Escape from Aethenwood, a Short Story by Hushpuppy

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Hushpuppy
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Joined: November 7th, 2008, 10:56 pm

Escape from Aethenwood, a Short Story by Hushpuppy

Post by Hushpuppy » August 16th, 2009, 8:31 pm

This is a short story covering the first scenario of Heir to the Throne.

...Probably needs a little more proofreading, maybe some fleshing out of the characters, but I'm kinda tired of looking at it these days so I'll "post early", a la' an Open Source project. Along with that comes "post often" which I cannot do (as a working stiff and family man), but I do appreciate Wesnoth and so here is my little gift to the community- a short story, describing Konrad's escape from Aethenwood. I tried to make it accurate to the material I could find on Heir to the Throne online. Took a few liberties with the orcs though, made 'em family creatures rather than rising from the muck as per Lord of the Rings (the movie), which I thought was hokey.

The story is Copyright me, Michael Anthony Schwager (aka Hushpuppy) as far as it's able to be, and released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by- ... %20License

And, as always, Satisfaction Guaranteed! If for any reason you are dissatisfied with this story, simply send me a SASE and $5 for Shipping and Handling and I'll be happy to refund your money. :-)

Part 1 of 2
Konrad raised his head and peered about, barely half awake. It was the shouting
that woke him, and the sound of something crashing through the underbrush. Was
he dreaming? he wondered. It was barely light out. There came more shouting,
strange voices- elves and orcs, fighting! The orcs, who had been hunting them
for days, they were there, they had caught them! ...Or was it just
a dream of orcs? No, he rose up on his elbows, shook himself further awake.
No, it was no dream, he realized, the attack had come; the orcs had caught them.
This awareness brought him wide awake- that, and the sudden burst of lightning
which split the sky and came down not far away. There followed a tremendous
crash and an horrific orc-cry. It had to be Delfador! He was using his magic!

The fighting moved away a bit- there, further north. Konrad listened, hesitant.
The sound of more movement off to his left startled him. They were nearby, a
number of- what? Slipping back below the level of the brush, he made himself
as small as possible, tried to peer through the leaves, heard deep
guttural voices; more orcs! How many? How close? To have caught up with him
and his friends, to be so bold and attack at daybreak, these thoughts chilled him.

He saw only a glimpse as the orcs moved on to battle with the elves, the friends
and protectors under whose care he had been raised all his life, and who had
sworn to accompany him and protect him on his journey out of the forest and back
to the world of men. They had been running for days, running from the bands of
orc mercenaries hired by the Queen to hunt him down. And why? Because he was a
Prince. A Prince! The Queen, who was his aunt, wanted him dead. She had killed
all possible male heirs to the throne; anyone who may possibly be in line for it
ahead of her, any possible challengers. When Konrad was just a baby she had made
a treacherous bargain with her firstborn son, Eldred, and he killed his father
the king. They had hoped to crown him, but Delfador raced to Weldyn and raised
an army of loyalists to oppose the usurpers. So it was necessary for Eldred to
march on Weldyn with his men and challenge Delfador and the loyalists in battle.
Eldred's army won, but he lost his life in direct combat with the
wizard. So the Queen took the throne, and thereafter came result a great purge
as she killed her enemies and consolidated her powers. Her reign had been
brutal, by all accounts, and Konrad's parents had perished during these purges.

But Delfador had escaped, and he had taken Konrad, the last living boy in the
Garardian line, south to the forest of Aethenwood, to the land of the elves.
There he had raised him as his own. Konrad was happy with the elves and more
than content to live with them in the forest for the rest of his life. He
thought of Galgrad, the Elvish champion, who was now somewhere in the thick of
the fighting to be sure. Galgrad, always ready with a silly
joke ("What has two legs but no wings yet still flies?" he once asked when
Konrad was just a tot. "I don't know," Konrad had said. "A big fat hairy ORC!"
Galgrad laughed, and hoisted Konrad into the air, running around and grunting
orc-like while Konrad pummled his back.) Galgrad was more uncle than mentor, but
for all his playfulness Konrad knew he could be deadly serious when the
situation called. Certainly he pitied any adversary facing the business end of
his sword.

The orcs crashed through the brush, snarling and boasting, under no pretense of
stealth. They startled Konrad from his remembrances. "What does it mean to be
a Prince who's crouching down under the leaves, hiding from orcs? What does it
mean to be a Prince cowering in fear of his neck while his friends are risking
theirs?" he asked himself. Yet he recalled what Delfador
taught him during his lessons: 'Do not act from your emotions,' Delfador had
said, 'yet neither deny them. Let them be your guide, but always remember- the
warrior's mind is his Captain. Your mind! Use it! It is your best tool.' And
then like as not he would receive another drubbing and, completely frustrated, be
left to ponder Delfador's wisdom while he nursed new bruises. How he had hated
those lessons! He was surprised that they came to mind at just this moment.
'Of what use are they now?' he wondered.

He had to act. Scrambling, he put on his sword belt and reached for
a bow and quiver. No- he was never very good with the bow. Better to stick with
what he knew- which wasn't much, he thought ruefully. He dropped the weapon and
looked about. Their packs were too many and altogether too visible as well. He
grabbed a few that he knew were laden with supplies and stashed them deeper
into the brush, away from the sparse grass in which they had lain. The better
that some nasty orc doesn't find them and seek to ruin their journey
by stealing their food. He kicked at the sleeping-blankets, thinking to hide
them as well, then, "Ach Konrad," he said, "what are you doing? Go!" Slipping
beneath some branches, he darted through the trees.

Ahead he heard various sounds of conflict. Strangely, amidst the clash of
arms or the shout of elf, orc, or beast, it was almost peaceful in the forest.
These sounds were an abomination, a cacophany completely at odds with the ways
of the land. It was entirely unsettling to Konrad- this forest, HIS forest,
his home for most of his life, was under siege, no longer safe, suddenly home
no more. Ahead a wolf howled, and this nearly completely unhinged him. Almost
losing his bowels, he crouched low in the underbrush and paused to regain his
wits. He had never been so afraid in his life. These were not the orcs and
goblins of daydreams and swordplay with this friends, these were real, they were
here, and they were bent on killing. Suddenly he realized he had
completely forgotten to draw his weapon; had an orc happened upon him he would
have had to fend it off with but his hands. Doubtless his opponent would not
have forgotten his.

This mishap was as the breaking of a spell, as if once twisted in the fog of
his fear and doubt he was suddenly flung out into clear air. He took a deep
breath, gripped the sword as he'd been taught, felt the familiar balance in
his hand. Today he would fight. Today he would give all. Come what may,
triumph or perish, what he would not do was waver.

There! Through the trees Konrad first heard, then spied Delfador. He was beset
by a pair of orcs and a goblin; the latter rather ineffectually attempting to
strike him with a bow-and-arrow. He was using an elf-bow that was too big for
him, but if he got it right, it could mean a serious injury to the
old wizard. Konrad raised his sword and charged, yelling at the top of his voice.
The orcs and goblin turned; the wizard did not. He raised his staff and uttered
an incantation that Konrad had heard and recognized but never with such force and
authority. He stopped in his tracks and shielded his eyes. Lightning, the
ferocity and brightness of which he'd never before seen, crackled from the sky.
He could not see it but the goblin was incinerated immediately. The two orcs
turned and tried to shield their faces- too late. The light blinded them, the
next moment, an horrific peal of thunder knocked them off balance;
Konrad too was driven to one knee as the sound nearly deafened him. When it had
passed he stood. Head ringing, ears useless, he looked and saw Delfador
pressing the larger orc hard. Its sword-strokes were completely ineffectual and
Konrad thought it could hardly see if at all. The other orc was rising slowly
to its feet.

