The First Loss
The First Loss
What have I done? How could I have allowed this to happen? When did I become more concerned with my own life over others? I feel as if I have lost a part of my soul. It hurts to breathe. My heart should have stopped beating when his did. It should have been me.
I guess I should start at the beginning. After we got the women over the wall of the city, Althea decided to stay behind to take care of them. Just as we were making our way up the ladder, Korgul appears out of nowhere. All of us stop dead; we thought he was on his way to Blackport. Apparently, he had to take care of some orcs and just after that, heard us. So he decided to stay. Good thing too, because we really needed him.
We make it back to the kitchens without detection and Hovan and Brigga put their armor back on. Korgul and I go to scout the stables. Korgul is seen and as such, has to bluff his way out of a potentially sticky situation. After we report back to Hovan and Brigga, we decide to engage the orcs in battle. Korgul volunteers to tie a rope so that I can climb to the roof of the barn. I watch as he fails miserably, many times, to make it up the side of the building. Thankfully, no one hears anything and he makes it up and back down. I get into position on top of the barn, completely hidden from site, thank the Worldsmith, and prepare to attack. I took a deep breath and, with shaky hands, let an arrow fly through the night, missing my target by just a few inches. Damnit all! I guess it was a sign that this was not to be my night. For a while, it seemed like I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. Eventually though, I found my groove and began taking down orcs like a girl-child picks flowers. Korgul seemed to be getting it every which a way, but Hovan stepped in and helped him out. Suddenly, I hear Hope yell “CHAPOW” and see a burst of flames. The scent of burning orc hit me before I even saw him hit the ground. Wasn’t long after that the last orc fell dead.
Thirty or so women rushed forward, all of them wishing to show their gratitude in one way or another. They all looked like they had been abused. I called out, trying to locate Rachel. She stepped forward and a hush fell over the crowd. Quickly, I tell her that we have sent her husband to Blackport, where they would be reunited. We learned that the men were sent to work in fields, and children were the first victims of the “kitchens.” My stomach clenched at the thought of children on those grills. I pushed the thought away. I didn’t have time for such images! We needed to get these women out of here, and fast. By now, there was no way we were getting out of here undetected. Luckily I found a nifty new bow.
There were three wagons and horses we were able to use. We made three groups of ten women and covered the wagons in an attempt to keep them safe. Hovan took one wagon, Hope and Korgul another. That left me and Brigga. As we neared the gates, orcish voices begin calling to each other. I assumed they were now aware of our presence. In order to be able to hit orcs with my arrows, I needed to see them. So to do that, I jumped from my seat at the head of the wagon onto the horse pulling it. I quickly start shooting at orc possible. Eventually, in order to protect myself, I sit down on the horse. I was less exposed this way. I must admit, I do not like being separated thusly from the group. Split up tactics don’t work as well for us.
Korgul took a massive beating, leaving Hope alone to drive their wagon. Poor kid doesn’t even know how to hold the reigns. Brigga jumped from our wagon and rushed to her aid. Just as he left, orcs attacked. And of course they have to come right at me. I couldn’t move the wagon and attack at the same time, so I was up a creek. I lost my paddles when the orcs killed my horse. Women began jumping out of the wagon. I quickly made my way to Hope and Brigga. Three of the ten women in my wagon made it with me. Three of ten. We made it out of the city and away from the gates. Suddenly, a howl pierced the silent night. My heart stopped. I whipped my head around, tears gathering in my eyes as I realized that there was one of us missing.
“Caiden? CAIDEN!” I gasped for breath and started to jump off the wagon, intent on going back for him. Hope grabbed my arm as Hovan called out to me.
“It’s too late, Teagan. Going back would be suicide.”
I didn’t care. I would gladly have died to save him. Hope wouldn’t let go of me, though. Hovan found Althea and the other three women and sent them back to Blackport. I trembled violently, refusing to be consoled. I couldn’t believe Caiden was gone. I wouldn’t believe it. He couldn’t be. Hovan led us off the path and insisted I create a hiding place so that we could rest. I set up the camp then collapsed in a heap of tears. But there was no time to grieve. Hovan demanded information about the First Forest. I had mentioned before that we needed to head that way after Brighton. That would be our next stop. Home sweet home.
