanis
Iounelle Treelaughter Wendralorn Awaruaine knelt to check the signs in the dry autumn grass. Nearby, the bodies of five garonds lay dead.
Treelaughter was her elvish life
name. Wendralorn was her family name. And, Awaruaine was the name given by the priests at her birth, a secret name, only to be told to her betrothed on her first night of marriage. Now that name was irrelevant. There were no other elves to be her husband.
The garonds were part of a larger platoon she had been tracking for several weeks. They were headed westward from the Holmwy River. These five had doubled back. It didn’t matter why to the elf. She would have killed them in any case.
Iounelle plucked a handful of the meadow grass and wiped the garond blood from her long, silver, crescent shaped sword. It resembled the moon in its last phase. Along the inner edge ran old elvish runes in a dialect of elvish so ancient the words made little sense to her. She could pick out the words ‘glory’ and ‘key’, but the phrasing was too old to
be readily understoo
The elf looked up at the cold, blue sky. The memory of the slaughter of the last elves in all of Wealdland constantly played before her eyes. She clutched her breast with the heartbreak. When the garonds, their age old friends, suddenly attacked, she had been knocked unconscious by her brother, and hidden in the trees near the walls of the ancient city of the elves, called Lanis Rhyl Landemiriam.
When she awoke, the last four elves were fighting against thousands of garonds. Her brother was in the group. From her hiding place, she saw his desperate eyes flash to her to flee. She felt the numbing shock of horror as the garonds, like angry black ants, overwhelmed her brother and the other elves. She often thought she should have died with them then, a year ago. But, she ran and hid in the trees, crying for days after.
Over the days
since the attack, she quietly killed as many of the invading, vile garonds as she could, secretly ranging all across the Lanis peninsula, into the Madrun Hills, and across the Eastern Meadowland.
The elf rose. The trail led to a small, neglected village called Bittel.
The small stand of trees was cool, and the green and yellow leaves of the massive elms swayed and danced with the sweet breezes of the last days of autumn. The Archer from Kipleth drew back on his long, yew bow. The arrow he had nocked had a black metal, strangely barbed head.
The Archer swung his bow around to a group of people on the ground. From his vantage point in the elm, the Archer had an unobstructed target range of the whole, open meadow and the trail that
ran along the edge of the tree line
A permanent sorrow was etched on the Archer’s face, reflected in his dark brown eyes.
There was no cover from this point. Anyone on the ground would have been helpless before him. He had only to point and release.
On the ground, three garonds had three human families in shackles. The garonds were a squat, dark, muscular and vicious race
sporting long, dark, red hair. They had wide mouths with sharp teeth, small upturned noses and ape like faces.
All three of the garond soldiers had thick leather armor with copper plates on shoulders, thighs, and chest. None of these precautions would protect the soldiers from the Archer.
The Archer sighted the foremost garond and pulled his arrow tight to his right cheek. The image of his slaughtered wife and children was always foremost in his mind, but his wife’s face was becoming distant, a memory harder to recall. His fingers trembled.
Silent, as a leaf falling, a shape dropped to the branch just in the Archer’s line of sight. A small, hooded figure dressed in forest green crouched on the outstretched arm of an elm.
The Archer watched as the hooded figure drew a crescent shaped, silver sword. The Archer instantly knew the shape crouching on the branch before him was an elf. His hand wavered for an imperceptible instant.
The elf tensed, ready to leap down to the garonds below. In a moment, the elf would be fighting for its life, and it would be a close match. Garonds were quick and well organized, strong and merciless. The Archer had never seen an elf fight, but he made up his mind.
The Archer checked his target and released the arrow. It flew silent and true, a sharp, feathered bolt, and pinned the cloak of the elf to the branch on which it crouched.
The elf whirled around to pierce the Archer with sea green eyes. The elf was a young woman, but a bonfire of hatred blazed in her stare. The Archer locked eyes with the elf, and lifted a single finger to his lips to be silent.
