"… and our next guest to continue our discussion on the strange occurrences recently is renowned weather expert, Professor George Langley. Welcome professor." News anchor Charles Reinhold said as the camera focused in on his face and addressed a man to his left and the viewing world's right.

The man was dressed in a navy blue suit, white shirt and dark blue tie that clashed a little with his suit. His face had a good natured appearance and his countenance one that would encourage conversation. His hair was completely white and looked like it had not been combed as it stood up in all directions, almost reminiscent of Albert Einstein. A small moustache that still had a touch of black in it adorned his upper lip. But his most appealing feature was his mesmerizing blue eyes that seemed to exude youthful vigor and warmth while hiding a vast amount of knowledge that had seen countless things in the time that spanned the period of his life.

"It's good to be here Charles." Professor Langley replied in a soft voice and a red bar flashed, on the bottom of a computer's screen in the editing studio off stage with his title and name in white letters

"For those who've only just tuned in we are currently trying to find out why the sky suddenly darkened several days ago and an immense feeling of dread seemed to be felt by all as the darkness spread." Charles said as he faced the camera reading the words that flashed on a monitor just next to it.

"Professor Langley, many people are wondering what could cause such a phenomenon. What are your views as to this?" he said now turning to face the professor.

"Ah, yes, the phenomenon, that is what you called it right? Yes, yes you did. Well, I don't really think that the word phenomenon is the correct term that should be used to describe what has happened. I think an abnormality would be a better description for what was seen, yes, that word will do." Professor Langley said seeming to be the middle of a debate with himself.

"Ok, so this abnormality, as you've termed it, what do you think could have caused this?" Charles asked trying not to get frustrated with the professor and his long winded answers.

"Well dear boy, it can be explained by a number of things. I have a theory myself, but personal views that aren't backed by scientific evidence shouldn't be aired? Right, where was I? Ah yes, let us first of all examine what exactly occurred. Most of the country was covered in dark black clouds, ominous clouds if you will. As we know in England it is not uncommon for dark rain clouds to appear quickly. I mean, taking into consideration the speeds of the winds that are blowing high in the atmosphere it really shouldn't be all that surprising. Just look at some of the speeds of winds that blow in hurricanes, they're in excess of three hundred kilometers an hour. The interesting thing about hurricanes is that…."

"It is an interesting theory that you have professor, but time is limited and while I'm sure many would like to know more about hurricanes, they're just not relevant to tonight's topic. You've given a possible answer to the sudden appearance of the dark clouds, but it doesn't seem possible, because many eye witnesses to the event reported that it appeared as it the dark clouds seemed to spread from a central point and extend, rather than move. And what about the feeling of doom that all experienced under these dark clouds. You yourself have just said they were ominous in appearance." Charles said as his producer spoke to him via a small microphone in his ear indicating that the interview should be wrapped up soon and that the professor shouldn't be allowed to talk off the subject.

"Ah, yes, well, you've said it yourself then." Professor Langley said with a satisfied smile on his face that puzzled Charles.

"Er, I'm sorry professor, but I don't understand what you're saying."

"What does the word ominous mean my boy? It means that it is a dark sign of bad things to come. I now voice my own opinion and not one as a man of science. I believe that something sinister has occurred, something the likes that nobody has seen in the world. The clouds started from this point where whatever evil deed took place and, as they spread, they carried this feeling of impending doom with it because that is just what it may be, the signal of bad things to come. I…." the professor went on.

"Quick Charles, cut the interview! This isn't part of the interview! The world doesn't need to hear the random spouting of some old coot that no longer has the glory that he once commanded as a young man. People want to know what's wrong and be placated!" the producer yelled into Charles' ear.

"… and so that is why…"

"And that's all we have time for folks. Thank you for your 'interesting' views professor. That's all folks! Join us tomorrow, same time, same place where we'll be trying to discover why so many fish are washing up dead on the shores of South Africa!" Charles said holding his left hand to his ear due to the ringing sensation his producers yelling had caused in his ear.

Professor Langley had lost his good temperament and looked a lot older than he had looked moments before. This did not go unnoticed by Charles.

"Sorry professor, but my producer said our time was up." Charles lied as he looked at the change that had occurred in the person next to him.