Konrad ran to it. "Die, orc!" he cried, and it struck him even as he said it that
this was a rather odd thing to say. And further it was odd that he should
be even thinking that it was odd, there in the midst of battle. Yet he still
wished he had said something a little more princely, like "Prepare to meet your
doom, foul vermin," or "I am Prince Konrad and now shall be the hour of your
death!" But none of that came to him- rather, against his very first real enemy
the words that he spoke were, "Die, orc!" They must do.

The orc stood and squinted, wielding an upraised, rusty scimitar. So- it could
yet see him, but it was unsteady and distressed. It was also very young,
tattered, and ugly. His helmet and weapon were too big for him, his mail was
broken and rusty, his kit poor, and his boots battered and holed. As Konrad
touched swords, his opponent staggered backwards in fear. He was hardly an
opponent worthy of a prince, or any warrior for that matter. Konrad wished he
could simply leave him there unmolested.

He caught movement from the corner of his eye; another orc had joined the
fight with Delfador. The wizard let loose some ball lightning that seared
his new assailant. This orc, however, larger and perhaps more battle-wizened
than the others, seemed unfazed by the magic. He charged Delfador with vigor.
Konrad wanted to help but dared not ignore his little orc. It still held
a sword, after all.

"When in battle," Delfador had told him, "you have but one goal. You have but
one thought. You must defeat your enemy. Leave other thoughts aside; finish
him, or you'll not live to regret your day-dreams." For Konrad was prone to
lose attention during his lessons, even he had to admit it to himself, but
practice could be so boring. Or painful, for Delfador was not one to go easy
on him. The old mage was precise and exacting, and he kept Konrad working
sometimes until long after he had lost interest. Who could blame him if he had
wished he were someplace else? Especially during swordplay, when Konrad knew he
was merely in for a brand new whipping.

The little orc looked pitiful. "Come, then, Orc," Konrad said to no one, as they
were both deaf as stones, "defend yourself!"

He touched swords again, and his enemy responded with a flurry of ineffectual
strokes. Konrad touched the orc's shoulder, it swiped back uselessly. He tapped
its body, its arm, its leg; fighting this beast was like dueling a baby, it was
so helpless. Konrad's heart sank. He looked over- Delfador was sore
beset, and needed him. He turned back to his opponent. He should kill this
thing, and be done with it, but he found he just didn't have the courage.
Courage? Courage to kill an orc? This was a beast to be slaughtered! Killing
orcs had been so easy at play, as a child and as an adolescent, and now? How
could this be? Konrad always imagined it would be like chopping wood
or pounding stones- no, easier, for orcs were ugly, smelly, brutish, and evil.
And here in truth he hesitated, and felt heartsick and unwilling to do the deed.
To kill this orc here and now, it felt like murder. He hesitated, ashamed at his
indecision, then attempted to disengage. But the little orc wouldn't have it;
as Konrad lowered his sword and backed away the orc came at him. He had no
choice but to put up his defense and press the orc back.

Konrad glanced again at Delfador, who was using all of his magic to defend
himself. He had no time for further vascillation, he could see, so he resigned
to kill this creature. He levelled his sword, held his breath and closed his
eyes, and thrust the weapon straight forward, directly into the chest of the
little orc.

Konrad gasped. A shock traveled up his arm. He tried to pull out his sword,
to get away, but he was losing control of his body. He felt the
orc fall to the ground, taking his sword with it. He felt himself fall to his
knees, then he lost all bodily control and a moment later, complete
consciousness.

The world suddenly changed. He found himself looking out on a rocky landscape.
The earth around him was grey granite, with a few sparse woody plants searching
for purchase amongst the boulders and gravel. Above, the sky was a glorious
robin's-egg blue, streaked with lazy, wispy cirrus clouds. A gentle breeze blew.
Below, far below, green hills lay in waves as far as the eye could see. It was
a gorgeous day and his heart rose. Where was he? He somewhat wondered, some
far off place in his mind, but mostly he wasn't concerned. Mostly he was happy
and content in the warmth of the sun.

Someone came near to him; he turned. It was a young orc, like himself, his
brother. Again, he wondered at this- how had he come to be an orc, and how had
he come to have a brother? How did he even know it truly was his brother? But
mostly he was glad to see him... but no, *he* wasn't glad to see *his* brother,
for Konrad was a she! Konrad was a she-orc, a young girl. And his... or rather,
her... brother was now eagerly motioning her to come, and she was excited to see
what he had found. They ran along a narrow goat-path. Below them, just ahead,
a large shaggy mountain goat observed them from a rocky point. Her brother
picked up a rock and threw it at the animal. He barely missed. Konrad the
girl-orc picked up a stone, too, and threw it. Her throw fell short, and her
brother teased her. The two continued to toss stones at it until it got annoyed
and ambled away. Konrad felt giddy with childhood mischief.

The scene changed gradually, which again surprised Konrad only a little. She
was sitting down with other orcs in a small room, a yurt as it appeared.
A low fire burned in the center and the smoke rose through the fire-hole in the
ceiling. The orcs were eating meat off the bone; having dinner, Konrad realized,
and this was her family. There were some older orcs, her uncles and aunts, her
parents, her brother, and a sister. The view shifted lazily as Konrad felt as
if he was viewing the room from the vantage of the little girl, then from the
vantage of a separate observer. The orcs were drinking and sharing bawdy jokes.
Two of her uncles grew rowdy and wrestled playfully, spilling flagons of some
strong beverage and kicking up sparks from the fire. Everyone scattered to give
the two lumbering combatants space, but the conflict was over as soon as it began
and the entire shelter shared in the mirth, never mind the spilled drinks and
rumpled floor carpets.

Again the scene shifted, and Konrad's vantage changed from place to place and
event to event: hunts, quiet times in a cave or shelter, blue skies and stormy
weather, orcish family and friends moving in and out of the life of the young
she-orc. Then, when she was once again in the company of her family, a great
commotion took place outside. Running out, they found themselves under attack
by another tribe. Konrad's heart felt ripped from her body as she watched
her parents and uncles die from the attackers' blades. Most of the adults were
killed, except some of the she-orcs, and they and all the young orcs became
slaves. Konrad was separated from the rest of her family and her life was
reduced to little but deprivation and abuse. She had become a servant to an
orcish warlord and his household was run by fear. She wasn't a servant long,
though, before she took to the road with her master, his clan, and many other
orcs, marching long distances at a time. They were joined by goblins, some of
them mounted on sinister dire wolves. All were arrayed in full battle gear, and
Konrad the she-orc was equipped as well although her kit was very poor. They
walked mostly at night and sometimes during the day, but they did not like the
light, especially the goblins. They seemed to be in quite a hurry, too.

Presently they came to a large wood- Aethenwood, Konrad realized dreamily and
from far away. He was growing more distant from the she-orc and feeling more
like himself, questioning and wondering- was this a dream? It seemed like one.
And finally he recognized- the orc he became, the orc he watched in this dream,
this was the orc he had killed in another place an time. No, he didn't so much
as recognize but he just knew; the realization simply flowed into his mind.
And further, this wasn't his dream, it was the orc's.

