September 2, 2000
He sighed and wiped his brow. It was hot, steamy, and tragically unsettling weather for making one sufficiently miserable. He wiped his sword clean for at least the dozenth time after removing it from the corpse of the elf who had tried to ambush him. He searched the corpse vigorously, but found not what he sought. He leaned against a tree, not so much to relax, but to focus on the state of his quest.
For three years now, he had sought the treasure his father, Jai'nesgar, had told him the tales of, the legends, the myths. Searching forest after forest for this fabled relic of elvenkind, he had finally come upon the mysterious forest of Alendora. Years of false clues, misleading trails, and the lies of supposed sages had been beginning to take their toll on him. He began to wonder if the Disc of Malindora indeed existed at all. The Disc was said to be once the possession of a mighty warrior, and that only by possessing this artifact could one ever attain the skill fit of legends.
It came back to him now, in images, of three decades ago when he was a young whelp of a lad, for all knew that elves did not age nearly as fast as humans. He was seventy-four then, and even now he was still barely past childhood in elven standards. His life had been carefree and he a willful child, but now the taunts of his peers, that is those born in the same decade as himself, had begun to wear on him. His peers were often accomplished hunters, or skilled shapers of the dweomers elves so loved. He, on the other hand, had thus far accomplished nothing worth note in his life. He was still a child in the eyes of many, whereas many of his peers had proven themselves men. Well, now he'd show them who the real man was.
The flash of memory came to him, his father kneeling to him to be on eye- level, his lyrical voice patient with age and love for his son, "Rhoam, if these legends are true, then this artifact could perhaps bring glory to our name, our house, our family. If it could only be found..." Well, he would find it, and do so before his rival, Da'raen did. Nevermind his own father had mysteriously disappeared three years ago. It was his task now to find the relic he sought.
He pushed himself off the tree almost lazily, and scanned the area for signs of danger, treading quietly amongst the grasses and leaves of the ancient forest. He muttered a quick prayer to the Gods of Elves above, that they bless him with courage and a swift blade. His keen awareness of his surroundings had saved his life more times than he cared to count. On impulse, he looked up into the branches above. Perhaps he was deluding himself, but he thought he saw wooden walkways up above. Willing the flames of his blade to quell themselves, he clenched it in his teeth uncomfortably as he worked his way up a tree with slightly less ease than he had hoped for. Several minutes' struggle had rewarded him, though, for as he pulled himself up to the bough of the tree, he found that indeed an entire village existed in the branches. Replacing his sword where it belonged, he took in his new environs.
Well, this made things a lot different than he had suspected and furthermore, he was thirsty, with an empty waterskin. This made the tavern he saw all the more inviting - in fact, near irresistable. He crept slowly and carefully towards it across the branches, and pushed the door gently open. Immediately the scent of popular elven ales - Boughblessing, Moondrop, and Rootmalt - excited him, enticed him to continue. He followed the hall, southward as he guessed, to the common room. Frivolity of the sort expected of elves abounded. Games of cards, dice, darts were played, music made, and mead drunken by the elves who filled the gaming and drinking tables, and stood in almost every space open to them. Elven merrymaking at its best. He crossed to bar, placed a pair of coins on the table, and softly voiced his desire for Moondrop. Quickly he was served, and found himself wandering to the dice table, overlooking the game with interested. One man held under his arm a beautiful harp as he played, protectively, as though his life depended on it.
In short order, he lost sight of his goal, and fell into passionately throwing caution to the wind, and praying to every Goddess of Luck he had ever heard of to be with him on the fates of the knucklebone dice. An hour perhaps passed, and having won quite a few more throws than he lost upon, he had caught the attention of the harp-bearing elf, who rounded on him curiously, asking him what his secret was. He gave a sly grin, a shrug, and answered, "It's all in the wrists." This, of course, did nothing to assuage the concealed bitterness of the inquisitor.
"Fine, then. Let us see if your bravery and your luck are equals! Place your blade on the table, and I shall place my most valuable possession on the table, this harp. We shall throw both bones thrice, and both treasures shall go to the one who throws higher." He shifted, sighed, and placed his harp down upon the table "If you're up to it, of course," he added with a hint of smugness. This insult to his honour could simply not be borne unheeded. Placing his sword reluctantly upon the table, he took the dice and threw them to the table. Two marks and three. He twitched in what was hopefully a concealed manner, and passed the dice over to his foe. The dice clattered and fell shortly afterwards. Two four-marks. Calmly he accepted the dice and threw them again. He closed his eyes at the results. Three marks total. He shrugged, passing the dice. The sword his father made for him, enchanted for him, and he would lose it for nothing. The dice fell, five marks and four. He shook his head at his own foolishness and threw his hope with the dice, begging his father's forgiveness. How ironic, the Elven King's sword and shield, a full twelve marks. Wouldn't help him, unless...he did his math...he still could win! But only if...only if...he sighed, resigned, and passed the dice to his opponent. "I hope that fine blade is replaceable" he gloated, "otherwise I may be forced to feel pity for you." Rhoam waved it off and downed the last of his Moondrop. In jubilation, the gambler tossed down the dice and bore the Curse of the Dark Queen - one mark on each die. A great frown stole his face away, and his mirth. Silently, Rhoam placed down his mug, collected both of the prizes, and slipped out of the tavern, relieved.