"I wanted to warn everybody, that it was a sign. A clear sign that should not be ignored." Professor Langley said as he allowed his hand to cover his face and rub his aching temples.

"Are you ok professor? Sit tight, I'll get you something to drink. Being interviewed on live television can take it out of you." Charles said as he got up to get him a drink of cold water.

While he wasn't particularly impressed with the professor, a sound upbringing made him respect his elders and he was disturbed by the sudden change in the professor's attitude.

"Mankind is in great danger, but nobody will listen. It's going to be worse than the last time." The professor muttered as vivid images flitted through his mind of tales that had been told to him by sources that most believed shouldn't exist.


After the strange occurrence several days ago we finally arrived at our destination thanks to the skilled way in which Anne had led us. I had to give it to her, for a person that was blind she certainly knew her way around a mountain. We had been trudging up a little used mountain path that was oddly very well kept and didn't seem to have been worn away by the many soles of feet. If I hadn't known any better I would've sworn that the pathway had been carefully carved out of the mountainside and made to look as if it was just an old pathway that had many years ago been trodden by travelers.

Truth be told I had not been feeling up to scratch, but that was no reason to let the others know. Once more, that male pride coming to the fore and preventing me from getting assistance, which I think I could have done with. But, where would I get the necessary medicine for my cold anyway? Nope, there was nothing in it, I had to just carry on, smile when asked how I'm doing and put one foot in front of the other. I was busy musing, thinking how great a hot mug of tea would go down right about now when suddenly we stopped.

Anne had come to an abrupt halt, causing me to nearly walk into her had it not been for Alicia. For some reason she had taken it in her head that walking very close to me was something that she insisted on doing. Truth be told, I actually didn't mind as much as I used to, I kind of enjoyed her being near me. Again I had to remind myself that I really shouldn't be thinking along such lines. Without explaining why she had stopped Anne had moved to a small rock with a type of indentation in the center and after probing around with her walking stick finally placed it in the center of the rock.

Within moments we were surrounded by two short people, one with fiery red hair and the other jet black, that were clad in what appeared to be old fashioned armor (chainmail if I wasn't mistaken) that had been used in the days of knights, just much smaller in size. These men though small in stature were by no means weaklings. Large muscular arms that would make a body builder jealous extended from out of the shirts. In one hand one held a large strangely shaped axe and the other an enormous hammer. Both had beards that extended a good 10 centimeters past their chins as well as accompanying moustaches that joined with their beards. They were barrel chested and I could just imagine rugby teams lining up to hire them up as props.

The looks on their faces told me that we were not only unexpected guests, we weren't wanted as well. One was snarling at me while the other just glowered, hate seeming to emanate from his very being. It was then that I noticed that both weren't actually looking at me, but at Alicia who was still standing next to me. An eerie silence seem to envelope the area and time seemed to slow. I hated silences in the best of times, and this was nearly overwhelming. I couldn't seem to do anything because I was just too shocked at the appearance of these strange two men.

"Oh come now, there's no reason to be like this. You know that we're part of the delegation that was sent to meet with the honorable king Thor'ander. I've already been here several times, do we need to go through this every time I arrive here?" Anne asked in a weary voice as she cast her blind gaze at the two burly men standing glaring at Alicia.

"What's the meaning of this? Only two were to arrive here and yet three have come! I smell treachery!" The one that had the large axe in his hand spat out as he looked at Anne.

"No doubt that this is an assassin organized by the elf to kill our honorable king! I say that we get rid of them, especially that scum hiding behind the tall human." The other with the large hammer said and pointed the hammer threateningly at me.

Alicia had meanwhile crept behind me and was peering around me to see what was going on.

'She's very agile, I have to give it to her, I didn't even notice her move behind me.' I thought.

It was then that what the short person had said had sunk in. He had just insulted Alicia for no good reason! That was no way to talk to a lady, regardless of race! The hammer had been inching forward and the moment that it had touched my chest I was snapped back to reality. I pushed the hammer forcefully out of the way, charged forward and forcefully brought my knee hard into the chin of the short man. That blow would have flatten a normal person and broken their jaw, but this person merely staggered backwards looking dazed. His hammer had been lowered and I followed my attack up with another punch to his gut. He gasped and the next moment I found my gun pointed at his head as he bent forward gasping for air. I looked up and saw that his comrade was advancing quickly and menacingly with his axe ready to be used in a most likely deadly fashion.

