Thread

                                            By 

                                         Arthur 

 CHAPTER 2


And so the travelling went on, I had been well warned about what the attitude of humans were towards Elves and had therefore decided to disguise myself as much as possible when I got close to one of their habitats, little did I know that not all events could be catered for.

I had been on the road for close to three months when my serene world was turned upside down by an event I had not warranted nor been prepared for, I was strolling along in what I thought was a nice pace, to my limited knowledge I was still a long way from any human habitats and therefore had not set up my disguise as yet.

As I strolled I was watching the changing landscape and not looking where I was going or who or what was around me, the first sign of trouble came from a loud deep voice almost in my ear.

“Well, well, well, a little Elf boy, what are you doing so far from home little Elf?”

As you can well understand, I was very surprised to be spoken to by someone who had been able to get so close to me without my knowledge, I looked over my shoulder to see a very large, scruffy human, he was way taller than I had thought humans grew too, he was also very wide in the shoulders and sported a thick rough beard, you must remember that this was the first human I had seen and was prepared for such a sight.

“Good Morrow, Sir, yes I am an Elf and I am on a quest for my Mate.”

“Ahah, I see, aren’t you a little young to be way out here by your self?”

I could now discern the humans rank odour, did these humans never wash, his teeth showed through his hairy mouth and were also very dirty and his breath so close to my nose was making my stomach squirm and lurch, hygiene was not his strong suit.

“Yes sir, a little far but it is what I must do.”

“Well little Elf boy, perhaps I can assist you, who are you looking for, perhaps I know them and I could take you to them?”

“I will not know who they are until we meet for the first time; it is the way of things.”

“Well, in that case I think you should come along with me, the open road is no place for such a small Elf such as yourself, there are many dangers for a boy alone.”

“Thank you Sir, but I am better off alone, I thank you for your concern but it is better I continue on my way.”

“Oh, I don’t think that would be a good idea, little Elf, if I let you go now you could be in great danger, let me take you to the nearest village, it is only a few more hours walk.”

With my empathic ability I should have seen that this human meant me no good but, before I could say or do anything further, three more humans seemed to appear from the very ground and surround me, they also were as rough looking as the first human although all were not as large, before I could move a large cloth bag was thrown over me and strong hands clasped me around the waist as a rope was tied tight to keep the bag on me.

I was not really afraid as I still had my magic but I was very angry with myself for being so easily caught by the humans, had I been more aware of my surroundings I would have seen them coming and disappeared into my cloak before they had a chance, all that was left now was to magic my way out of this predicament.

Before releasing myself I had to decide whether to do away with the four of them, if I did not then they would spread the word of a lone elf being in the lands of the humans and that was not what I wanted, the road ahead was going to be a long one as it was without being hunted by humans for their own curiosity.

As I mused over this new problem I was picked up and thrown over one of the men’s shoulders like a sack of corn, whomever it was seemed to be enjoying the act of running his hands over my upturned behind and down the short length of my thighs, I had a bad feeling of what could happen if I did not act quickly.

Concentrating on the unseen world around me I began to pull power from the ground and trees around us, within a few short seconds I had filled myself to capacity, my very nerves sang with the power of the spirits, with little thought for the rancid humans, I released a burst of pure power in the form of an enlarging ball of red fire.

I was immediately dropped on the hard ground, my head bouncing slightly as I hit the roadway, from around me I could hear the screams of the four men as they tried to get away from the fire, with little thought I made the bag dissolve into nothing more than thin threads of burlap and the rope also dissolved, I was free, standing up I looked at the four humans, they were still doing the dance of the hot foot, with a thought and a wave of my hands I made them all mute and blind, this was the only way I could be sure that they would not tell of my journey through their lands.

