It was a dark day; unusually so. Smoke clouded the sky, casting a gray shadow on the snow-covered ground. The trees hid the location of the fire.
It worried the young hunter.
He stood in the middle of a clearing, his sandaled feet spaced slightly apart. His silver eyes were cast upward, studying the smoke with a worried look.
"Mamier," he said quietly, picking up his spear, which had been resting on the snow. He glanced back at the deer he had recently killed. 'It can wait,' he thought. 'I shouldn't be gone long.' He carefully wiped the bloody tip of the spear on the snow, and then was gone, leaving only faint footprints.
The boy was quick, with the energy only a ten-year-old could have. But he had wandered far from his village, and he had not slept well the night before. Soon enough, he found himself gasping for breath, although he had only gone half way. He slowed to a stop, and placed his dark-skinned hand on the bark of a tree. Yet again he looked up, only to find that the smoke was rising and blackening. He swore softly and started to run yet again.
After a few more stops, the trees finally started to thin. He shouted something happily and jumped up, speeding up his pace so he could reach his home. He was no longer looking up, so he couldn't tell that the smoke was coming from his home after all.
Suddenly, a short, bulky shape slipped out of the shadows and grabbed the boy's arm. Alarmed, he struggled violently against the figure.
"Lad, hold still!" the figure exclaimed. His voice was rough, and he spoke with a faint accent. "Do you want to be killed too?"
The boy stopped and glared at the figure. He was a dwarf, with a metal helm covering his head. A long brown beard was tucked into his sword belt, and he wore leather pads for armor. He stopped his examination as the dwarf's words sunk in.
"No!" he shouted. "No, no, no, no, no!" He jerked away and ran past the trees, into the village.
Or, to be exact, what was left of the village. And that wasn't much.
It had been burned to the ground, not too long ago, for there were still little trails of smoke rising from some of the ruins. It was a black wasteland, and, almost against his will, he found himself slowly sinking to the ground. His home was gone.
"See, lad? I told you." The boy dimly heard the dwarf stop behind him, gasping. The leather pads must have been heavier than he had thought. "The humans already got here."
Humans. His mind dimly processed the word. He had not been told much about them; all he knew was to avoid them.
Slowly, he stood and picked up his spear. "Where are they?" he asked quietly, turning to the dwarf, who looked slightly alarmed.
"The humans, you mean? I would think they are far gone…"
"Liar. Where are they?" His voice was calm, but his hands were trembling.
"I'm not sure it would be wise to go after them-"
"I don't care what is wise and what isn't! Just tell me where they are!"
The dwarf grabbed his arm. "No. I have a better idea. Why don't you-"
The boy kicked his shin, then bashed his helm with the butt of his spear before running off. The dwarf ran after him after his head had stopped ringing.
"Gods, lad!" he exclaimed, practically tackling the boy to get him to stop. "Listen to me! It's suicide to go after them!"
"I don't care! Let me go!"
"Look. You are angry, weary, and not properly equipped. Wait until you are ready."
The boy was calming. His grip on his spear loosened, and it fell to the ground.
"Can you teach me to be ready?" he asked quietly, still staring at the ruins of his home.
"Yes. But that means you have to come with me."
He paused, and finally turned to the dwarf. "To where?"
"My mountain. Will you come?"
"I want to contact the elves. Ask them to take me in."
"Fair enough, lad. Fair enough." He paused. "What is your name?"
The boy didn't answer for a moment, and then he slowly turned his gaze upward to the dwarf.
"I am Henuki," he said quietly. "Henuki Araneal."
The dwarf extended a callused, scarred hand. "Dandin. It is a pleasure to meet you."
Henuki just looked at the hand, then up at the dwarf.
"Lad, are you all right?"
He turned back to the ruins. "Let's go."
The dwarf's shoulders sagged slightly. "Right, then. This way…"
Dandin could think of better things to do than escort a grief-stricken elven boy while the rain beat against his helm. The boy was not weak; the blow he had delivered had dented his helm fairly badly, and his head had not stopped ringing. At the same time, the boy's sanity could be questioned…there were not many who were stupid enough to go after humans armed with only a spear.