They spent some time in the forest, moving from place to place,
hardly resting. Her master pushed her and his clan relentlessly. They were
hunting elves, she knew, and finally they found a band of them and attacked.
The little she-orc did not want to fight; she attempted to hide but a big orc
discovered her and cornered her. He boxed her about the head and ears, again
and again, threatening her with his scimitar.
Konrad was filled with rage and sorrow as he watched the little orc's abuse at
the hand of the bully. Then a human came and interrupted him- it was Delfador!
The big orc leapt to attack him. The scene faded as the she-orc followed,
trembling with fear. The human's back was to her; she would strike him down and
hope to remain in the good graces of her master, such as they were. The human
raised his arms- he was holding a staff in one hand, and suddenly there was a
blinding flash of light. Konrad instantly lost unconscious. The dream had
ended.

He awoke, finding himself staring up at a canopy of trees. The light was still
dim, so he felt it must still be morning. He looked about- tending to him
was Chantal, the Elvish druid and captain to the elves along with Galgrad.
Her hands were on his chest and forehead, and she was chanting with her eyes
closed, rocking slowly back and forth. He was so very glad to see her.

"Chantal?" Konrad said.

She opened her eyes and smiled at him. "Hello, Konrad. Are you able to hear?"

Konrad's ears were ringing, but he heard her clearly. "Yes, yes- I can hear
you." The dream came to him suddenly now, all of it. It hit him like a
landslide, and tears came to his eyes. He turned away from her and
made to look at the trees.

Thryriclya, his elvish friend ever since they were young children, appeared at
his side. He was tall and lithe and his golden hair fell around his shoulders
like Konrad's. His good looks attracted many elvish girls, and this was one
reason Konrad enjoyed his company. That, and the fact that Thryriclya was
light-hearted and ready for any adventure. And terribly loyal. "Konrad!" he
exclaimed, "oh I am so happy your dream did not take you!"

How did he know about that? Konrad wondered. He looked away again in shame
but there was only Chantal, who continued to gaze down on him with benevolence
in her eyes. "What do you mean?" Konrad said, "What happened to me? What
dream?"

"Shh, shh..." said Chantal. "I will tell you. You needn't be ashamed, so. You
have a great gift. You have an empathic ability. You have seen the death-dream
of your enemy..."

"The death dream? What do you mean? ...I slew a little orc..." he remembered.

"Through its heart, yes," said Chantal. "And when it died..."

"She," replied Konrad, "I killed a girl orc." He covered his eyes with his arm.
"I killed a little girl orc... she was a slave..." He was sobbing.

Chantal looked at Thryriclya. "It is the shame of the orcs that they press slaves
into service," he said. "It is not your shame."

Konrad lay with his eyes covered, shaking his head from side to side. Orcs were
evil and brutish, and many of them were, but the one he slew was not. Her family,
too, was not- most of them, anyway. She was just a lost little girl, and he
killed her! He was so sad and ashamed that he said nothing. At that moment,
Galgrad came. He was limping badly from a wound to the thigh, which was wrapped
tightly with a cloth but still oozing blood.

"He awakens?" Galgrad asked. "Good. We must go. Dusk draws down upon us and
we are hard pressed on all sides. We must break through to the north, so
Konrad and Delfador can continue..."

Dusk? Konrad wondered. Confusion invaded his mind and pushed aside his regret.
But it was morning a moment ago, when Delfador was under attack, when he killed
the orc. Slowly he uncovered his eyes and looked about. There were half a dozen
elves waiting around him. They all looked exhausted and battle-weary. The light
appeared to be the same as when he went on the attack, earlier. But that was
morning and it was now nearly night.

"You have been... asleep," said Chantal. "The day has passed, and night draws
near. We have been carrying you through the forest, trying to escape the
orcs and the goblins. Many we have slain- some of us, too, have perished." She
hung her head. "As night comes," she continued, "so we have little time.
We must see you through the forest. By morning we shall reach the edge of the
wood and you can escape when our enemies weaken." She looked at Galgrad,
and did not seem fully sure of that.

"Can you walk, Konrad?" asked Galrad. "It would be better if you could."

Konrad wiped his eyes, got up uneasily, wiped them again. His legs felt wobbly
and he was embarrassed to be seen by his friends. He shook them out to get the
blood working and they felt a little better. "Yes," was all he said.

"Then we must go. Chantal, Thryriclya..." called Galgrad, "Chantal, assist him,"
he said, referring to Konrad, "Thryriclya will lead the way. You others-
to the left and right, as before. I will follow behind."

The elves nodded, and one by one ducked into the trees. Chantal took Konrad's
arm and dove through the brush as well. Konrad followed, padding along the
ground as the elves had taught him over the years, his elf-boots barely brushing
the plant-life aside, making no sound. But he felt unsteady and clumsy at first,
and some twigs snapped as he stepped on them. With every noise he felt even
more ashamed and useless, but Chantal never checked her pace or acknowledged
his missteps. In time Konrad felt confident of his forest-feet and he withdrew
his arm from Chantal's grasp; she took his hand firmly in return and continued to
guide him, but now the walking was a little easier for her and they were able to
negotiate through the trees even better. The two moved as a grass-snake through
the forest, silent, fairly gliding over leafy and loam. They picked up speed.

Ahead, the sound of a cricket, a bit to the left. Chantal turned to follow, for
it was Thryriclya.

Konrad remembered Delfador. In his shame, he had been thinking only of himself.
Where was Delfador? Was he alive? Without him, what would they do? What could
they do? But earlier Galgrad had referred to him, so he must be near.
Konrad knew silence, however, and did not break it to ask a question.

A moment later he had his answer. Light flickered in the sky above, through the
canopy of forest. A wolf howled in the distance. ...Delfador! He had struck
a wolf. ...And a goblin, too, Konrad hoped. He hoped that the wizard
had killed them both. He grew angry, at the misery that the orcs and
goblins had brought to the forest. His heart yearned for the company and
protection of his mentor once again.

The small band continued apace through the trees, down into a ravine, along a
small stream, back up a slope along the other side, now gradually down through
rolling forest-land, then back up. For hours they trotted in steady cadence.
Konrad looked but could hardly see Chantal. He felt her hand, warm and delicate
yet firm and sure as his guide. Something stirred in him as he felt her strong
feminine presence next to him. She was old enough to be his mother, though, so
he took strong measures to wipe indecent thoughts from his mind. Still, as a
matter of no small annoyance, from time to time her arm would brush his, or her
leg, or she would pull him close to traverse over some small obstruction on the
forest floor, or to drop below a low-hanging branch, and his body and mind would
respond in a way that was annoying, though thrilling all the same.
At one point they broke into a clearing with tall grass and he could just make out
her form alongside him. She moved like a cat through the field; all
feline grace and motion. It was all Konrad could do to keep his mind on the
danger they were in and to concentrate on following her as quietly as possible.
Worse for him, she was a druid and Konrad felt very sure that she could read
his mind. Elvish druids mastered many arcane forms of magic, he knew. So he
struggled to contain his thoughts as best he could, though it was made all
the more difficult when he remembered that just by holding his hand she could
read everything he imagined.

They were in the middle of a dense wood when Konrad heard an owl hoot ahead.
Chantal stopped abruptly and nearly pulled Konrad down to the ground. The
hairs on the back of his neck rose, for this 'owl' was once again Thryricla.
Something was about.