There was unfortunately one very big side effect of using this much magic, I was now extremely hungry and need to replenish my used power and strength, fortunately I remembered that the first human had said there was a small village only a few hours walk away, I was sure I could make it in plenty of time and so, leaving the four would be kidnappers to their fate, I strode off, as soon as I was safely far enough away from them I would have to put into play my plan of disguise.

I began to trot at a fast ground cover pace, this was natural to all Elves which gave them the ability to cover long distances with little effort, after an hour I could sense that I was closing on the village, ahead of me was a copse of trees, it was to these that I made my course, I did not want to suddenly appear in a human village as I was now, it was time for a simple disguise.

Once among the tress and out of sight of any passersby, I pulled the back of my cloak wider and began to tuck my long black hair into the cloak, I then conjured a rough leather cap with side panels to cover my ears, this would not look unusual as these types of caps were widely worn by all sorts of folk, now I only had my youthful looks to worry about but I could do nothing about them, bending down I took a little earth and rubbed in into my face and hands, I hoped that this would take away my fine features and the humans would not take too much notice of the young boy in their midst.

Due to the loping pace I had set I was now only a few miles from the village and once I came out of the copse I could see it in the distance, it was now high noon and some of the thatched houses showed smoke from their chimneys, there were only a few humans moving about as I walked down the road and entered the village square, the smell of cooking food hit my nostrils as soon as I turned the first corner.

As my stomach rumbled and groaned, I set my course for what looked like some type of tavern, outside sitting in a couple of wooden chairs were two old humans, in one hand they held a large tankard of beer and in the other hand a long thin pipe with the faint wisps of smoke from their tobacco, it was almost a comforting smell and sight.

Walking past the two old humans I made my way into the tavern, as I entered I looked around for the safest place to sit, the tavern bar was not overly large and there were some ten or fifteen people inside, again my nostril were assailed with the rank odour of unwashed bodies, did these humans never wash their bodies.

There were six rough hewn tables to one side of the long room, four of which were occupied by groups of men, along the other wall was the rough wooden bar where a very large fat human stood pouring beer from a wooden tap, behind the fat human was a small window and the smells of cooking food were emanating from this area, a small red haired child was running from the back kitchen to the bar room with large plates of food.

Once I had taken in all that was in the tavern room, I settled on the furtherest table in a slightly dark corner, I would have an empty table between myself and the others, as I walked towards the back table a gruff loud voice called to me.

“Oi, what you want scaly?”

I turned towards the large fat human.

“Good morrow Sir, I would like food and a tankard of beer.”

“Since when does a scally like you have the coin to pay for food and beer?”

“I have some coin Sir, if you would tell me how much for your fine fare I will set it upon your counter.”

“Well, scally, the tankard is two coppers and the meal is six, do you have that much, scally?”

I carefully reached inside my cloak and took the eight coppers from my belt pouch and then laid them on the dirty counter, the human looked at the coins, testing each one to see that I was not trying to cheat him even though he was trying to cheat me, I could read in his mind that the true fare for the meal and beer was only five copper coins, while this did rile me somewhat I was determined to get revenge in my own time and my own way.

Keeping the smile on my face I walked to the last table and sat with my back to the rough wooden wall, the last thing I wanted was to be taken by surprise again, to my young mind I was now in enemy territory, this had already been proved by my first encounter by humans and, while I had my magic to keep me safe, I could not fight a whole village without leaving a solid trace of my whereabouts.

I did not have to wait long before the little redhead was placing a huge tankard of beer on my table, his green eyes were sparkling as he looked at me, he was only about ten years old and I wondered if he was related to the large fat human, I doubted this very much, I was to learn later that Humans often took waifs in and made them not much better than slaves but, at this time I was not aware of their greed or lust, the boy looked happy as he turned to get my meal.

Another five minutes passed and then the boy appeared with a heaped plate of food, there was a meat stew and half a small loaf of coarse bread along with a wedge of tangy cheese, this would do for now and was just enough to replace the energy I had used on my magic, while it would normally have been sufficient for a grown man, the needs of replacing my energy made it easy for me to devour it until the plate was clean, even the bread and cheese disappeared into my empty belly, as I sat back to finish off my tankard, I felt well satisfied even though I was still not happy that the human had tried to cheat me, I would correct this attitude as I left.