The dwarf slid a glance at Henuki, who was trudging silently beside him. The boy was as tall as him, but he had a slender frame. He could imagine that he was fairly cold; he was dressed only in a light green outfit and sandals. He had offered the boy a cloak, but he had turned it down.
"Are you literate, lad?" Dandin asked after a moment, stopping and turning to Henuki. The boy glanced up at him briefly, then nodded.
"Aye," he said quietly. "Unusual, I know. Mamier-" he stopped and swallowed hard. "Taught me."
The dwarf nodded and looked away. "I am sorry."
"You didn't do it," the boy said harshly. "It was those bloody humans."
Dandin winced. He was going to start again…
"Why did you stop me?! I could have taken a few with me!"
"That may be, but you still would have died."
"An honorable death! I would have joined my family—"
"In the other world. Yes, yes. You have been listening to the elders too much, lad. They have filled your head with religious 'truths'. Forget that, okay? Focus on living."
He didn't reply, and they walked on in silence for a while. Eventually, they reached the mountain, which rose like a black beacon from the ground. Two plain wooden doors had carefully been placed in the front, and a stone arch formed an entry way.
"Once we get inside, lad, you can write a letter to the Elders." Dandin glanced at the boy.
He just nodded and walked into the mountain as the doors opened. His head was bowed, and he looked like one who had just signed his death warrant.
And in a way, he had.
Three weeks had passed since Dandin had brought the boy into the mountain, and the dwarf thought he could safely say that Henuki was recovering. After he had written the letter, he had instantly gone into the library, where he would read the day away. Dandin knew, however, that it wouldn't last. Henuki was so hopeful that the Elders would take him in. The chances of them actually doing it were slim. But Dandin didn't tell Henuki this; he didn't want to dampen the lad's hopes.
One day, Dandin slowly trudged to the library, where the boy was currently staying. He pushed the wooden doors open with one hand, for a piece of yellow parchment was in his other hand.
The lad was asleep, his black hair falling in his face. Regretfully, Dandin walked up to him and shook his shoulder carefully.
Instantly, he looked up at him. "What's that?" he asked, gesturing to the letter. "Is it for me?"
Dandin nodded and handed him the letter. Henuki studied it, then slowly looked up at Dandin.
"Why?" the young elf asked.
The dwarf raised and lowered one shoulder. "I don't know, lad. I'm sorry."
Henuki said nothing, but looked down at the paper again. At long last, he carefully held it and tore it, his hands trembling. "What do I do now?" he asked quietly.
"You could always stay here," Dandin offered. "We need young people to help us. You would have a warm welcome."
"And you would teach me how to fight the humans," the boy added quietly. "You promised me you would."
Dandin frowned. He remembered that promise…but now, the almost feverish gleam in Henuki's eyes worried him. This promise…Dandin had an uneasy feeling that it could cause much grief. But he had promised, and he would keep to it, feelings or not.
"I will teach you," he said reluctantly. "I did give you my word, after all."
Henuki stood. "Thank you," he murmured, and then walked out.
Dandin watched him go, and once he was certain he was gone, sat down. "Poor boy…"
Z Z Z
Sword crashed against sword.
Hammer slammed against metal.
All the sounds of the mountain rang in his ears as he slashed at his enemy again and again. Every muscle ached, but he paid them no heed. They would be tended to later; right now, he had to win.
A bead of sweat ran down his forehead, the only sign of his weariness as he slammed into his foe's weakening defenses again.
His 'foe', a red-bearded dwarf dressed in leather pads, was sweating profoundly. The leather pads that he used as armor were drenched. He would faint soon; the battle had to be ended quickly.
Moments after this thought, the dwarf's sword had been knocked out of his hand, and he fell to the ground, panting as he stared up at his young opponent.