Konrad sensed Chantal waiting and listening. The night was completely still,
there was no breeze to ripple the tops of the trees. She turned, and Galgrad
crept into place beside them. He was breathing heavily, obviously fatigued and
in pain from his leg-wound. Konrad wondered how he'd kept up with them, even as
he felt better knowing the old elf was there; he was to the forest as a wose or
one of the old oaks themselves. He laid his hand on Konrad's back, letting him
know to wait, and took the arm of Chantal. He turned her around and was somehow
trying to communicate to her in the pitch dark. He must have been successful, for
Konrad heard her breathe one of her druidic incantations, a song really, rising
and falling in a warm cadence. He saw her heart-stone glow, the blue stone she
wore on her necklace that helped direct her energies (so she told him). The
light seemed extremely bright there where they crouched in the forest, and it
made Konrad uneasy. During the day it would be barely visible but at this time
it may as well have been a beacon.

Suddenly nearby, in the direction Chantal was facing, they heard a rustle and
a curse. Then another, and another. Soon a wolf's growl joined them, and there
was a tremendous commotion, with much yelling and arguing. They were being
pursued, and something happened to their pursuers!

"Ensnare," Chantal whispered to Konrad with grim satisfaction. Her heart-stone
faded.

"Go," said Galgrad.

Chantal took Konrad's hand again, and they dashed away. Behind, Konrad heard
a wolf cry out, and more cursing. Galgrad had dealt with a goblin wolf-rider.

They soon came upon Thryricla, who was waiting for them. Chantal had been holding
Konrad's left hand; now she tapped him on the shoulder, and placed a
scabbard in it. His sword! She had been carrying it the whole time! He
felt foolish all over again. He took it and fastened the cloth belt around his
waist. This time he remembered to withdraw the weapon.

They waited. Konrad could see and hear nothing. He barely felt the presence
of his two friends near him any longer, for the night was so dark and still.
Suddenly, to his left, a brief rustle of leaves and a sharp cry. It was an
orc-voice, deep and guttural. It cried out in anger and rage, then, a rapid
clatter of steel, a dull thud, and no further sound. An orc had perished at
the hand of one of the elvish scouts, it seemed, and Konrad expected to hear the
battle cries of others, but the forest fell silent once more. No- not so silent.
An animal huffed ahead, not so far away, Konrad heard it clearly. A tiny
creaking of wood to his left he heard next, and the twang of a bow. Thryricla
let loose an arrow which sliced through some undergrowth but hit no being.
Instantly the animal's breathing became a growl; leaves crackled and twigs broke,
and the wolf was upon them, mounted by a goblin who let forth a fearful howl.
The broad side of the animal bowled Konrad over. He quickly regained his feet
but could see little but darkness in front of him. The animal was there,
snapping and snarling. A shout from Thryricla, a cry of dismay- Konrad looked
for an enemy, for something to strike; he held his sword in front of him but
feared to hit Chantal or his friend. Then, part of the animal slapped his arm,
its tail Konrad guessed. He swung his sword and it smacked into something,
something that howled and turned. He swung again, and struck again; a howl and
a yelp together! Had he struck them both, the wolf and the goblin? Again he
didn't know. The animal moved away, snarling, while its goblin-master cursed
loudly.

To his left the blue light appeared again; Chantal! She was but a few feet from
him, and disheveled-looking. Apparently she had been knocked down by the wolf
as well. She covered the light with her hand as best she could and sought out
Thryricla. He was lying prone on the ground, unmoving.

More shouts and goblin voices arose behind them. The other elves had found the
enemy, or had been found. Konrad drew alongside Chantal.

"Help them!" she said, her voice anxious. "Help the others!"

Konrad felt that she was trying to be rid of him here, beside his friend. He
feared greatly that he had been killed by the wolf and rider, but he took no
time to question or to mourn. His heart was pounding and adrenaline quickend in
his blood as he turned and ran to the other fight.

There it was the same- beneath the canopy of trees, pitch darkness. The growling,
snapping, grunts of exertion and ring of steel upon steel were practically upon
him but he felt completely unable to assist, seeing nothing and hearing only sound
which shifted and made it impossible to discern friend from foe. No wonder they
battled wolf-mounted goblins this night; they could hunt by sense of smell.
But it was risky for them, too, to engage another in such darkness. Konrad
heard a growl, a snap, then a yelp in pain- one of the wolves must have bitten
the other. Then he heard one of the elves:

"Elalon, call out!" she said.

"I am here!" came a reply, somewhat nearer to him.

The elves didn't want to risk drawing attention to themselves- but attention was
already there, so it hardly mattered. They were in the same predicament he was:
of the sounds around them, which was made by friend and which by foe?
"Konrad is here!" he called. Now they would know where he was as well.

"Konrad!?" replied Elalon with some surprise.

He heard a noise to his right. This was the game- they were being stalked
and ambushed using the keen night-senses of the wolves. Pitched against the
forest-senses of the elves, perhaps this was an even match. But though Konrad
was learned in forest-lore, he didn't feel confident that he shared their
abilities; he had seen them and he knew. This was a game he felt he was sorely
ill-equipped for. Be that as it may, he was in it. He spun and swung his sword:
nothing. He silenced his heavy breath and listened closely.
A low growl just to his right, and nearly on top of him. He charged and swung
his weapon in a wide arc- again, naught but the heavy night air did he slice.
He kept swinging- one, two!- then, thwack! And a tremendous yelp. He hit a
wolf! It cried piteously and rushed away from him. Its goblin rider yelled out
angrily, and Konrad pursued.

"Aiii!" cried Elalon, and there came a crash and a thrashing and a loud
string of obscenities from a goblin voice.

"Cursed elves! Ruddy leaf lovers! I kill you, smelly day-fiends!
Forest-maggot, meet my blade! I will cut you and eat you in a hundred
pieces, fly-chum! Agckphthpt....!" Its voice was cut off in mid-stream.

"I am here!" came the other voice.

"I come, Lomewen!" said Elalon.

"And me!" said Konrad. He sped through the forest as fast as he was able,
pausing every moment or two to listen. The wood was quiet again, broken
periodically by a flurry of movement near Lomewen. She was seeking something out-
and being sought in return. To his left, another small noise. "Konrad is
here!" he said, and stopped, waiting.

"Elanon here!" came the reply- but from further off. Something was near him!
He swung his sword again- thwunk! It struck short, jarring his arms. He managed
to hit a tree! Quickly he tried to pull the blade but he had sunk it deep, so he
levered the sword as best he could and tried to work it loose. It rocked and he
hauled with all his might but it wouldn't slide out. Suddenly he felt the
presence of something very near- in desperation he heaved but the grip slipped
from his grasp. He fell bodily onto his rump just as the thing in front of him
cried out.

"Aggh! [censored] whoreson of an elfen witch!" ...It was an orc! "Agh, my arm!
Argh! Damn you, little elf!"

Konrad sprang up and bumped into the orc. He kicked it bodily, managed to catch
it right in the gut and pushed it away. He then grabbed for his sword. He
couldn't find it at first and needed to reach for the tree to orient himself.
Slapping up and down the trunk with his hands, he quickly located the hilt. He
pushed it away and this time the blade slid out. Apparently the orc had found
the pointy end of his sword when it was protruding from the tree.

"Come here, elf! ...Shahk! Shahk! Agh, damn you! You little gwat! You turd!"
The orc coughed.

Konrad slashed at the raging orc-voice, and he could just see the large hulk of
the creature looming darker than the forest around him. His blade found the orc,
for it cried out again.

"Konrad," said Elalon, very near.

"Yes!" said Konrad.

Confident in her target, Elalon slid her blade into the orc, which slumped to
the ground. "I have killed it," she said. "Are you hurt?"