Clutching the harp carefully, he slid over the edge of the walkway, and dropped back down to the forest floor. He continued pushing his way through the paths of the forest. Hours of sweat, confusion, and hunger finally forced him to collapse, exhausted, between the trees of the great forest. Panting, tired, and emotionally drained, he collapsed into a deep sleep. His dreams were visited by memories of his father, and how they used to spend hours together when he was younger, passing the family heirloom harp back and forth between each other, both playing traditional elven songs, and experimenting with new melodies. His dreams were disturbed, however, and ended abruptly. In shock he awoke, desperately examing his surrounding, for they were not the same ones he collapsed in.
He found himself in a dark tunnel, closed off behind him by a wall of brambles. He panicked momentarily, and decided to assess his options. Pulling himself up to his feet, he began to explore the pathway cautiously, and thankfully in silence, for he soon found within a hidden village of coal-skinned beings who otherwise resembled himself physically. Yet their souls were warped, twisted, depraved, for these were the elves that served demons, the dark elves. Slinking his ways past sentries and guards, he found a twisted home, majestic in its own warped way, and sealed with double doors. Pressing them open gently, he forced his way in, and saw the exact last thing he expected.
Da'raen sat up slowly from the floor he had been meditating on, and put on a maddening grin and spoke with the most oh, so proper mock tone of politeness, "Ah, Rhoam, my old, long lost friend. Nice of you to come, so nice of you to visit. You never write, you know." He stood, and crossed over to Rhoam, his eyes studying and assessing his rival, for he had been preparing for this confrontation, he knew what it would lead to. " Nevertheless, I've waited a long time to give you the good news." His lips curled sadistically at this point, mocking.
Rhoam shifted his posture, placing a hand upon his sword, and stared on, refusing to give in to the taunting, refusing to ask. Da'raen conceded the contest of wills, for losing it brought no pain compared to the satisfaction he was about to have. "Oh, yes. Your father did finally succeed in finding the disc he sought after. Shame he wasn't able to hold on to it for long. Wasn't able tp watch his back, apparently." Rhoam became at once suspicious, glowering at his foe, "And just how do you know all this?" He stared at his rival, his long, jet-hued hair, coal skin, his opal blade and shadowy chainmail, cloak boots, and gloves. Smirking, Da'raen draw off his gloves, revealing caked, dried blood upon them.
Rhoam reeled in shock at this revelation, even as Da'raen began to speak, "Because I had the pleasure of slipping my sword into the back of his neck. Ah, yes, I knew your old man had much more chance of finding the disc than a bumbling cretin such as yourself. So I shadowed him, waiting for him to succeed, and when he finally did, I stole his success from him. Killed him, took the disc." He pointed proudly at his belt buckle, where he had mounted the disc, drawing his sword, "But I suppose you'll want to fight for it, won't you? You can't take defeat any more than your father could."
Rhoam's blood boiled, it seared, it demanded of him to exact vengeance. His sword was drawn, its flames licking up the edge of it, and he screamed, charging at his father's murderer with careless abandon. In full possession of his resources, Da'raen stepped to the side, and pushed Rhoam to the floor without effort, his sword quickly following. Rhoam only barely managed to roll out of the way, taking the blade in his elbow as opposed to his chest. He forced himself up to his feet, his own unsteadiness making him weave just out of the way of another deadly thrust. He steadied himself, and made his first ernest strike, but his blow was deflected by the blade of his opponent. Before he recovered, however, he felt a sharp, electrifying pain course through his sword arm, noting Da'raen's blade sliding out of the wound. He gritted his teeth, red filled his eyes, he muttered an unheard curse. The two young elves backed off from on another, one to gloat, one to recover. Da'raen took a quick, mocking bow and a devilish grin danced over his lips. He had not even broken a sweat and he had his younger opponent all but crippled. "Give up and you might leave with only a bruised ego, fool."
That was it. He snapped, summoned all his courage, and tried the one last thing he could consider. He had one last option to him, with the waning strength in his sword arm, and it was a mad gambit. Again, he focused, and then he bore down, raining a flurry of wild blows upon his foe, and then he backed off, feigning exhaustion, if only part of it was indeed feigning. Da'raen took the bait, and walked foward calmly, and off guard, to try to take his foe's head without a second thought. Rhoam ducked with the last second left to him, and drove his sword up firmly into the ribs of Da'raen, collapsing them in the process, and impaling, finally, his heart. Panting, gasping, he watched the expressed horror on the face of Da'raen, as the power of life began ebbing within him. Rhoam watched with a curious mix of disgust and serenity. His father avenged, his quest completed. He reached down, yanking the disc from its place in the belt of Da'raen, and inspected it carefully. Yes, just as the legends described it, silver, delicate, and beautiful to behold. He clutched in his hands and stepped outside the bloody building, and stared peacefully, skyward. Now he could call himself a man, but in the future, would he be able to call himself a hero?