A faint smile appeared on the warrior's face as he placed his blade to the dwarf's neck. "Yield," he said quietly. He spoke dwarvish flawlessly, turning the guttural language into something pleasant to listen to.
The dwarf just blinked at him. "You're just a boy," he said after a moment, amazement clear in his voice, "but you defeated me...how is it possible?"
The boy in question took a step back, sliding the large sword into its dark sheath. "I have a lot of practice, sir." He bowed elegantly, his black hair falling over his dark-skinned face. He looked to be about fifteen, but he was already about 6'2. His silver eyes showed great intelligence, but also certain coldness, as if his heart was made of the same iron as his sword.
The dwarf nodded and stood. "You are quite good, Henuki." He bowed in return to the elf, though his was a bit stiff. "It was an honor fighting you."
He nodded and pushed his black hair behind his pointed ears. "Same to you, Leias." His smile was polite, but false; he had not smiled sincerely in five years. You could say he had never let himself recover. He watched as Leias left, before turning to a small, gray-bearded dwarf with a metal helm tucked under his arm. "How did I do, Dandin?"
"Quite well," the dwarf replied, smiling at him. "You are improving greatly. Your style is much different than mine, but it is still effective…"
The boy just nodded mutely. What was he to say? He knew everything the dwarf was saying; no need to listen.
The dwarf watched him for a moment. "All right then, lad," he murmured. "If that's what you want to do…" He smiled at Henuki. "Meet me in the library, will you? I want to talk to you about something…" With that, he left the boy alone.
Henuki watched the large wooden doors close. Once he was certain he was alone, he unsheathed his plain sword and studied his reflection. He was handsome, he supposed, but his face was too stern. And his eyes…a smile appeared on his face. His eyes were dead. Completely dead.
He slid the sword into the sheath again and headed to the library, where he had spent most of his time. As he walked, he recited complex dwarvish words, and simple phrases in Common –the language of the humans. His one love was learning, and he liked languages the best of all. So far, he knew about three. He was having trouble finding a fourth…
When he got to the library, he was startled to find that it was already inhabited. Dandin stood in it, along with two other older dwarves.
Henuki pressed himself to the wall and listened to the words. Surprisingly, they spoke in Common. The elf allowed himself to stop listening as he went through all the reasons why. One was they didn't want any other dwarves to understand. Another was because they were trying to practice.
The dwarves Dandin spoke to were the stuffy types who thought they knew everything. That single factor eliminated the practicing idea. What he heard next completely demolished it.
"He is qualified," Henuki's mentor said in a convincing manner. "He is smart, and he knows how to use a sword well. Some of my other pupils have mentioned his ability to lead. Surely those are enough reasons to at least consider him!"
"He is not a dwarf," one of the stuffier ones said in a thickly accented voice. He was taller than Dandin by half a head, and seemed to think this meant something. Henuki was taller than all of them by a foot. "He might turn on us if given this position of honor!"
"Who would he turn to?" another one –just as tall as the other -pointed out quietly. "He was banished at ten, and his hate for the humans is far greater than any of ours. He knows nothing of the dark elves."
"His skills as a blacksmith are impressive," Dandin added, sensing an opportunity. "These stone halls are his home. He is a dwarf in every way except for height, longevity and ear shape. And can we think any less of him because of these traits…?"
Henuki's frown deepened. Yes, they could. He did not know why, but they could. Something had happened to worsen the relationship between elves and dwarves many years before…that was part of the reason he believed he had been banished by the elves when he had stayed with the dwarves. It was also the reason the dwarves viewed him with mistrust.
The first stuffy dwarf who had spoken sighed. "You both have good points," he said gruffly. "The boy can be trained for the role. It must take a few years, and it must be thorough." He turned to Dandin. "Do you understand?"
The dwarf nodded. A grin was on his homely face. "Perfectly."
Z Z Z
Five years was all it had taken to be trained. In those five years, so many things had changed… he had gotten his own room, made twelve weapons with his own dwarvish rune carved into the dark-silver hilt, and had become the best warrior in the mountain.
