Strangers in the night

One o'clock

The Whispering Oak Forest, the proclaimed realm of the hardy wood elves of Oakens. There was a time when these woods were safely guarded, but this time is long gone. Since midnight a chain of events of a most dreadful sort had occurred. An orc army of enormous proportion had launched an offensive attack against the brave elves. Lately nothing seemed to be in place for the elves. They had become more lenient with monitoring their frontiers and more preoccupied with the upcoming enemy army. This upcoming attack was anticipated for four seasons now, and yet no help or reinforcement from neighboring realms had shown themselves. They stood alone and alone they would fight.

Two strangers had wandered into the forest and had traveled for two days without being detected. They stopped to rest in a prairie between two ridges. The starless night above them stood quiet and mournful, anticipating the upcoming carnage.

Galreth sat in the dim light of the dying campfire, a line of fine crafted arrows on the ground before him, paralleling a line of tiny vials of some strong poison. One by one he took the arrows and very carefully dripped in a few drops from the flask that an alchemist had given to him.

"What are you doing?" Dalvir asked his brother as he stood on the edge of the firelight.

"Poisoning my arrows," the tall elf explained.

"Well, for what?" Dalvir insisted annoyingly

"In case I miss a lethal shot," explained Galreth, "you know, any enemy will die right after it has penetrated flesh."

"You never have missed a shot, might I remind you," responded Dalvir as he studied the diminutive flask resting on the ground at Galreth's side. The elf's expression was not complementary.

"That is a coward's device" spat the arrogant brother

Galreth stood up immediately and faced his brother in anger. His six foot eight and well-built body towered over his brothers meager six' five. Galreth's green eyes were not as striking as Dalvir's silvery orbs, but his impetuous glare more than diminished his brother.

"Repeat what you said," asked the furious elf holding his cold stare towards Dalvir.

Apparently understanding that he had pushed his brother too far without starting a fight, Dalvir sat down and apologized under his breath but just loud enough for Galreth to hear.

"That's better," replied Galreth as he sat down beside his brother and went back to his judicious task of poisoning arrows.

Galreth was 5 years Dalvir's senior. His short almost bald haircut made him a peculiar elf to be confronted to but his pointy ears made no illusions about which race he belonged. Galreth was a prince of a long forgotten elven bloodline. His bloodline had succumbed to some unknown evil and was annihilated by the same. The only remnants of this bloodline were he and his brother. Galreth was still and always ignorant of the evil that had wiped out his line. But these facts did not seem to bother the conscientious elf. Knooks raised Galreth and Dalvir. Knooks were a peculiar race of beings. Some say they were the fruit of elves and wood fairies, others believe they magically surged out of the ground. Yet, little is known about the Knooks only that they are the hidden guardians of forest animals and a fierce race of warriors. They usually do not interact with anyone. Not even the two-elven brothers knew how they came to be with the knooks. Galreth was only 5 when the Knooks took them in and Dalvir was but a tiny baby. Their exchange did not come as much of a shock to Dalvir but Galreth always held a buried grief deep down in his heart. They grew peacefully under the watchful eyes of the Knooks who took them as their own. Both brothers learned ardently and as the years went by, they grew eager to leave their secure lives behind. Eventually, they departed and wandered the lands to never again see their childhood homes. The Knooks cherished their secrecy more than anything and once a non-knook individual left the Knook way of life, this individual also ceased to see the Knook world and environment. Alas, these were the ways of the Knooks. But both brothers had agreed upon their decision and lived with its consequences. Their troubled past only fortified the pair. They had learned and seen the cold world and they had grown accustomed to its ways. Rangers by choice, Galreth and Dalvir roamed the lands trying to unlock the keys of their mysterious past. Galreth was a skilled fighter, a deadly shot and maybe the most dangerous elf ranger of the land. Dalvir in his turn resembled Galreth in all aspects. The only difference among the two was Dalvir's long, free flowing black hair and shorter stature.

"I still say it's a cowards device," spat the ever-annoying brother

As Galreth was about to respond, successive movements of trees were seen all around them.

"What was that?" asked Dalvir as he tightened his belt with his two short swords around his waist. Galreth didn't respond immediately. He quickly tucked his poison flask in his belt and fitted a poisoned arrow in his bow. Then he stood halfway up and assumed a crouched stance. Galreth immediately knew what those movements represented. Wood Elves. Wood Elves were not stupid creatures, they would not move so carelessly thought the elderly brother.

"Extinguish the fire," ordered the elderly brother anxiously, while he swiftly checked to see if his sword was in place. Dalvir did not need to be told twice. He grabbed a nearby beaker and drowned the dying campfire in water then he threw a blanket over it to dissipate the smoke. The trees had stopped moving and silence engulfed the night. No sound was heard for infinity of seconds and then the spell was broken. A rhythmic resonance kept growing and growing.

"Do you hear that?" Galreth whispered, "It's as if an avalanche is coming our way."

Dalvir simply nodded. He stared intensively towards the southern ridge trying to detect the source of the disturbance. Moving closer to the tree line he quickly positioned his bow across his chest and grabbed his spear. Then he gasped in complete panic.

"Gal, Gal, they're coming… I didn't see them coming, Gal we should run!" muttered Dalvir in despair

Galreth paid no attention to his brothers pleading and let fly the first projectile. His arrow hit the thunderstruck orc right in the temple. The orcs' eyes looked up at the arrow right above his deformed nose. He tried to reach for it but he lacked the strength. As he fell, the orc let out a soulless cry and hit the broken limb of a tree. The next orc fell, so did the next one and the next one after that. Every arrow hit their mark in the exact same spot, the temple. Galreth worked with a mechanical and almost devilish precision. Fitted, Shot, Hit, Fitted, Shot, Hit. Dalvir soon followed his brothers' example. Though he was a great marksman he wasn't as precise as Galreth. The two brothers continued shooting incessantly but their arrows were becoming scarce and the orcs showed no signs of stopping.

"They never stop coming!" yelled the younger brother in utter dismay, "our arrows are making themselves few!"

Galreth paid no heed to his brothers muttering. He was in his own world now, he was in a world were only two things existed; the hunter and the prey. Galreth loved the hunt, especially with him being the hunter. He took an immense pleasure in slaying his prey. Just like a lion he savored his victims demise. He wasn't the elf, the brother or the ranger anymore he was just the hunter. No soul, no pain, no obstacles there was only harmony. This harmony was reflected tenfold by the lust in his green eyes. But then something went wrong, he reached out to grab an arrow and there was none.

"Gal, I'm out," said the now enervated Dalvir

"So am I," muttered Galreth

"Lets go, we can outrun them at least until the break of day," pleaded Dalvir, "we can't kill them anymore."

"No, let them come," Galreth stated flatly

Dalvir knew there was no arguing, he had seen his brother in this state more than once and it had brought them to the edge of death quite a few times.