We headed to Caranthir, an elvish city just inside the Archbora. It’s a beautiful city. The elves here have managed to create a city inside the forest itself. They carved buildings into the trees, giving the city a two-story feeling. Something was wrong though. Something was very wrong. Outside of the Archbora, the winter winds were beginning to blow through. Autumn was getting late. Here, inside the safety of the forest, it was Spring. And it was in full force. I shook my head. This was impossible. The Spring Court should have retired quite some time ago. Several elves are out and about. One walks up to us, looking over each member of our party. Finally, his eyes settle on me. In Elvish, he speaks to me.
“Why have you brought them here? I assume you know that the forest is not kind to humans. Why would you risk it?”
I explain to him the situation outside of the city. I tell him about the orcs, and ask him about the perpetual spring. He shakes his head. As he is about to answer, Hovan interrupts. The elf, Haldir, looks at Hovan and speaks so that he and the rest of my companions can understand. Haldir agrees to talk to the Elder on our behalf after he learns that all we want to do is to find my father and find out what has been happening. He takes us to a tavern of sorts where we are served copious amounts of venison and other wild game. I cannot believe the amount of meat! I pushed my plate away, preferring vegetation to meat. Sadly, the meal lacked my preference. It was okay though, I didn’t have much of an appetite. My thoughts constantly went to Caiden. Remembering the times we had played in fields much like the ones I passed on my way here. Before I worked myself up again, the door opened and in walked one of the older elves. You could tell by the slight wrinkles around his eyes.
He introduces himself as Orophin, the Elder. All he gives us are vague answers and, what I feel, are only half-truths. He shows slight concern for the perpetual spring, however, claims that the Spring Court is only doing it’s job. He said the Court stepped up when the orcs tried to invade, and just never stepped back down. That didn’t make sense to me. Elves didn’t mess with nature. We let nature rule. Not the other way around. When we asked him if he thought we could make it to Grandfather Oak on our own, he said no. He thought we would be killed by the Bara ‘lo hem, the Ghost Army. When Orophin learned that my father was Lothanu Teslanar, he agreed to send a message to Grandfather Oak. He said it would be about a week before the messenger would return, so we decided to get comfortable.
In our week in Caranthir, Hovan heard a rumor that the elves had, at one time, captured Thag, but let him go. I can’t say I believe that. But I cannot deny that Thag had been here. Villagers tell tales of overflowing wildlife, about how the spring is making the forest more dangerous. It unsettles me.
Finally, a letter is returned to me. It does nothing to allay my fears, however. My father had definitely written this letter, yet it seemed to come from a stranger. He said to meet him in a place we had spent so much time in together, yet I never went with him there more than once or twice. Something was wrong. I pushed the group hard to go find out exactly what it was. Resistance was strong, but in the end, with Korgul’s help, I won. We were going to Grandfather Oak.
On the road, we were attacked. None of us could find the offenders though. A voice rang out.
“We will take the half-ling, the rest of you can leave.”
I was damn sure they were going to leave me when Hovan looked at Brigga. Korgul spoke up first.
“I won’t leave her.”
I have never been so grateful in my whole life. When he said that, there was no more argument. Hovan said no and we fought a foe we couldn’t see. It took some time, but eventually we found them. It seemed like they would never die. Crafty bastards can hide, let me tell you. Finally, we brought them all down. Korgul looked over at the druid laying on the ground. I swear we killed him twice, yet he was still breathing! Hope wanted to set him on fire, but I wanted to let him go. We are not the kind of people to go around killing everyone we come into contact with. The guy was obviously injured and could do us no more harm.
I convinced Hovan to let him go. We would get no sympathy from having a Bara ‘Lo hem captive and he should have known that. I told the druid, in elvish, to go. That we were not going to kill him, or follow him. I don’t think he believed me, but he left. I turned to the group and Hovan decided to set up camp. I walked away and climbed up a tree, sitting with my back against the trunk, my thoughts on a certain wolf friend…