"No," he said. "It never touched me," and he felt angry that she came to help,
yet he was glad for he was afraid to fall into a swoon again like before, should
he have slain it.

"Come, we must help Lomewen. ...Lomewen!" she cried, and darted away.

"Ergh!" the other elf grunted with effort, then, "I am here!" She was locked in
combat with at least another one of the enemy.

Konrad followed. There was much rustling about in front of him, he couldn't
guess who or what was moving- elf, fiend, both? His heart was pumping madly,
and one of the elves let out a short cry, then a flurry of activity and more
cries of pain. It chilled Konrad, and he decided to try and distract whatever
was attacking his friends.

"Yo-ho! Yo-ho!" he boomed in the boomiest way he could, "Beware, bloody orcs!
For I have killed your kin and I am coming to kill you! Ha-haaa! Beware you
smelly beasts, today you meet your doom!" No answer. "Come and fetch me
come and try. I am Konrad the Orc-Killer! Konrad the Deadly! Orcs are mountain-
maggots! Turds! Gwats!" He felt a twinge of self-reproach cursing in front of
the elven women. "Goblins, too! And afraid, like little elf-girls. Orcs
and goblins- scared like little elfie-girls." To insult an orc by drawing
similarities to an elf was a great affront.

He hit the nerve he wanted. "Shut up, elf!" "No, elf, keep yabberin'!" "Konrad
the GREAT! Hahaha! Konrad the elf-boy! Konrad who sucks from elven teats! We
know yeh, Konrad!" There were a number of voices. "Yeh, keep jabberin', little
baby elf-boy!" "I've got somethin' for yeh to suckle on, little elf-baby! Try
some steel! Or how about the hand of one of yer friends! I cut it off, and
stuffed it in my drawers! You can suck on that! Come, little elf-baby! We'll
fetch yeh, to be sure!"

Though his own dread threatened to betray him, threatened to raise his voice and
reveal his own fear, Konrad still continued, "Oooo- such a big orc-turd! ...Or
goblin shahk? Hard to tell the scaredy voices in the dark!" Konrad cried. He
picked out four of them. Was that all? He tripped on something, a root or a
rock, stumbled forward, caught himself. Feeling unstable at all was completely
unnerving, for he was playing a very deadly game now and his nerves were raw.

"I heard yeh elf-boy! What's wrong, can't walk? Sucklin' on the teat are yeh?"
mocked an orc.

"I want to eat it," said a goblin.

"I get it first! It's mine!" said another. Konrad had really got them, they
were chattering ceaselessly.

"I want a slice of its tongue!" said the first.

"I'll take a bit a' liver," said an orc.

Konrad kept track of the voices, their position and nearness, backed away to
try and get to one on the end. "I have a friend for you, you can eat him first,"
he said. "His name is Steel. Step this way and have a taste." ...Drat, not very
original when playing a game of words, but the point was to keep them
occupied.

He heard a flurry of activity in the wood: a low growl, then a few sharp noises,
and a rustle in the leaves. The orcs and goblins were still carrying on. "I
want a taste of its heart, then gobble his brains," said one.

"Nah I get the brains, cos I'm the one to cut off its head," said a goblin.

"Eruurk?" said another. Eruurk was an orcish name.

Another rustle, and a sound as of something heavy falling to the ground.

"Nice, tasty brains. Come to me, little elf!"

"Eruurk! Pruurg!" said an orc. No answer.

"...I'm gonna eat the elf!" said the goblin.

"Shaddap, stupid! Shahk, y' damn slave-spawn. Shaddap!" said the orc.

"Shut yer own hole, yeh..." and its voice fell silent.

Konrad heard a heavy thrashing through the forest, and the noise began to fade
away into the distance. The last orc was running away.

"Coward!" he yelled. "You're not afraid of a nice tasty elf, are you?!"
No reply. "Come on, coward!" Then, "Elalon! Lomewen! Konrad is here!"

"Konrad," said Elalon, "I have killed three of the enemy. The other ran. Be
cautious, for there may still be more about. And wolves with goblin riders."

They went silent and listened. There were no other sounds in the forest. Elalon
found Konrad and sidled up to him. "We wait," she whispered. They crouched,
backs to a large tree, weapons out like porcupines. Elalon gave Konrad a dagger
to hold in his left hand, along with his sword in the other.

"Lomewen..." said Konrad. Elalon put her fingers to his lips. They remained
silent and listened for a long time. There was nothing else.

Night began to yield to day. As the barest hint of light filtered down from
above, Konrad peered through the forest haze. The trees, once home to him, once
stalwart witnesses to his comfort and play, now seemed to be sinister
participants in a plot to deal death to the elves, and to conceal orcs and
goblins. The leaves and brush, appeared malicious and any one of them could
have been acting as a cloak for their enemies. He hated how he felt about the
forest, and he hated more the orcs for making him feel this way. He hated most
Queen Asheviere, for hiring them to hunt him down, he hated himself for
slaying the young girl-orc, and he hated being a prince. It was stupid. He had
been perfectly happy in Aethenwood- what did he want with a kingdom, a kingdom
of men? With their smelly cities, their crowded streets? Nothing. He wanted
nothing to do with them.

Konrad felt utterly alone beside Elalon. Where was Thryriclya? Where was
Lomewen, and furthermore Chantal the druid and Glagrad... or Delfador, for that
matter? As if in answer, the elf broke the silence.

"Let us seek Chantal," she said, and started off. "She must be near."

"But what of Lomewen?" Konrad said.

"She sleeps the endless sleep," Elalon replied.

Konrad was stunned. How many of his friends lay in this forest, dead? And were
they then to simply leave them, as they were now leaving Lomewen? He wanted
to see her, to know, or to at worst, at the very least, bury her. She died
fighting with- no- for, him. It was altogether too much. Tears streamed down
his face.

Hushpuppy
Posts: 19
Joined: November 7th, 2008, 10:56 pm

Re: Escape from Aethenwood, a Short Story by Hushpuppy

Post by Hushpuppy » August 16th, 2009, 8:35 pm

Part 2 of 2
See part 1 for the copyright notice.
------------------------------

They came upon Chantal in little time. She was a vision completely incongruous
with the night's events, walking erect, arms outstretched, holding her staff
high, her other hand open, palm up. Her eyes were closed and her face upraised,
and she didn't acknowledge them as they came near. Elalon said nothing and
Konrad followed her lead. Presently she spoke, "Thryriclya lives, though he
cannot follow. He is safe for now. Our friends are making their way, though
they were sorely pressed during the night, as were we. Our enemies are yet many
and close from all sides- north, south, east, and west. We can use the daylight
to make speed but to escape them... this is impossible."

So if there is no escape...? thought Konrad.

"They will find us," continued Chantal, "the Queen knows much and her fell magic
is strong. For the Prince to survive, we must forestall her minions in battle.
Come, we will join the others at the appointed place."

As if released from a spell, Chantal opened her eyes and relaxed. She seemed to
return to them. "I have been reading the Earth," she said. She smiled, "Come,
Konrad." She wrapped her arms around him. "You have but 17 years on this world,
and so much now has suddenly fallen upon you. Were it in my power to take your
burden..." She sighed, and began to sing. Her voice rose in a high lilting
melody.

At first Konrad was annoyed, afraid that her singing would simply help draw the
enemy to them, but he found himself losing his concern, like trying to hold
sand in his fist. It simply fell away, and he was no longer quite so exhausted
or quite so sad. They found a deerpath in the forest and followed it, strolling
along at a walking pace. It was almost as if nothing was wrong in the whole
wide world.