And yet, even now, as he waited to be called in so he could be made the lord of the mountain, it wasn't enough.
What more did he want? What more was there?
Dandin had kept his word; he had trained Henuki so he could fight the humans. But even then Henuki had known he could not do it by himself. Now, with the dwarves behind him, he could finally take his revenge in one swoop. With a few years of researching, Henuki could become a general. His opponents would be the elves at first, and then the humans. The dwarves would become the dominant race, with the elf as their head.
He turned as the doors to his room opened, and Dandin stepped in. "They are ready for you," the dwarf said, already preparing to bow. The twenty-year-old gently grasped his elbow and pulled the dwarf up.
With an oddly tender expression on his face, the elf shook his head. "No, Dandin. You need never kneel to me. It is you who got me this far." He stepped back and bowed, his shoulder-length hair brushing the ground. "I owe you my life."
Dandin embraced his tall student as he straightened. "I would do it again. And you would do the same for me."
The elf nodded and pulled back. "Now, you came to tell me they are ready?"
"Yes, lad. I must leave you now." He smiled and tucked his helm under his elbow. "Good luck." He left. Henuki followed moments later.
As he walked down the hall, with its high-ceiling and tall pillars, he found himself thinking about the days ahead. His only regret was that his mother would not be able to see him. This made him solemn, and his mouth suddenly became set into a grim line.
Stern and stoical, he stopped in front of the pair of large wooden doors. On them were the elvish runes, saying "Hall of Stone". He smiled. He was to be the lord of this hall. He would be the lord of stone.
With a laugh that would send shivers up another's spine, he pushed open the doors and stepped in, a plan in mind that no other knew about.
Z Z Z
It was a quiet night. The sky was clear and a full moon seemed to be placed smack in the middle of the sky, casting an eerie white glow upon a small clearing where ruins of buildings were scattered about. Trees seemed to bend away from the clearing, which still had ashes covering the ground, though it must have been nearly one thousand years since the city had been burned. It had been an elven city once, filled with the life and wisdom of the Olden ones. But it had been burned to the ground by a group of rash young knights who hadn't known that by burning the village to the ground, they had made an enemy out of the only survivor: the child of one of the city's inhabitants. The child had been harmless. The creature born from his hate was not.
Henuki found himself being governed by this creature of hate. It led him to force the dwarves to gather, to push away his old friends, and to teach himself how to be a true general. These past nine-hundred and seventy years had been spent doing nothing else. Now, he had escaped from the mountain at last, and the only place he had wanted to go was the place that had caused him so much pain.
Why did he torture himself so? He knew what this place would have looked like, what memories it would have brought back. Even now he felt as if he were ten again; as if these past centuries had meant nothing.
His grip tightened on the strange sword he held. He had forged it himself, so its dark silver hilt fit perfectly into his hand. The dark rune carved into the hilt was the symbol for the lord of the mountains. The blade was black, and didn't reflect the moonlight.
Henuki had changed. His silver eyes were as hard and as cold as iron, and the angles of his face were more pronounced, for he was exceedingly thin. Yes, he had forgotten a couple of meals in his quest for revenge. It didn't help that he made sure to practice every day, and had just recently stopped growing.
His outfit was the only thing that had remained the same. It was still all black, with a loose tunic, a long cloak, black leather boots, and black breeches. His sword belt was also black, and daggers similar to the long sword hung from it, along with a simple sheath.
With a soft oath, the elf slid the sword into the scabbard and turned away from the site that had once been his home. The key word was "once". The mountain was his home now, and he needed to get back. There were still things to be done.
He walked off, unaware that a transparent figure that looked suspiciously like a slender woman watched him from the shadows. A single phrase that could have been nothing more than leaves rustling came from her pale lips.
But Henuki did not hear it. He was gone; the creature of hate had taken his place.
Z Z Z
His head was pleasantly fuzzy because of the drink, and his vision was blurred, but he could not seem to eliminate the memories that had never haunted him before.