"Stop! Take one move and your friend dies here!" I yelled and this caused the axe wielding short man to stop in his charge.

"Enough!" A booming voice sounded not far away from us.

Everybody's eyes swiveled in the direction of the voice. I saw emerging out of the shadow of an overhanging rock another short man. (Shit, how many small men were in this mountain?) This one was completely different to the other two that were before us. This one was dressed in what reminded me of old fashioned clothing that royalty wore in the days when people had kings and queens, or maybe just prince Charles on a good day. A long type of robe or cape type thing, I don't know, was draped over his shoulders, but it was not so long so as to get in his way when he moved. What I didn't miss was the glint of gold that the sun reflected underneath the robe thing. I couldn't see properly but I was certain that he wore armor as well, only his was golden.

This didn't make sense because gold was a very soft metal. I may not have been the brightest flame in the darkness but I at least knew that gold was a very poor metal to use for protection due to its malleability. Hell, every two bit hack knew that. That was why you always saw a country bumpkin bite on a gold coin or nugget in the cartoons, because the real way to check to see if something was gold or not was to see if it bent under pressure. But there was a certain something about this small man that I didn't miss. There was a type of, well, I don't know what, air of authority? Yeah, authority clung to him like the stench of shit clings to the words of politicians as they make their election speeches to the public.

He was no ordinary man for even the way in which he walked told me that he didn't demand respect, he commanded it. Many people often wonder at this, but when you get down to it, any bully can demand respect, but a true leader can command it, earn it without even saying a word. His bearing was a proud one and as he stepped closer I could see that his hair was completely white and his beard was even longer than the two small men that had originally greeted us. Countless wrinkles were around his face as well as numerous scars. But it was his eyes that held my attention. There was untold wisdom (did I really use the word wisdom?) in them and a knowing.

"What is the meaning of this?" he said, barely raising his voice yet it was clear to all that he was angry and this did not bode well.

None spoke and a slight wind stirred around us.

"Is that you great king Thor'ander?" Anne finally spoke.

The short man had been busy taking in the scene before him and I hadn't missed the fact that both of his hands (also at the end of massive arms) were clenched in front of him.

"Aye, it is. What is the meaning of this Anne?" the short man spoke turning his attention to Anne.

"First, allow me to introduce you to my guests oh great king. This young elf maiden here is Tinúviel, Alicia in the human language called English, niece of the grand elven king Ronúthalèl. She is the emissary that has been sent here to begin the discussions of the reforming of the alliances of old." Anne said by way of introducing Alicia.

'Of course, she's royalty, I'd forgotten about that.' I thought.

"And the human?" the king asked, now looking at me, not looking too pleased as he saw I held a gun to one of his guards head..

I felt like a fool to be honest. Standing before a king with a gun pointed at one of his people. It was one of those "ground swallow me up" moments.

"This young man is Paul Richards. He's a good friend of mine, and a good reason why both the elven diplomat, Alicia, and I are here alive. Diplomacy isn't one of his stronger traits, but his actions speak volumes for his strength of character. He is worth your trust good king." Anne said.

Well, I wanted to defend myself when she had said I'm not a good diplomat, even if she did have a point, and then close my mouth as I heard her complimenting me in such a flattering manner. I guess I still wasn't used to the idea of associating myself with any form of praise.

"And he's holding that weapon to my guards head…." king Thor'ander inquired.

"Ah, well, sorry about that, he had insulted Alicia and no man would allow a woman under his protection to be insulted or threatened in any way." I said, finally finding my voice and realizing that I was speaking in a rather poor tone towards the king.

Ah well, the hell with it. Anne had said it, I'm no diplomat, that was a given, so why even pretend to be good with words. I spoke my mind and that was it, a person can like or hate me for it, either way, I didn't give a shit. I just wished that something would happen, because I wasn't feeling all that good now that my adrenaline was ebbing away. Several moments of silence followed and I wondered what the king was thinking as he looked at me, his guard and then back to me.

"Oh, he insulted her? Well, I guess I can understand your reaction. After all, what is chivalry if a man does not protect a lady under his care, one his has sworn to look after and protect." king Thor'ander remarked with a shrewd look in his eyes.