They had no food, which was a terrible shame as Konrad was starving and his
friends had eaten as little as he. By midday they reached a bubbling brook and
drank deeply from it, then continued on. It was late in the afternoon when the
forest opened onto a small meadow. They reached the other side and that is where
they halted.

"Soon they will be here," said Chantal, "And night will draw its shadow-blanket
over the forest. You, Konrad, will continue with Delfador. We will remain here,
in Aethenwood, in our home."

"But I don't want to be a prince... it's stupid. The forest is where I live,
too!" Konrad said. Suddenly he felt like an outcast, like a non-elf, in a way
that he never did before.

"It is your destiny, Konrad. It is difficult, yes, but were we all to run from
those things that were difficult... then the world would soon be overcome.
I don't mean by Asheviere. She is but another sojourner on this planet, no,
she is but a symptom of a disease that forever lives amongst us. So good
people must always strive for what is right or the fabric of life will
become torn as a shirt too often used and never renewed.

"Do not forget the sacrifices your friends have made for you, but do not grieve
them too dearly, for those sacrifices were made with great joy. For you, Konrad,
are today the hope of the Aethenwood, and the hope of the whole world. For us
to drive the enemy from the wood requires you to sit atop the throne in Wesnoth.
Never forget this, that the elves need you, Konrad. You are our hope. And
never," she leaned over and kissed him full on the lips, "never forget that we
love you. Here- I have a gift for you."

She withdrew an elven dagger from her waist. The hilt was of the most intricate
gold, and it was inscribed with a scene from the Aethenwood. Look! There was
Galgrad, astride his favorite horse! And there was Chantal, sitting on the
ground in the way that she did in the morning, arms outstretched, seeming to
take in the whole forest in one instant. And there was his favorite tree! He
turned it over, and on the other side he saw Thryriclya, and Pad, his childhood
playmates. They had climbed his tree and were dangling from the branches.
...So typical of Thry and Pad! He turned it back and gasped. A new scene was
inscribed on the handle- there was his house, with Delfador standing outside,
waiting for him as he so often did.

"It's... it's magic!" Konrad said in wonder. The dagger fairly sparkled with
light of its own making.

Chantal smiled. "Yes," she said, "Galgrad had it made for you when you were a
child, with the help of the dwarves from far away. The dagger's name is Anagai.
In the ancient Elvish, it means 'King'. We meant to give it to you when you grew
up." She sighed and a sadness crossed over her face.. "That we could give it
to you at that time... it is not long away..."

Konrad felt unworthy of the gift, and took it reverently from Chantal..

"Anagai is our gift of remembrance and hope, Konrad. As you gaze at the handle,
you will see us as you have known us, and our desire is that it brings you
comfort at need. It is our gift of hope, as well, for when you have become king
you will no longer need it. Return it to us- return it to Aethenwood,
and bury it beneath the earth at the very center of the Wood. Near your old home-
you know the place. And wait until the rain begins to fall. For we have imbued
the blade with more than you witness here, and it can help you. If you realize
your destiny and complete this task, the Aethenwood will be safe for centuries
to come. If you do not, then our homes are lost and the magic in this blade
will be of no use to us."

"Hark!" cried Elalon, "They come!"

To the south across the meadow they saw a party emerge from the woods. There
was Delfador, flitting about with his grey hair! And Galgrad, too, though he
was still limping badly- it grieved Konrad to see him diminished so. There were
perhaps 8 elves with them. The party had paused, peering about, looking for them
he guessed.

Elalon waved. "Here!" she said, then soundlessly she fell forward, flat, like a
rag doll, with a handle protruding from her upper back.

Chantal spun. "Assassin!" she said to Konrad. "I did not sense it! Get down!"

Konrad dropped to the earth. He looked deeper into the forest, saw nothing.
He could see nothing the other way over the grass, either. Likely his friends
were now approaching, but did they know of the danger? He couldn't know but he
doubted it.

Chantal tended to Elalon. "Poison," she said. "The blade is not large, but it
is dipped in poison. Oh the horror..."

Elalon moaned. The poison was quick and painful, to be sure, her skin was
already turning a dark olive-green. Konrad recoiled from the sight.

"ASSASSIN!" he yelled to the others. "BEWARE!" he rose to a crouch and dipped
into the forest, flitting from tree to tree like a rat. Chantal cried out to him.
He ignored her and ran in an arc away from her- somehow, somewhere there was a
being within throwing distance. He needn't go far he knew but the forest was
dense; it could be hiding anywhere. He practiced his most careful footwork, his
quietest breath, and made nary a sound as he penetrated the wood. He found
nothing towards the west, moved further in, arced back around east. This time
he encountered an orc, at the same time as it saw him. They came upon one
another just as Konrad bounded over a fallen log. The assassin's knife nearly
took his ear as it whizzed past him, but he was able to duck behind a tree.

Now what? He thought. He was trapped! Somewhere behind him lurked an orc
with an extremely accurate throw, and he had nothing to toss back at it. He fell
to the ground and carefully peered around the tree to his right. Where was that
damnable thing?
His new dagger was still in his left hand and this served him in good stead, for
as he cautiously worked his way around the trunk he discovered
he was at eye level with an orcan leg. He reacted instantly; his hand flashed
out and he slammed his weapon right into the foot of the orc, through it and into
the ground.

The orc doubled over and hissed in pain. At nearly the same time an arrow
whizzed through the air and planted itself right into its rump. It toppled
over, its ankle bent at a crazy angle by the dagger which held its foot fast.
It moaned in pain.

Konrad reached down and pulled out his dagger. Thick orcish blood streaked
the blade. He loathed to sheath it in this way, so he held it out. An elf he
knew trotted up, it was Anowebril, one of those who came with Delfador. He
clamped his hand around the orc's neck, and threatened it with his blade.

"Be cautious Konrad," he said, glancing about, "stay low." Then to the orc,
"Are there others of you about? Where? Where are they? Speak, or I'll gut
you. Painfully."

The orcish assassin looked at him with hateful eyes and just hissed.

"Let's go, Konrad," said Anowebril. He grabbed the orc by the arm and dragged it,
ignoring its pain as it bumped along the ground and the arrow caught on the
ditritus lying on the forest floor.

Konrad was taken aback by this coarse treatment of the prisoner. Anowebril was
one of the kindest elves he knew, but his treatment of the orc amplified its
pain, and Anowebril simply ignored it as he dragged it along.

They were not far from the others, who were gathered around Elalon. Galgrad
approached them.

"Will this orc speak?" he asked.

"No," said Anowebril, "assuredly not."

"Give it to the Wise One," said Galgrad.

Anowebril dragged it over to Delfador while Galgrad welcomed Konrad with a hug
and kind words.

The wizard took the orc and examined it, but it continued its silence.
In short order he dragged it, much as Anowebril had done, out into the meadow
and, raising his arms to the heavens, cast a mighty spell. A bolt of lightning
crackled down, a tremendous peal of thunder sounded, and a pall of smoke rose
in front of the great mage. The orc was most assuredly dead, coldly cut down
in the field. Konrad was again shocked to see this behavior from someone he
had known. Delfador returned to the others.

Konrad looked at him. His eyes were obsidian rage, as if he were looking at
two pools of death, sinister and pitiless, murky and swirling with patterns of
black and gray. He wondered what had become of his mentor. "...Delfador?" he
ventured. Had he been obsessed?