He was a wreck. His war had failed miserably; all because his conscience had decided to take a liking to a girl he had almost killed. Now, three-hundred years later, he didn't know what to do with himself. He had gotten himself drunk more times than he could count, and nearly every time he ended up in a bar fight. Even when he could barely stand he won. Reflexes were amazing things.
The elf laughed bitterly and leaned back in his seat, draining the last of the rum from his mug. Where had he gone wrong? His planning had been perfect, his troops trained. Sure, they hadn't been happy about the situation, but they had followed him. The elves had been poorly organized. If it hadn't been for that girl from the future, the elves and humans would have been gone by now!
Instead, he had narrowly escaped death, had his doom predicted by a stupid magical object, and now traveled from town to town, avoiding elves and dwarves. Oh, that was another twist; the dwarves hunted him now. He had climbed so high only to fall.
Life was bittersweet.
He glanced around the dimly-lit tavern. It was a far cry from the mountain's drinking room; the tables were rotten, the service lousy, and the drinks bitter. Many years before, he would not have been caught in such an awful place. Things had changed. He had changed; grown older. His frame was more muscular now, but his face was just as angular as it had been. He still carried the weapons he had made years before, and his outfit was the same. His eyes, however, were now dull, and his hair held traces of gray.
He put down the glass and stood. Flipping a coin to a waitress who looked as old as he was, he went out. If he was a little unsteady…well, seven mugs of alcohol did that to a person.
He stopped and turned his gaze to the sky. His thoughts drifted to the pale girl whom had become his friend years before. How had she been, those years that she had lived? Had she ever thought about the strange elf that had nearly taken her life, and then saved it? Or was she still alive, staring at a different sky than he was?
Reluctantly, he tore his eyes away from the sky and continued, walking out of the town. He feared no robberies. He didn't fear death.
He feared the end the object had shown him.
An arrow through the heart in the middle of the battlefield…the twenty-first century girl weeping over his body…a boy who looked like a younger version of Henuki standing next to her, comforting her… He hastily pushed the images away. Brooding on it would do no good.
And yet, he knew this scene was not far off.
Z Z Z
In the middle of spring, in a large clearing with luscious green grass covering the ground, was a tombstone made of black marble. It was large, for a long sword with a black blade had been placed in the middle carefully. Above the hilt were two words written in three different languages. The first one was elvish, then dwarvish. The last, in Common, said "Henuki Seregon", and nothing more. On either side of the sword were descriptions, such as "friend, student, general, leader, linguist, warrior, companion, and blacksmith." Beneath the tip of the blade was one final description.
"An honorable man."
The wind whistled through the trees, and a faint figure with a long cloak became apparent. It was tall, it was well-built, and it carried a long sword in its hand. Silver eyes glimmered in amusement, and lips twisted into a half-smirk.
Slowly, the figure stepped up to the grave, the sun's light passing right through it. Never moving its eyes away from the inscription, it slowly placed the sword on the grave. Then, it turned and knelt, placing its hand on the ground. It was as if the grass shrank back at its touch, for within moments, ash-covered dirt was revealed. The figure smiled again and stood, just in time to see a transparent woman step out of the woods. There was silence.
"Mother," the tall one acknowledged in a deep, accented voice that seemed to almost meld with the rustling of the wind. The smirk had turned into a genuine smile.
"Henuki," the woman responded. The man stepped forward and slowly offered her his hand. She took it.
Clouds covered the previously bright sky as the two figures stood on the land that had been the home of so much pain and misery. The strength of the wind increased, and still the figures stood there, undisturbed by everything. When the sky finally cleared, they were gone.
But the sword Henuki had put on his grave remained, and would for many years to come.
God, this story is FINALLY done. Took long enough. It's ten pages long -a looong short story -and I hope all the friends who requested it liked it.
The ending's my favorite!xD
M'kay, reviews are welcome. Yes, I know it's choppy, but that was kind of the style I was going for...
You review, I review for you!