I sat for a further ten minutes to let the food and strong beer settle, if you are wondering about my ability to drink such a large tankard of beer, I should tell you that it is impossible for an Elf to get drunk, our metabolism was able to dissolve alcohol and absorb it into our system without any side effects.

As I was about to leave now that I was replete, I went to the bar and with my widest smile I thanked the fat human for his excellent meal and beer, I could see by the look in his eyes that he had thought he had put one over on me by over charging, as I walked through the door I gave a small wave of my hand at the bar, his next customers for beer would get a surprise, stale putrid beer can turn the strongest of stomachs, I quickly set off out of the village, it was not a good idea to be around when he found out what had happened to his prize beer.

I decided to use the same pace as before and so broke into an Elvan trot, I did not want to be anywhere near the village by night fall, as the sun began to sink into the Western sky, I began to look for a place to spend the night, out in the open like this it was nota good idea to be easily seen or approached.

Almost on dark I spied a thick copse of trees and headed in their direction, for tonight I would conjure a meal and tomorrow I would look for something more substantial, most villages in this age were usually within one or two days walk, as I had been at a trot all afternoon, I was sure that the next village could be no more than half a days travel.

As the stars came out to shine their light on the surrounding country side, I pulled my cloak up tight and the hood over my head, to anyone moving around in the dark of night I would seem almost invisible, although any wild animals would not be as easily fooled but I was prepared to take that chance, there was very little that could truly hurt me while wearing the Elvin cloak.

For the next four weeks, each day passed much as the last, each time I entered a village I had to make sure I was disguised, it very frequently became apparent that the further South I moved, the less the humans knew or understood our Elvin ways, it was not only the land that change, I soon found out that as I moved further South so did the customs and language, it got to the stage that every two or three days I would learn something new, it also became more dangerous to let the humans see the real me under my cloak, most of the time I now travelled with the hood up and fitted well in place.

The weather was becoming warmer the further South I ventured, the villages also were now becoming larger towns and, while I was still a little uncomfortable with so many Humans around, I did find it easier to disappear into the crowds, unfortunately it also made it hard for to escape if I had the need, another thing I noticed was the number of uniformed men now on the roads, some were marching while others were on horse back, their horses nothing like the fine animals I was used to.

Over all the crowds there was a pervasive smell of unwashed flesh, it seemed that not only the outlying villages had an aversion to water, the larger towns also had an underlying stench of rot and sewerage, they were not the ideal places for a young, and small Elf to stay too long, my instincts told me of danger in these larger towns, I was too find that it was not only the towns that held danger.

I had now been on the road for over five months, most of the time I tried to stay away from heavily populated areas but sometimes I could not avoid it, to make my small amount of coins last, I took to using my talents to heal of assist where I could, this brought me a small amount of coin to pay for my meals and occasionally a room for the night.

One evening, close to dark, I spied a large farm not far ahead, in one of the paddocks close to the road was an elderly farmer trying to raise an old cow from the ground, it looked as though it was in the throws of giving birth but was now too tired to continue, seeing a chance to find hot food and a soft bed for the night, I hopped the wooden fence and approached the elderly human.

“Good Eve, sir, May I help you with your cow?”

It seemed the old human had not heard me approach and turned suddenly to see who had snuck up on him so close to dark.

“Do you know about animal husbandry, young Sir?”

“I am fortunate too know a little Sir, perhaps I can assist you.”

“While I thank you for your offer, young man, I fear it is past her time and there is little we can do.”

“May I look at her; perhaps there is still something that can be done to save her.”

“If you wish, but I think it is too late, however your offer will not go to waste.”