The great mage raised his head and sensed the air, like a wolf sniffing about
for its prey. "We must go," was all he replied. There was an air of mystery
and dread about his words, a chilling assurance of knowing. The party was in
grave danger. Delfador dashed into the forest without further word, not even
a parting goodbye to the elves.

"Run," Chantal said, "follow him Konrad."

"But, you... Galrad... what...?"

"Run! Go now!" she replied, beneath the sound of the breeze.

Konrad grabbed her hand in fear and desperation. He would not, could not leave
them, and it was then that he knew- the forest was teeming with orcs and with
goblins. None of his friends would likely survive.

"Don't touch me!" Chantal hissed at him, but there were tears streaming down her
cheeks. "Uriandir!" she cried.

"Yes, lady," a tall and lithe elf-warrior stepped forward.

"Take him with Delfador, now, and do not allow him to return," she said.

"Yes, lady," said the elf in a stoic fashion. What had happened to his friends?
Their faces were all ice and steel. The elf held him; he struggled. So he
picked him up bodily, and hoisted him around his shoulders. Other elves helped.

"No, stop!" cried Konrad, sobbing.

"Quiet, fool!" said Uriandir, "or you'll draw them all here!"

Konrad's sobs subsided to a whimper. "No..." he cried.

Uriandir left the others, dashing through the forest, oblivious to Konrad's
discomfort. Branches and brambles slapped at him as they dodged amongst the
trees. His shoulder dug into Konrad's belly and ribs, and he grew increasingly
uncomfortable. He had awakened old bruises, probably formed the previous day
when the elves had carried him then as well.

"I will go," Konrad said finally. Uriandir continued on. "I said- I will go!"

Delfador was hurrying ahead in the waning light. He seemed oblivious to the
two following him.

"Go then," said Uriandir as he set him down, "and do not return- unless it is
with a crown on your head. Do you hear me? You may be the Prince, but if you
attempt to come back tonight, then we will treat you as the enemy as well."

"Bu...b... but why? You're my friends..." Konrad found himself blubbering again.

Just then Delfador spun. Uriandir dropped and pulled Konrad down with him.
The old wizard let loose a blast of ball lightning which singed the air just
above them and burst into the trees behind. A squad of goblins screamed and
shouted, and a wolf let out a yelp.

Uriandir drew his sword. "Because you are meant to survive!" he cried. "Now
go- follow him! Go, the gods forsake you, for I have trouble upon me and not
the time nor mind to tarry with you any longer! Go now! Go!" The elf's eyes
were desperate, even enraged.

Konrad cowered before him. "Yes, yes- I will go. Good-bye," he said.

Uriandir merely glared at him, then spun without further response, and ducked
into the forest. And so, Konrad ran after Delfador and caught him. Behind he
heard shouts and sounds of conflict, as no doubt Uriandir had engaged the
goblins. But they ended abruptly, and if it was possible, Konrad's heart further
sank.

Soon they were out of the woods and onto flat land, a land of tall grasses and
small streams, dotted here and there with copses of gorse and midget oak.
The landscape was eerie under the pale light of a waxing moon and Konrad
repeatedly looked back over his shoulder; he felt the presence of goblins
who must surely be near. But none overtook them, and anyway Konrad wasn't certain
he cared. Delfador was wordless all night long and kept a steady pace, huffing
and chuffing over the rolling hills, jogging cross-country, ignoring the grasses
that threatend to- and sometimes did- cut them. It was as the sun rose when the
wizard finally spoke.

"So, we will find a brief respite," he suddenly spoke, starting Konrad from his
exhaustion and gloom. "By mid-day we should arrive at the door of the witch
Rodasha. The witch is a friend of mine. She is the proprietor of an inn."

Konrad said nothing, he was so terribly heartsore, angry, exhausted, and afraid
of the old wizard. And the name was an odd one- not only a witch, but it sounded
like an orc-name. But orcs didn't delve in magic, everyone knew that!

Delfador looked at him, and as if reading his mind, said, "Yes- she is a hedge
witch. And an orc, too, if you must know, young man. Do not let appearances
deceive you, for you may miss..."

"...the heart of the matter," Konrad was supposed to say. And he used to.
But he no longer wished to engage in any sort of reverie with his teacher. Too
many events had taken place in the last day to turn his soul completely
upside-down that he didn't even want look at Delfador, and he didn't. He wanted
to stop there, or return to the forest, and simply meet his death. To hell with
the old man. To hell with princes, and kingdoms, and destiny, and war. He had
lost his home and the friends that he loved- what was there to live for? He
shuffled listlessly along.

Delfador stopped, hands on hips. "So, you have had a taste of war, have you
young man? And found it not to your liking, I see."

Konrad stopped, back to the wizard.

"Turn and look at me," said Delfador, "like a man."

Konrad turned, slowly and with great resentment.

The old wizard sighed. "I would strike you," he said, "but for the ache and
worry in my old heart." He put his hand on his breast, "and for your youth,
and for the love I will forever hold for your... uncle... and for the love
I hold for you."

These words surprised Konrad. Delfador had never spoken to him of love before,
not like Galrad or Chantal.

"You are sick, ashamed, and frightened, no doubt," said Delfador, as he resumed
walking. They had come to a broad path which made it much easier to stroll
along. But Konrad was growing thirsty and they had no supplies whatsoever.
"...and this is natural, I suppose," continued Delfador. "But now is the time
for strength. You represent the future, Konrad. The hearts and minds of
countless men, elves, trees, beasts- yes, even of orcs- lie in the dream your
station brings to the world. Your friends, and this be the truth though it may
pain you to hear it, they did not go to their deaths for you. Yes- they would
die for you, if it came to such an end. But not in such haste I daresay. No,
they died for the Prince. You must continue to bring the dream of Wesnoth to
the world. You are the last in a great line, Konrad, and should that line fail,
then we shall fail, for there is no one else to oppose Asheviere. None that
people would follow, in any event- none else of royal lineage- and her reign
would go on for years- and after that? Who knows? Perhaps a [censored] child
would be born to continue the twisted path of his mother.
Perhaps the queen herself will uncover some fell magic and live for centuries
to come. No, this cannot be Konrad. Now, while she still struggles to
secure her rule, now is the time to strike. For though the queen is strong yet
she is weak. How is she weak? She is weak because she is young, and ambitious,
and has yet to taste the bitter draught of defeat. She will reach too far for
too long and she will fall. And you," he looked directly at Konrad, "you are
the one to defeat her. Now then is the time for you to be a man."

The old mage stopped. Konrad stopped as well, and stared at the gravel at his
feet.

"'Who am I, now?' you want to know," Delfador asked him. "'Who now accompanies
you, hmmm?' you want me to tell you. For my eyes were black with battle-rage,
as if I was overcome by some daemon. And I was, you have never seen me so
possessed... But war is an abomination to the soul and for me to deal death in
such... Well... but I tell you, Konrad, I remain the Great Wizard Delfador,
Counsellor to Kings, to Garard the First and to Garard the Second, son of Konrad
the Only and of Katherine the Forebearing (a humble beginning by any grand
account, mind you, but as caring and dear as two
people ever you will find in this land mark my words- and yes, my father's name
too was Konrad) I am a Friend to the Earth, to the Sky, to Fire and to Water, a
graduate of the Great Academy and a Perpetual Student of All Things that One May
Find on this Magnificent Rock Whereupon We Dwell, a Wizard somehow decreed
Especially Knowledgeable in those Things of the Sky (having concentrated my
studies in the field of the Air Elements), I am your Mentor terribly proud and
profoundly Humble, I am viscious and angry and filled with terror and
destruction, I am righteous and confused, I am gripped with a terrible love for
you my boy and for your father, for his family, and for all creatures with whom I
dwell, I am soft and I am hard, I am eagle, I am wolf, I am fish, I am man, I
curse no one yet I sometimes hate and often I regret. I am, in this moment, and
I say this with all humility- Wesnoth's only hope. As are you, I might add."