"Exactly. So, er, we're good?" I asked not really taking not of what he had said, I was just feeling so exhausted and my gun was feeling very heavy.

"Ai lad, we're good, as you say in your language. A strange way of speaking you humans have. You're lucky. Because I doubt you would've gotten far if it hadn't have been for Anne here, or the fact that I realize that now is not the time to be squabbling and rekindling old feuds. Now is rather a time for action, consider yourself lucky." king Thor'ander said and I didn't miss the veiled threat in his words.

Basically, if we weren't about to be plunged into some war between all kinds of races I didn't care much on thinking about then I would be a dead man. I almost laughed at this thought. I was already a dead man anyway, living on only as much stolen time the tumor in my head would allow. I lowered my gun and only just managed to stifle a groan. I didn't miss the look on the guard's face. He looked like he would have loved to throw me off the cliff right now.

"Come on then, let us get on the move, being exposed isn't very wise. We can exchange news inside the mountain." The king said and started to turn.

"But sire! Surely we're not going to allow scum like this in our hallowed halls?" The other guard said in protest and looked at Alicia.

"What was that?! Did you just ignore a command I had given you?" king Thor'ander bellowed and it seemed to me that he grew in stature and appeared very menacing.

"N-no, I'm sorry. Right away!" The guards stammered and ushered us in after the king, although the looks in their eyes told me that we were about as welcome as a nervous skunk in a small enclosed room.

I would never have known how to find the hidden entrance that took us to the hidden mysteries that lay deep within the mountain. Even Alicia had gasped in amazement at the maze that we were being led through. It took a little while, but my eyes finally adjusted to the darkness all around us. It was so dark it was iff it was in layers. Finally, I don't know how long we'd been walking for (it felt like forever), we entered a large chamber. We had passed many dwarves along the way, all looking at their king with admiration and respect only to then look with surprise at seeing me and then pure disgust as they saw Alicia.

She had crept up even closer to me, for reassurance I would guess, as many glares were cast in her direction. Well, in my limited understanding of elven, and even more limited understanding of dwarven cultures, I decided that they had something in common. They all sucked. Trust the fact that just because people are different they will be looked down on and hated. It happened with people all the time, and, from what I had seen, with elves and dwarves too.

Alicia had demonstrated this when we had first met. Her comment, on it being unusual that I was being kind to her, which was unusual for humans, still lingered on the fringes of my memory. The dwarves were no different it would seem, apart from their king. But every race had exceptions. The hatred I had seen issuing forth from the dwarves we passed, as well as those at the entrance, when they caught sight of Alicia, merely confirmed my morbid outlook on society. Only, now it wasn't just human society I frowned on, but elven as well as dwarven as well.

The chamber we now found ourselves in was enormous. Again it occurred to me that all of this was under the Haystacks Mountains. I had just thought it a pile of rocks I wouldn't be caught dead climbing, yet here I was, hundreds of feet underneath it. Talk about things being screwed up. The ceiling of the chamber must have been at least fifty feet up above us. The walls seemed to glow with a strange orange/yellow glow but what caused it was lost on me.

All along the walls there were various carvings of beasts that belonged in story books, pictures of warriors fighting, people dining and a large mountain reaching towards the ceiling with the moon and stars twinkling down. It was eerie, because the stars did seem to twinkle. I had to blink my eyes and then rub them to make sure that my eyes weren't playing tricks on me.

It then occurred to me that they didn't really need all that light. Alicia had told me about how great the eyesight of the dwarves were underground. Trust me to recall this fact now. In the center of the room was a high-backed chair with purple adorning and many carvings. From what I could tell, it looked to be made of gold. Many other chairs (they were smaller and less decorated) sat in a circle around the large chair. Kind of version of the round table told from the fairy tales of King Arthur and Excalibur.

'Although, I also believed that magic, elves and all of this around me was also make believe. Who's to say…. Nah?' I thought.

I looked all around me and still couldn't believe that this was all happening. It was just too much. There were some other dwarves approaching us and they didn't seem all that pleased, but one look at their king and they all fell silent. Again I couldn't help but look at the large chamber we stood in. The craftsmanship was incredible. I didn't have much knowledge in building, but this looked like only master masons could have produced something like this.

"…. Paul. Paul? Are you all right?" a voice spoke.

"Hmm?" I said, snapping back to reality.