The elf instantly knew the Archer could have killed her then and there, and reluctantly nodded with understanding.
The Archer nocked another of his unique black arrows.
On the ground, a blonde, human b
oy had fallen to the dry, autumn
grass. One of the garonds snarled loud and dangerous. It lifted its blackened, oak club for the death stroke.
As in a dream, a polished arrow sprouted from the neck of the garond. Dark blood squirted from the wound. The other two garonds roared in anger.
The elf watched in astonishment as the Archer renocked, and fired twice more in a perfect blur. It seemed as if the arrows sprang from the other two garonds like evil, fletched flowers grown mad in some deadly spring.
The middle garond clutched the arrow imbedded in his right eye. The third garond could only bring his hands up to the arrow protruding from his opened mouth before it crumpled to its death.
All three garonds fell to the ground in pools of inky blood as the humans clutched each other in happy astonishment.
The elf turned to fix the Archer with a look of satisfied blood lust. Then, she ripped the arrow from her tunic, and leapt from the tree. The elf disappeared into the woods with the speed of a startled deer.
The Archer paused for any other movement in the woods,
and then slowly climbed from the
elm tree. Then, he walked carefully to the tree that the elf had fled. There was no sign of his black arrow, or the elf.
Carefully, the Archer walked through the edge of the woods to where the humans were freeing themselves of the shackles of the garonds.
A tall, blonde man with dark brown eyes turned to the Archer, and his face broke into a broad smile. “Like the sun breaking through the clouds, our savior!” He exclaimed.
The Archer ignored him and strode to the first garond, and pulled the black arrow from its neck.
“I am Kellabald, these are the people of Bittel,” the blonde man quietly said.
The Archer briefly took in Kellabald, his dark haired wife, and their blonde son, the boy who was nearly killed. There was also an elderly couple, and a red haired man, with a woman and their girl. The red haired man seemed vaguely familiar.
e Archer stepped to the second g
arond and with effort, pulled at the thick, barbed arrow buried in its eye socket.
The two human children now clutched their mothers and whimpered in happy sobs. The Archer acknowledged their relief. For an instant, the pain of a bereaved parent played across his face. Then, the black cloud, which perpetually shadowed the Archer’s face, covered his countenance again.
Kellabald stepped up to the second garond and held its head to help the Archer extract the arrow.
“They are nasty things, these garonds, like rabid animals. You made short work of them, though,” Kellabald humbly said.
As the arrow came free, the Archer examined Kellabald for a moment. “You had best get your clan to safety fast. The mounted patrols will be here soon.”
“Mounted...?’ Kellabald stared at the Archer.
“They ride on the backs of horses,” the Archer plainly said.
Kellabald stopped as if the Archer had told a joke,
realized the seriousness of the situation. “They ride on the backs...”
“... Of horses. They are relentless and unmerciful,” the Archer said as he scanned the trees.
Kellabald seemed to understand, and an air of gratefulness settled on him. “You have our undying thanks, friend. But where is your elf companion? We should thank her, too.”
The Archer stopped before the third garond. “You saw her?”
Kellabald shifted nervously. “Was she... Did I not...?” his voice broke in embarrassment.
“She has my arrow,” was all the Archer said. Then, he pulled the arrow from the third garond’s mouth with a sucking, popping sound.
“There’s a village, Rion Ta, across the Eastern Meadowland, at the edge of the Weald. We would be honored if you would escort us,” Kellabald asked, hope quietly shining in his averted brown eyes.
“The women and children should know that we must travel quickly,” was all the Archer said. With that, he strode away through the brown, dry grass.
Kellabald gathered his clan as they scuttled after the determined strides of the Archer from Kipleth.
From the edge of the woods, from the unfolding green, as if emerging from nature itself, Iounelle, the elf, stood and looked after the fleeing humans. The elf paused to examine the destruction of the garonds, crumpled black shapes of evil, given their due by the dark eyed, dark haired Archer. The human stirred a strange feeling in her breast. In her hand, she turned the unusual, black arrow that had pinned her cloak to the tree. Then, with the hint of a smile, the elf quietly followed the trekking humans through the crisp, autumn grass.