Konrad stared at him open-mouthed, unable to digest what he just heard and
thoroughly confused by it all.

"So- I am still the same Delfador you have known, believe it or not, and I am
still your Teacher. And as I am your Teacher, so we have a problem," Delfador
continued his walk. "For war was brought to you and in the midst of war, you
have killed. Not only have you killed, but the death you dealt was done with
naught a shred of dignity, heroism, bravado, nor did it resemble in any way the
sort of childish fantasy you carried regarding battle and your first deadly
stroke."

Konrad shuffled beside him, red-faced.

"You did not kill with honor, so you believe, and this is your lament. Do not
judge, lad. You were in battle, and you killed your enemy. That is all. Do not
judge. We are all weak, Konrad. We are all, at times, strong. Whether you
are weaker or stronger than your enemy is not your concern. You should hope you
are stronger, at all times. My hope is that should need arise again, and it
grieves me to say it will, then may all your enemies be as this one, cowering
before you, blind and bewildered. It is unfair, yes, but when at war, you hope
to be unfair- you wish to always triumph, always! And how do you triumph lest
you use your every advantage, always? Always! If you are more skillful is that
unfair? If you are less skillfull, less mighty than your enemy, yet by chance
you triumph, what then? Would you instead ask his pardon, take his place, and
offer to die in his stead? I hope not. Yestermorn, facing your enemy,
you choose to kill. This is the way of war; one deals death to one's enemy in
war. Now you have done so; do your best to let let her lie in peace. If you
must honor her with your tears, then honor her when you can. When you can't,
remember..."

"Use your mind," replied Konrad.

"Yes, use your mind," Delfador replied quietly. Tears were streaming down his
cheeks, tears for the orcs he too had killed, for the deed that Asheviere had
paid them for, for the past and their friends who were gone and for the
difficult future which lie ahead.

Konrad stared at him, having never seen him cry.

"I, too, have killed," replied Delfador, and the mage put his arm around Konrad,
and together they walked down the path.

------------------------

"Behold, the home of my friend Rodasha. I hope she is home for I am truly
starved and beset by thirst," Delfador said. They were walking under a hot
sun and the breeze barely stirred the tall grasses. From atop the hill on
which they stood they could see a cozy two-story stone coachhouse, all grey but
for its yellow thatched roof. Smoke swirled from the chimney, and the travelers'
stomachs rumbled. Someone was cooking!

They hurried along. Wheat lined the path that they were on, and presently they
came upon a wagon-road. Konrad's heart lifted to see some signs of ordinary
beings living ordinary lives.

"We must walk carefully," Delfador said, "for now we know the orcs lurk about even
in daylight. I hope her inn still welcomes weary travelers. I trust that it
will."

"I HOPE that it will!" said Konrad, "I'm starved! But-" he realized, "we have no
supplies. Nothing to trade, and no coin..."

"Indeed," said Delfador, "we must hope that my account with the good witch is
still in good standing. Ah, here we are!"

The rounded a bend. The wheat yielded to a trim lawn of short
stiff grass. The home seemed to welcome them and it gladdened their hearts,
but beyond, along the horizon, a wall of gray clouds gathered like a range of
bleak mountain-peaks. They seemed to speak to Konrad of the future, a future
unknowable and uncertain, a future he didn't long to see.

The Great Rings
Posts: 738
Joined: January 26th, 2008, 10:39 pm
Location: On the front line of battle, defying hopeless odds

Re: Escape from Aethenwood, a Short Story by Hushpuppy

Post by The Great Rings » August 22nd, 2009, 9:07 pm

Pretty good in places, though I found that some of Konrad's reflections went on for rather too long, and became boring and disruptive of the general flow of the story. Also a very dark interpretation in places of what is a rather light-hearted campaign.

The idea of Konrad having an empathic ability is of course a completely new one, albeit potentially interesting. Where did that come from?

I liked Konrad's reflection on how absurd his own words sounded during his first fight- I always did find his dialog a bit silly and un-princely. :D Konrad defintely comes off as nieve and somewhat clumsy but trying to live up to the expectations of a prince. Delfador too, you've really captured my view of the character's personality as both an extreemly determined, powerful, even ruthless individual, who is nonetheless filled with a great deal of regret for his past. This is merely alluded to of course in the campaign dialog (which I maintain is often some of the weakest in Wesnoth). The extrapollation is needed, and not too badly done.

Their are a number of points where this could use improvement, I think, including the afforementioned long reflections and expositions, as well as perhaps some overly melodramatic passages and of course the standard typos. But not too bad. In fact, I'm feeling rather bitter that I didn't think to write something like this myself. :mrgreen:
"One man alone cannot fight the future"-
The X-files

"Send these foul beasts into the abyss"-Gandalf

Hushpuppy
Posts: 19
Joined: November 7th, 2008, 10:56 pm

Re: Escape from Aethenwood, a Short Story by Hushpuppy

Post by Hushpuppy » August 25th, 2009, 3:29 am

Thanks for the reply. ...I'll take a "not too bad" for my first contribution to the world of Wesnoth. :-)

My ideas for Konrad came from the viewpoint hinted at in the campaign, and my interpretations of his situation:
  • From the Campaign (paraphrased): "Eep! Orcs! What shall we do, Delfador?" said Konrad.
  • This suggests to me that Konrad is young and naive, as you mentioned. From there, I extrapolate; how can this be? Oh I know,
  • Konrad has been living peacefully amongst the Elves most of his life.
  • He's only 17 years old.
  • Delfador and some of the elves have been teaching him, but obviously he's not ready for leadership.
  • So I have a problem: after his first level advancement, he gains the leadership ability. Thus within a short time he's got to go from a kid to a man, and someone in whom others are willing to place their future.
The empathic thing came from me wanting to emphasize Konrad's ignorance of life outside the forest and especially of war. He has never had his prejudices challenged; up till now he's lived a parochial life. So in order to grow up- and very quickly- he needs his worldview tested. I thought it would be cool, too, if this happened by discovering that his first really nasty evil ugly brutish (in his young mind) enemy turns out to actually be (relatively) innocent. And a girl. Now all his preconceptions are up for question- the beginning of wisdom.

I haven't actually figured out what to do with the dagger, except that I like the idea of him going back home and burying it, to pay homage to his friends who helped raise him (and, as Robert Bly will tell you, the appearance of gold in a tale augurs a successful journey for the protagonist).

Thanks for the props about Konrad's absurdities. "Die, orc!" was the first thing to pop into my mind, and I said, "Well that's dumb." Then I thought, hey, why not use it. Konrad is after all just a kid who's supposed to be the prince.
- the Pupp

Hushpuppy
Posts: 19
Joined: November 7th, 2008, 10:56 pm

Re: Escape from Aethenwood, a Short Story by Hushpuppy

Post by Hushpuppy » August 26th, 2009, 4:07 am

Hmmm... my first two paragraphs are terrible. It's amazing what a little time and distance will do for you... :-)

I'll have to rework that, at the very least!
- the Pupp

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