"The king was speaking to you dear." Anne said.

"Oh, sorry, I guess I wasn't with it. I was just looking at this incredible hall…" I replied, not really finding words to describe it and feeling rather embarrassed at ignoring a king.

King Thor'ander however wasn't looking angry, much to my relief. On the contrary, he was looking very pleased. He had a large grin on his face and his chest seemed to be puffed out in pride.

"Ay lad, you've a fine eye for some master craftsmanship there. You must feel privileged, because no humans have laid their eyes on this room in many centuries. Sometimes looking at this fine work can also cause me to fall into a wonder, so don't feel bad. But, I'm afraid I was saying that I need to meet with the two other delegates, I'll have some of my soldiers escort you to get cleaned up and fed." king Thor'ander stated, himself casting a glance up at the dome.

"Two delegates?" I said, getting the feeling that I was going to be excluded from matters, something which I really hated.

"That would be Alicia and myself Paul. I think you should rest up, from what I hear from Alicia you don't look very well. We won't be long." Anne said and rested a hand on my right arm in a reassuring manner.

I wanted to argue, lose my temper and state that this was unfair. I mean, surely this did concern me? I had been through so much with them and now I was being excluded. But I didn't do any of this, I just stood still and remained silent. My head was throbbing again and I found that I was actually feeling rather tired.

"This way human." The guard that I had fought with earlier muttered to me.

As we started to walk I felt rather unsteady on my feet. The kind of feeling one gets when they stand up suddenly when sitting down for a long time, a head rush I think it's called.

"Hey, you coming? I woulda thought a tall human like you wouldn't have struggled to keep up." The dwarf said and I realized I had been trailing further and further behind him.

"Sorry." I muttered, not really knowing what else to say, keeping upright and not falling was more of a priority for me at the moment.

"You look like shit. You have no colour. You may have a quick temper but it seems yer constitution is weak." The dwarf remarked, his voice closer to me and we walked along.

Again, no reply on my part. I guess it most likely was because I felt like it. It had been a rather tough journey. We finally got to where I was to be kept and I entered. The dwarf left me with a slam on the door with some other sarcastic remark that I didn't even hear. The room was like that of a Spartan. It had a bed and a small chest at the foot of the bed.

"No windows." I remarked and smacked myself on the head for the stupid comment that had just come from my mouth.

Again, not one of my brighter moments and this sent a cacophony of pain in my head. I wish I had more painkillers. I hadn't been able to find them after our encounter with the goblins and had only realized this when I had wanted to take some. But it was pointless to try and look for it, who knows where exactly it had fallen. I sighed and decided that the bed was looking pretty good right now. I didn't even wonder at the fact that the bed was long enough for me. I didn't even bother taking any of my clothes or trench coat off, I just flopped down on the bed and then within moments was out like a light. Most unusual for me.


I didn't know where I was, darkness was all around me. It felt like I was being pressed on from all sides. A claustrophobic feeling starting to envelop me and my breathing felt restrictive. Why was I feeling claustrophobic? I had not felt that kind of fear since I had been a child. I decided that standing still was not doing any good, so I could just as well investigate where I was.

As I walked on an eerie red light seemed to issue forth from the darkness around me and I wondered at this. This place was unlike any I had ever been in. A sinister laughter issued forth from the distance in front of me and a light flash of red light intertwined with a blackness even darker than that around me intertwined with it. I felt most uneasy but pressed on. A feeling of pure evil was emanating from that direction. My body was screaming at me to run, but my mind forced me forward.

That's the strange thing about life, a person's body always seems to be in an eternal conflict with itself. The heart wants one thing while the mind generally wants the other. This inner conflict experienced often leads to stress and anxiety. Seldom do the two agree. One of the reasons I've often allowed my head to overrule my heart, because the mind is more cold and calculating, preventing decisions from being made that may be regretted at a later moment. And, yet I was helping people for a cause that wasn't really my own.

Surely they could have found a more suitable person from mankind to assist them? Why pick me? I'm no hero. Never have been and never will be. I just carry on meandering through life and trying not to hurt anybody. To top it all off, why bet on a dying person? I'm a write off, no reason to put effort in me and prepare me for a future that most likely won't be my own.