Arnwylf tried to ignore the burning in his legs, and would not cry. His father, Kellabald walked with his mother, Wynnfrith, just behind the Archer. His mother’s long black hair swayed in the gentle breeze. She looked back at Arnwylf with sea green eyes.
Arnwylf had his father’s blonde hair, but while Arnwylf’s hair was long and gentle, his father’s was a ragged mop. Arnwylf had his mother’s green eyes.
The dry, tall grass sometimes cut at his face. He was lean and tall
for almost fifteen summers
. He was frightened and starving, but he would not cry.
The garonds had been terrifying, worse than any nightmare. He knew he was going to die. They smelled like spoiled meat. Their faces were always twisted with rage. But, Arnwylf sensed there was something not right about the garonds, as if they were compelled by something even worse.
Arnwylf stumbled, and old Yulenth caught him. They quickly continued stalking through the tall grass of the Eastern Meadowland. Yulenth had short, messy white hair, a white beard, and light grey eyes. Alrhett marched beside her husband, Yulenth. She was Arnwylf’s grandmother, her long white hair platted into a single braid. She had hazel eyes, which twinkled with secret wisdom. Yulenth and Alrhett were like second parents to Arnwylf, and he felt safe with them following just behind.
Arnwylf thought back to the moment when the Archer had emerged from the woods. His dark face made Arnwylf worry that he was another garond. But then his quiet calm put everyone instantly at ease.
Arnwylf caught the glimpse of a shadow moving quickly through the grass. He almost cried out, fearing an animal. He knew lions stalked these grassy meadows. But, the shadow was so fleeting, he wondered if he had imagined it.
The red haired family followed behind Yulenth and Alrhett. The father, Haergill, was quiet like the Archer, and his fire red beard was braided into two braids. Haergill’s wife, Halldora, and their daughter Frea, were kind but quiet, as if they were holding back a tremendous sorrow. Their curling ginger hair was softly caressed by the light breezes of the meadow.
They had come from the Northern Kingdom of Man, where the garonds had driven every single human from the land. Kellabald had gladly welcomed them into their village. And, Arnwylf was glad to have someone his own age in the village, even if she was a girl.
Arnwylf flinched as he caught a strong musk smell. The Archer stopped the group and gestured for the band of humans to crouch down. As he stopped to hide, Arnwylf knew the pungent smell was a stauer, a massively large deer. The stauer was so large that a human, bowing his head, could walk underneath a mature male.
Stauers were dangerous. Their impressive antlers could kill several men in one slashing arc of its head. A herd of stauer was to be avoided at all costs. But, a single animal could be hunted and killed. The humans were desperately hungry. The garonds had starved the humans while they searched their village for days. They were looking for something, but no one knew what they sought. And, they could not tell, as no human understood the garond tongue.
Arnwylf could see his father arguing with the Archer in urgent whispers.
They had no weapons for hunting. Haergill had picked up one of the hated garond’s clubs. And except for the Archer’s arrows, the humans were empty handed.
Kellabald and the Archer reached an agreement. The Archer and Kellabald quietly retreated along the way they had come. After a brief discussion with Haergill, the group retreated back to a dead tree the humans had passed in the meadow.
Arnwylf knew what would come next, and set to breaking off the largest branch he could. All the others, men and women broke off large branches from the dead tree. Where the branches broke away, sharp, wooden spear points formed.
Frea had trouble with the branch she had chosen, and Haergill, her father, and Yulenth stopped to help her. Her branch split with an amazingly loud crack. The group froze in silence. The stauer might have heard them and bolted. Any number of humans would be no match for a charging stauer. The humans paused, listening intently.
Arnwylf saw the shadow again darting through the grass and swiveled to face it. The humans turned in the direction Arnwylf stared, but saw nothing. The Archer moved quietly to Arnwylf’s side.