The elderly human stood back from the struggling cow and let me in close, with my back to the old human so he could not see what I was doing, I began to pull magic into my hands from the surrounding earth and grasses, placing my hands on her swollen stomach, I set to pouring a small quantity of magic into her, at first there was no sign and then, after a minute or so she once again began to move to birth her calf, five minutes later and the newborn calf was lying on the cooling grass as the old human looked on in awe.

Minutes later and the cow was on her feet and feeding the hungry new born, the old Man smiled and offered his hand saying.

“You must spend the night with myself and my wife, a hot meal and warm bed is the least I can offer, if you will accept it.”

“I thank you Sir and would truly appreciate such a kindness.”

After wiping his hands on the grass, the old human led me towards the far off farm house, it was not a grand structure compared to some I had seen on this road but it was well built and comfortable, the humans wife looked as old as he was although she was a lot plumper and moved about the kitchen with acuity, every move was long practised and precise, it took no time at all before a grand spread was laid on the table, the old farmer brought out a large jug of cider and filled the three large goblets, it was a veritable feast.

As we sat after the meal, I began to feel as though something was wrong, the old human was not reticent but seemed to be holding something inside that had him worried, the nervous looks of his plump wife only went further to tell me something was wrong for the old couple, being a nosey young Elf, I could not help asking them what was wrong and if I could help them, they had been good to me that night and I wanted to help if I could, the old human famer gave a heavy sigh and, after looking at me through heavy brows, he began to tell me their story.

“Many years ago, when my Father’s Father was a soldier for the King, he did a great service for said King, in return, the King gave this holding in perpetuity to his family on the understanding that each of his male offspring would serve in his forces for ten years, this would be the way that the King would receive his payment for the holding. Now this holding is quite large and very productive, even in the mid of winter it will produce some form of food for us.”

The old Human looked at me quizzically under those thick brows before he continued.

“Now all the lords in the realm are well aware of the fact we have for a number of generations, had the favour of the King, my eldest son is due to finish his service in two weeks, he will then return here to take over, my youngest still has four more years and then, he too will come home to marry and create young ones for the Kings service, as will my eldest.”

Again he gave me a long close look from those piercing eyes.

“Now as it happens, the son of the old Duke has decided that he wants this holding for his cousin, of course we could not give it to him as it is under the Kings protection and we pay our due as asked, however, the young Duke has deemed it a personal challenge and is trying to scare us off the land and give it too him for a small payment of gold, we can not do this, we are under the service of the King.”

He stopped and peered closer at me as I sat before the fire, my cloak was pulled back but the leather cap was still pulled close down on my head to hide my ears, I waited patiently for the old farmer to continue, after lighting his clay pipe he did so.

“Now things are getting a little difficult as the young Duke is aware that my eldest is due to return, once that happens he knows he will stand no chance, my old bones are not fit for a fight any more and the Duke has a lot of very devious men he can call on, the cow today was an example of his interference, other of my stock has been poisoned or disappeared in the dark of night, I can not get men or boys to labour on the land as they have all been told to stay clear and not assist me in any way, now the reason I tell you this, is that I don’t think you are just a wandering young boy without a home.”

Again the long pause as he relit his clay pipe.

“When I was in the service of the King, I was posted far to the North, in those lands I saw many things that a normal human could not dream of, I think you are one of those Northern things. It has puzzled me for a while but the only being I can think of that moves as you do and can make a cow near death come back to full life, is an Elf, what has puzzled me is that all the Elves I saw, although not many I must admit, were taller than you and of corn coloured hair but, you have the fine features and the same smooth glide to your step as well as I am sure that you used Elvin magic on the old cow.”

This brought a fluttering to my stomach, was I in danger from this old human, it did not feel so, he still seemed pleasant and relaxed, with nothing else to lose, I reached up and removed my leather cap and pulled my long black hair from the back of the cloak, the old human gave just a short nod of his head and smiled at me, he once again relit his pipe and continued his story.