My train of thought had at least allowed me to momentarily forget about the claustrophobic feeling that had been washing over me. I was walking along when suddenly, out of no-where, something struck me in the head. Stars danced in front of my eyes and my head exploded in a world of pain. Another blow followed quickly afterwards so quickly I didn't even have time to attempt a block. Who was this?

Things became lighter around me and a large figure loomed over me. I only reached his waste.

"What the hell?" I gasped and felt my eyes begin to burn.

I wanted to reach into my trench coat and remove my gun but I realized I wasn't wearing it, nor was my gun on my person. In fact, my clothes weren't what I recall wearing. I tried to charge forward but felt very slow and the large figure before me punched me in the face, my attempt at a duck being far too slow for my liking. Something wasn't making sense. I backed away several steps to try and figure out what the hell was going on.

I brought my hand up to wipe the liquid away and saw that my hand was covered in blood. My head pounded in pain but I was momentarily stuck in shock as I realized that there was something wrong with my hand. It wasn't the fact that there wasn't something physically wrong with my hand, or that the hand wasn't mine. It was, but it had been my hand when I was eight years old. The light was bright enough for me to quickly look down at my body and realize that I was a child again.

"No…." I moaned.

The large figure kicked me in the stomach and sent me flying several feet away. I gasped in pain and moaned as I lay on the floor. I wanted to get up, to fight, but my body was wracked in unimaginable pain. How could one kick have caused so much damage? I had had my ribs broken and been able to carry on in a fight, but now I was helpless. What was going on? I lay clutching my stomach, trying to get up despite the pain. Meanwhile the figure approached my sprawled body and started laughing.

I couldn't believe it when I heard that voice…


"What's wrong?" king Thor'ander asked as a dwarf came rushing out and interrupted the discussion.

The dwarf was younger than any of the assembled dwarves present with his beard hardly reaching down below his chin. He was out of breath and seemed very anxious about something.

"The human sire!" the dwarf panted, out of breath from what had obviously been the result of the physical exertion of running at top speed to get to his king.

"Treachery!" cried one of the other dwarves that had been seated in one of the smaller chairs surrounding the king's high backed chair.

"I told you we should never have trusted the humans! Especially seeing as they had an elf with them!" another to the left of the dwarf who had just shouted yelled.

Both dwarves were advanced in age and appeared to be almost as old as the king.

"I have had just about enough of you that I can take!" king Thor'ander roared at the two dwarves who had just yelled.

"But surely the human has done something wrong! Why else would the messenger be here looking so worried?" the first answered.

"And if you would allow him to speak we can find out what he has to say. I warn you Thane Grimar, your outbursts are really beginning to annoy me…." king Thor'ander began.

"But I…" the thane began but was cut off by the king.

"RUMOR HAS IT THAT I AM THE KING! SHUT UP AND LISTEN FOR A CHANGE! I will not tolerate these outbursts any longer." The king began yelling and then in a very soft but serious voice.

King Thor'ander quivered with rage and this dispute between him and the thanes obviously had history behind it. Few actually saw the king lose his temper and it was truly a frightful thing to behold. Some stories told of how he had stopped the hearts of three goblins that he had been interrogating and had lost his temper due to their stupidity. Nobody could confirm this nor would anybody dare to do so. But the effect was immediate.

"Good king, the human?" the dwarven messenger said, now fully in control of his breathing once more, but his face not looking any less panic stricken.

"What? Hmm, oh yes, what is it?" the king asked.

"Well, I went to deliver him food in the old alliance section of the fortress and he didn't answer when I knocked." The messenger began.

"Are you telling me you're worried he has bolted himself in the room?" the other thane asked but stopped at a look from king Thor'ander.

"Please continue." The king said.

"Um, well, I opened the door and it wasn't bolted. I saw him lying on the bed writhing in agony. I tried to speak to him but he is completely incoherent and muttering. I couldn't make out what he was saying, my understanding of the human language isn't all that great. But he looks seriously ill sire." The messenger quickly rambled, clearly uncomfortable with the tension in the air between the two thanes and his king.

Alicia had gone pale and was looking very worried. She looked from Anne to the king and wondered if she could go and check up on Paul. But fortunately for her king Thor'ander made the decision for her and got up off of his throne.

"Take us to him." The king said.

"O-of course my king!" the messenger stammered and made off.