“You saw her?” His dark eyes bore into Arnwylf. Arnwylf could only nod his head in assent. The Archer terrified him.
“Stay near me,” the Archer added. Arnwylf closely followed the Archer as the humans moved back along the path they had followed through the meadow. Kellabald and Wynnfrith shared a worried look.
Back to where they had stopped, the smell of the stauer was overpowering, musky, pungent, like the smell of the village when the rains came and everything was wet, like the smell of his younger brother when he was first born. Arnwylf stopped for a moment to remember his brother who had died so young of the pox.
The Archer motioned for the group to gather close.
“You,” he pointed to Haergill, “go that way. Me and you,” he indicated Kellabald, “we’ll go this way.”
“What do I do?” Arnwylf surprised himself with the question.
“You stay and protect the women,” the Archer dismissively said.
“Thank you for saving us, sir,” Wynnfrith spoke up. “But we have been hunting stauer for generations.” With that, the whole group, men and women, moved out to encircle the stauer.
The Archer smiled, and then caught Arnwylf. “If you see that shadow again
hout out, regardless of the hunt.” Arnwylf regarded the Archer, trying to be as strong and as terrifying as he could. He sensed the Archer’s amusement as the clan split up for the hunt.
The humans moved out into a quiet circle. To one side Wynnfrith led Haergill, followed by Halldora, then Yulenth. On the other side, Kellabald
led Alrhett, then Arnwylf, and
Frea. The Archer caught Arnwylf and then the circle wasn’t a perfect alteration of man and woman.
“If you see that elf...” the Archer said to Arnwylf. He and the Archer held back from the circle. The Archer nocked a flint tipped arrow. Arnwylf noted the excellent shape of the flint stone bound to the arrow shaft. The feathers of the arrow appeared to be from a sparrow, delicate and perfect. Arnwylf wondered where the large, black arrows were
, and why hadn’t the Archer nocked
one of those.
Arnwylf could smell the pungent aroma of the stauer again. The sharp scent was strong. He lifted his head slightly and saw through the thick, yellow and green grass, the huge antler rack of the stauer bobbing as the beast cropped the grass. He could hear the ripping and munching of the massive beast as it swung its massive head back and forth, tearing at the meadow’s grasses.
The humans had formed a perfect circle around the stauer, not trying to be too quiet. The trick was keeping it from being startled and running.
tremendous weight, easily equal to ten men, once set in motion, would be unstoppable. The alteration of man and woman would mean that the men could move in on the animal as the women tried to contain it.
The stauer smelled the humans and lifted its massive head with a reverberating snort. The animal was a huge male. Its coat was a reddish bay with black stripes. Around the top of its massive legs and around
throat was shaggy, dark brown hair. Its deer-like muzzle was wet with saliva, and it munched as it looked around at the enclosing humans. Its antler rack was big enough to cup four men at once.
neck was thick and massive, the power behind the dangerous sweep of
Kellabald, Haergill and Yulenth moved closer to the beast as it shook its head in annoyance. Arnwylf instinctively moved forward, but the Archer caught him by his filthy rags. The Archer’s eyes were two stars of burning fire. Arnwylf scanned the grass for the shadow he had seen before.
All the humans stood erect now. The stauer angrily snorted again. And, instead of charging or bolting, the huge animal lumbered i
n a tight defensive circle, fin
ding itself surrounded. This is what the starving, desperate humans wanted. The animal had to remain stationary to be brought down.
The birds in the meadow suddenly stopped chirping and calling. The only sound was the stauer turning and grunting at the sudden sight of these humans all around it.
Kellabald moved dangerously close to the beast. Throwing a spear or broken branch at the immense beast might be somewhat effective, but the thick hide and layers of muscle would protect the beast from barely being penetrated. The spear would have to be worked into the body to bring it down, to feed the anguished, starving families.