“As I am sure you know, you must never reveal yourself around humans, not for the magic you carry but for the power it would give some one with less honour than I have, for my wife and I, you have no need for fear, you are welcome in this house at any time, I will pass this onto my sons that our door must always be open to you, if you will impart your name it will be entered into the family book as a friend of import.”

I had relaxed into the old chair and could only nod in agreement to his words as the old woman came into the room from the kitchen carrying a thick book with leather covers and a quill in her other hand, she handed it to the man and he set about opening the pages until he came to a blank one, the old man then looked at me in askance.

“My name is Alexi, and yes I am an Elf, I travel in search of my soul mate, the Thread I follow brings me Southward in search of them.”

“Alexi, a strange name for a strange boy, what is this Thread you talk of?”

I set about explaining the pull of the Thread and what it does for an Elf, he seemed a little surprised that one as young as I should be on such a journey alone, I put his mind at rest when I also explained that I was also a Mage and had little fear of others or what others thought they could do to me.

By the time I had finally finished my story we were all tired and ready for a nights sleep.

“If you wish you can use the barn, it is warm and dry and you may join us to break fast in the morning, you will be safe there in case we have someone visit during the night I think it would not be a good idea for them to see you.”

I nodded in agreement and rose to take my leave, the barn was only a short walk from the house and I found a comfortable place in the loft, making a bed of the soft fresh hay that was there, it had been a long and interesting day and tomorrow I would have a few more questions for this open minded old human, he may be able to tell me what is ahead of me if I keep my steps going South, as I must do because of the pull of the Thread.
Snuggling down in the fresh hay and pulling my cloak close about me, I settled in to sleep, I liked the old couple and he seemed so honest in what he said and how he acted, there was a peace about him even though there was the underlying worry of the young Duke and his minions.

It was in the early hours of the morning, the chill of the night was still in the air as the sound of raised voices brought me from my deep sleep, at first I was disoriented and then remembered the use of the barn and the old couple, as I fully opened my eyes I could get the impression of a glow around the farm yard, the loud raucous sound of voices still thick in the night air.

As I was about to rise and go to see what it was, one extra loud voice raised above the other shouts and laughter, it almost sounded as though those outside were under the influence of strong wine.

“The barn, go and burn the barn as well, I don’t want anything left standing in the morning.”

I was now on full alert, something had happened to my gentle hosts and I was not about to let this happen, it was too hard for a young Elf such as I to make any sort of friend and the old couple had been more than friendly, I had almost felt like one of their family for the short time we had been together.

I quickly rose and pulled my cloak close, tugging the hood up over my face and putting the spell of black on the opening, any person now looking at the hood would only see darkness, I heard the running steps of someone approaching the doorway of the barn, with the use of a little magic, I put myself behind the large open door just as a large muscular man came inside holding a lit torch, making the hand movements I required, I froze him in his step so he could not move either hand nor foot.

After making sure the man could not move further, I slipped out of the barn to see what was truly happening, the sight before my eyes brought an anger I had never felt, this night there was going to be blood on the ground. Ahead of me in the glow of the burning house, were a group of six men, all appeared to be in their cups as they were still holding bottle of what I assumed were strong wine, laying on the ground at their feet was the crumpled figure of the old female and, tied to a fence post with his back bared, was the farmer.

Watching this tableau was a young man on a fine horse, his five companions were laughing and cat calling as one of their number swung a heavy whip at the farmers naked back, immediately I became one with the darkness and moved closer to the horrible scene before me, the rider shouted at the old man.

“You have two days to move from this place, if you don’t sign the scroll of ownership over to me, I will flay the skin from your back and then do the same to your woman, now old man, sign the scroll.”

The old man was a tough one and I am sure that his honour alone would not let him sign away that which was a gift from his King, I got ready to strike as I saw the farmer shake his head, no, even in his pain he would not surrender to this bully of a man, seeing this, the rider told the whip man to leave the old one and tie the woman to another post.