Only the king got up and he was lead by the messenger, to be followed by Alicia and Anne, who had her arm in that of Alicia's arm. All fears of being amongst dwarves were forgotten for Alicia. She could only think about Paul and was worried what was wrong with him. Soon they reached the room where he was stationed. King Thor'ander posted his guards at the door and went inside followed by Alicia and Anne.

"Paul!" Alicia exclaimed at the sight of him.

He lay on the bed, white as a sheet and curled up in the fetal position, his arms wrapped around himself clutching his stomach. He was moaning and muttering words that nobody could discern. His face was masked with perspiration. Without any thought of those around her Alicia went towards Paul and tentatively placed her hand on his forehead.

"He's burning up, his fever is the hottest I've ever felt." Alicia softly said.

"We have healers here in the fortress, but they are far away, busy on an excursion unfortunately. A rotten time for your friend here to fall ill. It will be many hours before they can return and tend to him. We will have to do aid him ourselves." The king said and went forward to begin to assist with the caretaking of Paul.

One of the many traits that made king Thor'ander such a beloved king amongst the dwarves was his compassion. He never placed himself above his subjects and was always willing to help. He was one of the few survivors who had been fighting alongside humans and elves in the last war with the dark races. He had helped tend to many battle wounds for elf, human and dwarf alike, despite often putting himself at great danger. What he was doing was an old feeling that felt natural for him.

"The lad is soaked through." The king remarked.

"Nooo…. Please nooo…." Paul moaned.

"I know a little healing, maybe I can help." Alicia spoke up, her voice sounding very meek and mild while concern for clearly etched in her tone.

"Well, I think your friend would welcome anything at this point, he seems in agony. Has he some form of wound or something?" the king asked.

"Not that I know of, the goblins missed him when they tried to stab him." Anne remarked.

"Ai, a goblin blade, those are truly evil things. If the wound doesn't get you then the poisoned tips often will." king Thor'ander remarked, his mind going back to the past and watched comrades in arms die from just this.

After several moments of silence Alicia finally spoke up.

"When I first met him he may have gotten hurt." She said.

"It's a possibility. Get his shirt off and let's see, maybe that's why he's clutching his stomach like that." king Thor'ander said.

After some effort they were able to extricate Paul from his soaked shirt and finally remove Paul's hands from clutching at his abdomen. Alicia gasped and the king nodded thoughtfully.

"What's wrong?" Anne asked, he sightless eyes fixed at the area where Paul was lying.

"The lad has a burnt area on him that has a strange greenish color about it. I think that there's an infection there. Hmmm, it's very crude but effective. On the battlefield we would often superheat the tips of our spears and place them on a laceration to burn it closed. Unfortunately due to lack of cleanliness the wounds often became infected. I'll wager this is exactly what he's done here." king Thor'ander said and regarded Paul with a new found admiration as he stared at the wound.

"But, look at him." Alicia stammered, her voice barely above a whisper.

"Why? What's wrong?" Anne asked, trying not to sound frustrated at the conversation going about her when she couldn't see exactly what it was that they were so shocked about.

"The lad's really been through the mill, that's what. His life has not been an easy one I'll wager." The king remarked looking at Paul.

"His body Anne! It's horrible! He's covered in scars! It, it's too much! How can one person have suffered so much? Some scars are long, others round and others in strange shapes." Alicia said and her eyes teared up as she stared at Paul's body in horror.

"Are the round scars small?" Anne asked softly.

"No…. please… stop… dad…." Paul moaned and onlookers fell silent.


That voice! It couldn't be? Yet, I knew it! It was my father! The asshole (who was merely a sperm donor to me) that stood there was one of my biological parents. I hated him so much with every fiber of my being, and yet was helpless to do anything. I couldn't stop him and he could just do with me as he pleased. I couldn't believe that it was happening again. The figure looked at me and I finally saw his face. There was no mistaking it, he was my father.

He had that same arrogant smile and reached his hand down to my face. I cringed in anticipation of whatever his sick and twisted mind had in store for me. I sobbed and was so angry at the fact that I was crying in front of me. I had sworn to never show any sign of weakness, especially in front of him. How had this managed to happen? My train of thought was interrupted by the bastard looming over me.

