Krista and Orion
When Zane heard the scream, he turned around and ran for the river. He didn’t know what was pushing him. Maybe there was still a little bit of knight left in him. Maybe it was destiny. Or maybe I just cannot take another death. Oh, there will be more. I will probably kill more. But not now. Not today.
He saw the woman just before she went under the water. Holding on with one hand to a willow tree by the bank, he jumped into the river and grabbed her. Breathing hard, Zane pulled her up onto the solid ground. “It’s alright,” he gasped, “it’s alright. I got you.”
She blinked, and for a second Zane thought she had blue-and-gold eyes. It’s her.... Then she blinked again, and her eyes turned a more normal shade. But it was her. The girl from his dreams. “You,” he murmured. “It’s you. Why wouldn’t you speak?”
“Nothing.” Zane realized who she was, looking at her face. “Wait a minute. It’s her, I mean it’s you...Lady Indigo Dash. What are you doing out here alone?”
“I often come out here alone,” she said, standing up and brushing herself off. “What are you doing out here alone? Who even are you?”
“A fugitive.”, Zane said dully. “I just killed a man.”
No one could blame Indigo for stepping back. “What? What? I’m sorry, but who the hell are you?!”
“Lukas. Zane Lukas. That’s my name. And I am a killer, and a gold thief. The king’s gold.”
Indigo shook her head. “You could spend the rest of your life in a dungeon for that! Well, Zane Lukas, if you’re some kind of murderer, why did you save me?”
“I...I don’t know.”
“Well, how about we both put our weapons down, then? We can agree not to kill each other?”
But before either of them could, an arrow zipped through the trees and narrowly missed Zane’s head. “The Elves!”
“Run!” They did. They ran blindly in one direction, dodging the arrows and not watching the path. Then, one of the elves, the woman whose voice Indigo had heard before, stepped out in front of them. “Sh’ikra,” she commanded. “Stop.” She had a drawn bow, and walking beside her was a silver-haired wolf. The wolf growled at them. “Down,” the woman snapped at it. She looked back at Zane and Indigo. “Now, state your business, sisskanara, strangers. Why are you here?”
“I am lost,” said Indigo, “and he is apparently running from the authorities. Do you attack travelers or not?”
“We do not attack,” the woman said, “we only defend. Why are you running?”, she asked Zane.
“Why do want to know? Are you going to turn me in?”
“No. We are not with the men of the Cities. There business is not our business. But, neither is yours. We will not hurt either of you. We will not help you either.”
“Krista!” More elves arrived on the scene. The one who had spoken was a very young-looking warrior with long brown hair. “Krista, noka-harrian sisskanara mundis ja?”
The young man started going off into a stream of elvish words. Zane interrupted him. “Sorry, what are you saying?”
“You will come with us,” said the woman, whose name apparently was Krista, “to our place of gathering. You will explain yourself, and your business here, to us. Do I make myself understood?”
“You are understood.”, said Zane. “So who are we seeing? Your leaders?”
Krista lowered her bow. “I am their leader. Follow me. Orion, keep watch on them.”
Indigo looked sideways at Zane as they walked along. “Their leader? She doesn’t look like she could be older than sixteen!”
“I am fourteen,” said Krista, without looking back at them.
“What? Fourteen?” She looked at Orion. “How old are you, then?”
He looked down at his feet. “I am only twelve years old. They will not treat me the same, because I am younger.”
“What!”, Indigo exclaimed. “You’re twelve years old? Why do they let you out here, hunting and fighting at your age?”
“We are different from you,” he replied. “We grow up sooner. At fourteen, Krista is considered old enough to lead us.”
“So, is this really all of you?”
“No. Small bands of us are scattered across the forest in small encampments. We still live under the authority of our elders. But we walk free through the forest, on our own.”
They arrived at the Elvish encampment, which really was little more than a campsite. Indigo was guessing these Elves didn’t spend much time at home. “Now, strangers,” said Krista, leading them into the middle of the place, “you will explain who you are, and why you are trespassing on our land. If I am satisfied you mean us no harm, you will be allowed to leave, on the terms that you tell no one of this meeting.”
“And what if you are not satisfied?”, asked Zane.
“If I have any reason to believe that you mean harm to us, or to our people, you will be detained here and interrogated,” was all she said, although with a look on her face that said quite clearly, If I haven’t shot you first. “Now, explain. The woman first. And I warn you, many among our number practice heartreading. We will know if you are lying.”
Indigo began talking. “If you can know if I’m lying, I’ll tell you the truth. I am Lady Indigo Dash, the suitor of the prince. I was only walking in your part of the forest, no ill-will was meant. Also, I must warn you, if you hurt me, there will be consequences.”
“You wish only to return to your home, then?”
“Very well. And you?”, Krista said, turning to Zane.