“Perhaps when you hear her screams you will change your mind old man, I want this lad and you will not stop me from getting.”

I had seen enough, as one of the men reached for the old woman, I raised my hands, pulling the power of the land into myself, I added some magic from the night air, the two balls of blue light rested in my hand as I got ready to throw, with a quick flick of my wrists, I sent the two balls into the middle of the six men, the sudden appearance of the light balls and the explosion that followed, laid the men on the backs, the rider, not being prepared for the attack, lost his seat on the horse and it galloped off as the dust settled around his stunned form.

I ran over to him and bound him with the same spell I had used on the man sent to burn the barn, the other men would not be of any use for a long time but I bound them also, after they were all bound, I went to the old woman and looked to see if she was hurt, but she was made of sterner stuff and rose to her unsteady feet to go to her man.

I ran beside her and looked at the raw flesh of the old mans back, the crackle and hiss of the flames working on the house made me turn my attention to it first, with a longer spell I formed a rain cloud over the remains of the house and released the water, under the heavy torrent the fire was soon quenched and I could now look to the old farmer.

The old mans back was striped with deep cuts from the raw lash, I laid my hands in his bare flesh and willed my healing power to the fore front of my being, with careful hands I set about fixing his wounds, as it happened he gave off an occasional low groan until his back was completely healed, his wife knelt quickly with wide eyes and sent a silent thank you me as the old man was cut free from the fence post.

Finally he was upright and looking down at the ground where the bound men lay.

“What do you wish to do to them?” I asked.

“In all honesty I would put them all under the ground but, he is the Duke, it would be an act against my King to kill him, what do you suggest?”

As most people know, young boys of any race have a hidden streak of wickedness in them and I was no different but, at the same time I could not kill them and leave the farmer to take the blame for my actions, I gave it a little more thought, finally I thought I had the answer and began to explain it to the two old folk.

“The minions I will make mute so they can not tell of this to anyone, I will also give them a severe case of boils that will never heal, the Duke will also be mute but, for him I will give the ague, every bone in his body will have the ache for the rest of his life so he can never be in a comfortable position, as he is a young man he will have this reminder for a long time, I will also set a ward on your farm so that no one came come to do you harm again, you are now under the protection of the Elves, if you are ever in need or your off spring are ever in need, you will only have to hold this stone and call me.”

As I said this I formed a magical green stone in my hand and gave it too them, the farmer and his wife looked at the solid green stone and I saw the beginnings of a tear in their eyes, as I finished speaking I set about giving the attackers their just deserts, the old couple moved to look at their home, after the fire was out I could see that the damage in the main was superficial and it would still be liveable for them although there would need to be some repairs but most of it had been saved.

I left the attackers bound as they were and, as the sun was making its first appearance over the trees, I magiced a meal for us so that they could begin to fix their damaged home, after the meal I asked about the boundaries of the farm, the old man said he would walk with and show me his boundaries, in the early morning freshness it was a pleasant time, the dew was still on the grass and the events of the night began to fade as we moved to his boundary.

For the next hour we walked his limits, I set a wand of oak at each corner and added the spell of the ward, anyone now coming with intent to harm them would be in for a big surprise, boils would be the least of their worries. Once completed, we returned to the house where the farmer went to get out his small wagon, we had decided that he would drive the bound men to the edge of the town and leave them on the side of the road, an hour after they were left they would awaken to the first day of their agony.

The wagon was hitched to one of his bullocks and I accompanied him to the edge of town which took us close to the time of the midday meal, with heart felt thanks I left him to return to his farm and began my onward journey towards my soul mate, it had been an exciting night and I felt a certain happiness to have been able to assist them and also make some human friends, it was a good start and I knew I had a long way to go yet.


TBC.

Artcart65@vodafone.co.nz


 

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