Kellabald looked over at his son standing so resolute with his tree branch spear, and his mind wandered back to his own youth in Gillalliath, the capitol of the green hills of Reia. His father was a noble, and so he was admitted to the higher households, struct
ures made of carved, dark wood
, the eaves trimmed with gold lettering from an ancient tongue. He started to turn over the events of his father’s trial in his mind, and then he caught himself, and focused on the task at hand.
The stauer shivered and grunted loudly. Its instinct now was to stand and demolish the puny creatures before it. It angrily tore large divots of earth with its thrashing front hooves, while dangerously nodding its head.
Arnwylf sneaked a look at the Archer. He seemed to stare at a fixed point in the grass, away from, but near the stauer. His bow and arrow were as still as ice, unmoving, but ready. Then, he pulled his arrow tight.
It all happened so quickly and simultaneously Arnwylf wasn’t sure if it wasn’t a dream even until his days as an old man.
The Archer was looking at where the shadow was, not to where it had moved. Arnwylf saw the shadow move impossibly, quickly through the tall grass. For an instant, he saw her. Her clothing was a shimmering cloak, which he could only describe as olive green, but seemed to reflect the tans and browns of the grass, blending perfectly. The elf moved behind the stauer and seemed to lock eyes with Arnwylf. Then the elf slapped the massive beast’s hindquarters, startling it into a charge.
Arnwylf pulled at the Archer’s sleeve, and was pointing at the elf, as the stauer reared up, more than twenty feet into the air. Before the stauer could bolt, Wynnfrith drove her sharpened branch into the animal’s hind leg. The stauer wheeled, turning its massive weight to crush Alrhett.
Without hesitation, with astounding speed, the Archer pivoted, and in an amazing shot, hit the stauer right in the eye. Instead of crushing Alrhett, the stauer flinched away from the pain of the arrow.
At this opportunity, Kellabald drove his spear into the stauer’s front leg, and as he clung to the thrashing, angry beast, drove the sharp branch deep into the animal’s limb. The stauer stumbled for a moment.
Haergill swung the garond club at the stauer’s massive head as its great reach of antlers swept in front of the humans. Instead of hitting the beast, Haergill spun, and was caught
by the antlers,
and thrown up high onto the back of the animal with a thud.
Yulenth rushed forward and drove his spear into the animal’s body, but the hit was low and ineffectual. The stauer was now mad, frothing, and bucking, with Haergill desperately clinging to its back.
As one, the humans all raised their hands and shouted to distract the massive beast. Its huge antlers swept
back and forth trying to crush
the puny, starving humans that encircled it.
Kellabald leapt upon the branch stuck in the stauer’s hind leg and pushed the sharp, wooden branch deeper. The stauer bellowed a shocking, ear splitting cry of pain, and almost went down. If it had lain down, the hunt would have been over, but this animal had spirit. And, it caught its legs under itself and stood upright.
Haergill, atop the stauer tried to position himself for a blow to the animal’s head with his garond club. But, the heaving and stamping of the stauer kept him off balance.
The Archer held Arnwylf, “Do you see her? Do you?”
Arnwylf contemptuously tore himself from the Archer’s grip and moved towards the stauer.
Yulenth had taken Alrhett’s spear and tried again for the body of the rampaging beast.
Arnwylf cautiously advanced on the stauer. The beast powerfully turned in short circles, and with its remaining eye tried to see and trample the humans. The group jumped and maneuvered to stay out of the sight line of the furious beast.
Surprisingly, Halldora rushed the beast and drove her spear into the spot right behind the front leg, but the animal shrugged violently and threw her to the ground. Frea leapt forward and dragged her mother away from the continuous, terrible striking of the stauer’s front hooves. Atop the stauer, Haergill had lost his club and hung onto the animal’s mane for dear life.
Arnwylf saw that Halldora’s spear was in the right place and leapt forward to grip it. He tried to force it into the animal’s heart. But, Arnwylf found himself suddenly thrown back and forth by the stauer’s mad battering. It’s front and rear legs were wounded and instead of bolting, which might have saved its life, its instinct now was to stand and fight.