His façade of a gentle hand coming down turned out to be a fist that had found its way to the cut on my forehead. He ground his knuckles into the open wound and I fought to try and not cry out in pain, but my body betrayed me. I cried out and he laughed in delight.

"Not so tough are you?" he remarked, sounding thoroughly pleased with his actions.

It felt like his knuckles were busy boring through my skull to my brain. My head felt like it was about to explode from the pain and I sobbed some more. Tears ran down my cheeks and fell to the ground. I didn't want to cry, but couldn't help it. He withdrew his knuckles from my head and admired his handy work. His knuckles were red with my blood from the ripped open wound on my forehead. Out of no-where he produced a cigarette and started to puff on it, I don't even recall seeing him light it.

I stifled a moan as I knew what was to come next, it always did. After taking to more puffs on the cigarette he blew the smoke into my face, causing me to cough. It was coming, the dreaded moment. As I coughed I felt it, the searing feeling on my chest as he ground his lit cigarette into me. I cried out and he laughed even more. He took his lighter and then lit it, making the tip hot. When the flame was out he quickly placed it against my stomach and burned me again. I couldn't believe it was happening again! I chocked as my sobbing increased. I hated him so much.

"Stop being such a wuss! You're pathetic! You know that? A waste of life, you've no right to be alive." He said and then slapped me through the face.

"You're worthless! Not even worth the air you breathe!" he continued, not stopping in his verbal abuse.

"No matter what you do you will fail, nothing you do is good enough. I can't believe you've not cottoned on to this. Just another indication of what a worthless piece of shit you are." The torment continued.

He punched my head again and I saw stars. I just wished that unconsciousness would claim me, so that this torture would end, but it eluded me for some reason. I closed my eyes and silently sobbed. But he wasn't done with me yet.

"You will look me in the eye you worthless piece of shit." He said and forced my eyes open with his fat thumbs.

He hoisted me up by my throat and I gagged. My throat felt so tight and I gasped for air. Suddenly a white light blasted him from behind. He cried out in anger and dropped me. Like the coward he was he ran away and I soon saw that somebody was bending down over me. Was this a rescuer or another assailant? I lay on the ground and cringed. My body ached all over and it felt like hot pokers were being poked into my brain.

I couldn't help but look at the person that approached me. She was beautiful and knelt by me. She had a stick in her hand and looked at me with a sad smile. It's time to sleep Paul. How did she know my name? I knew her, but my mind was a fog. I felt myself falling into the darkness of oblivion that I had been wishing for, for so long. I tried to speak, but my tongue felt thick.

"Thank you…" I managed and was out.


"Thank you…" Paul said and his body lost the rigidity.

Alicia stood over him, wand in hand and wiped the tears from her eyes. She looked at the prone figure of Paul and felt her love for him wash over her. She wanted to hold him, to tell him all would be ok. What kind of pain he must have experienced seemed to be too much for her to bear.

"Well, he's sleeping at least. The spell worked." Alicia said.

"I think we should get something to eat. We'll wait for the healers to do their job. Well done lass, I'm sure he will appreciate what you've done for him. Shall we go?" king Thor'ander said.

"If, if it's ok, I'd like to stay with him." Alicia said and looked at Paul.

The king was about to speak but Anne whispered something to him and he stopped, a smile on his face.

"Really? Well, I'll be. That is something then." He said in an undertone more to himself than to anybody as his gaze flicked over Alicia and Paul.

"That's fine lass, I'll have food sent down for you, you keep an eye on him." king Thor'ander said and left the room followed by Anne, who halted at the door.

"He'll be fine Alicia. Remember, those scars are only scars, it's in the past and we have to do our best to help him with the healing process." She said and left.

Alicia stood in silence before looking at the slumbering form of Paul.

"How can anybody live with that kind of pain? How can humans be so cruel? And how do I help with healing that pain?" She whispered as she felt the scars of his body.

She knew he wouldn't have liked it, but couldn't help it. She shuddered as she passed over each scar, taking in the pain that was there when they had been inflicted. Elves always were very attuned to things around them, especially with regard to those that they cared about. Who knew what the future held. At this moment in time, Alicia knew that she only wanted to try and help Paul, and find out more of his past. She only hoped that he would be willing to tell her about this. To have so much pain bottled up wasn't very healthy.

She ran her hand across his face and smiled…



Lost in A World of Pain