“Indigo’s right. I am a fugitive. I don’t ask for anything, except that you leave me alone. Don’t interfere with me, for the better or for the worse. If I stay out here, you keep your distance. Don’t help me, don’t hurt me, just leave me alone. Do whatever you want around here, I won’t bother you. All I ask is that you stay out of my way.”
Krista nodded. “We shall agree to your terms. We must know your name first.”
“Zane. Zane Lukas.”
“We agree to your terms, Zane Lukas. We will not interfere with you. We will, as you have said, leave you alone.”
“And what about me?”, said Indigo.
“You, Lady, must first swear to us that you will never speak of this encounter to anyone, especially your prince. Swear in our terms, our custom, so we will be secure in this promise. If you refuse, you shall not be allowed to leave.”
“I will swear it.”
“Good. Repeat what I say to me.” She whispered some elvish word in Indigo’s ear. Indigo hesitantly repeated it out loud. “You are now bound by a promise. Never speak of our meeting.”
“And you, Lukas,” Krista continued, “you will be allowed to take residence wherever you wish. Stay away from us, and we will do the same for you.”
“You may go your separate ways, then. Come with me, Lady. I will show you the path.” She slipped her arrow back into it’s quiver, and turned to leave.
Indigo followed after her. “I should be getting back. Zane?”
“I probably shouldn’t say this, but thank you. You saved my life.” Without another word, she slipped away into the trees.
Orion walked up to Zane. “Come with me. I can show you....”
“I thought you weren’t supposed to interfere?”
“Oh, no one watches what I do. Let me how you the land around here. I just wish to be helpful.”
“Fine, lead the way.”
As Orion was leading him through the forest, Zane started asking him questions. “Orion, what is it with you elves?”
“What is it you wonder about us l’esperansa?”
“Oh, is that what you call yourselves?Well, how come a band of twelve-and-fourteen-and-sixteen-year-olds are even allowed to live on their own in the forest?”
“As I said, we grow up sooner. Our lives are longer than mens’, but our childhoods are far shorter. We spend the early years of our lives in the bands our parents formed, and when we are all of age, we split away and form our own.”
“Are you of age?”
“Not quite, as a fact. That is why I am only asked to lift things.”
“Are they true, the stories about you casting spells and such?”
“Some of them. We do practice certain things, although not all of us. The ones who do usually have a reputation as...what is the word...lone-yers.”
“Loners, yes of course. Do you?”
“Oh yes. Look.” He held out the palms of his hands, and Zane could faintly see unfamiliar symbols cut and written on them, and all up his arms. “Each symbol is an Article, a ‘spell’ you call them. Practicing magick and hexcraft is...frowned upon. It is seen as something useless to learn, something none of us shall ever need. I disagree.”
“How many ‘Articles’ are there?”
“If you do not count the fire dances, which hold their roots in magick, six. Only six. Six Articles of Magick, and ten hexes, ‘curses’. But many more can be derived from those 16.”
“How does it work?”
“I can show you.” One symbol on his right wrist began to glow. “This is heartreading. You are thinking about a friend you have lost.”
“What’s his name?”
“Carsamir.” The symbol stopped glowing, indicating Orion had dropped the spell.
“Wow. Wow. That really is magic....”
They stopped in front of a rock formation. A small cave was carved out in the side of it. “Here,” said Zane, “I’ll stop here. Now, I think you should be getting back, before someone notices you’re gone.”
“Very well.” He dashed off into the trees and vanished like a stag.
Zane climbed inside the cave. So this is where I stay, he thought. He had nothing but the clothes he was wearing, his two-handed sword and small hunting knife, and the gold that he had stolen, which he supposed he didn’t really have any use for, now that it came to him.
How did I get here?, he thought suddenly. In six days, less than a week, he had gone from promising -- albeit troubled -- student at the Knight’s Corp school, with friends who cared about him and some family left to miss while he was away at school, to a fatherless, half-mad killer who would now be separated from his friends forever. He hadn’t cried. He hadn’t thought to. I won’t. I am on my own now, and I can’t afford to be like that. I am going to survive, I don’t need anybody, and if this is the life that I’ve been given, then I am going to live it!
“I’ll do it,” he said, talking out loud to himself for no real reason, “I’ll be like this. If this is the lot that fate has dealt me, to be a killer, then I’ll accept it! I’ll become infamous. I would rather be infamous than forgotten! But please,” he said, his voice breaking just a very, very little, “no more dreams. No more nightmares. I can forget my real life, I can never forget those dreams.”
Despite what he had said before, two tears rolled down Zane’s face. He had hardened himself against the loss of his father, the loss of his friends, the loss of all he knew. But for the loss of his former self, the smiling hazel-eyed boy with big dreams of becoming a knight one day, Zane could not help shedding a few tears.