He reached a well lit room enclosed by rustic green walls. The room was huge and at the centre lay a bed entwined with creepers holding a red cushion sheet, warm and cozy. On the bed sprawled a man bandaged with many wounds that were now dry. A brown flask lay on a small wooden stool beside him. Along with the flask were many pipes that could be stretched and extended. It was said their elasticity never withered. One end of the pipes had a metal sucker, deep gray in color, controlled by a rubber balloon. On the metal were carved different runes in a language he did not understand. He understood they were elvish spells.

The man on the bed was unconscious and he had been so ever since the Stones of Rock A Fell. He was Officer Marti and Moran looked at him with grateful eyes. The unconscious man had fast become his friend and had served valiantly in their fight. He was saddened that his new friend had come near to succumbing to the poison of darkness. Thanks to the elves that had arrived in time, he was saved. For now!

The door behind Moran opened again, its hinges creaking. Moran looked behind to see the elvish King enter, accompanied by two fair complexioned servants, one of whom bore a golden plate containing a silver vessel from which a wonderful aroma filled the room. The elvish King smiled and beckoned to the servant to place the vessel on a table covered with a white plain sheet some way yonder from the bed.

"Moran Doransson, as fate would have it, your friend has escaped the jaws of death, thanks to timely healing. If it were but a little late, then I could not have guaranteed his survival."

Moran looked towards the King and said, "I see. But what were they trying to do to him?"

The King bent his eyebrows and said, "They were trying to make him one of their own."

"He is one of their own."

The King raised his right hand as if in contradiction. It was the first time Moran saw a golden ring adorned with a singularly bright gem that shone with the light of the stars. "Nay, Doransson, They were trying to make him one of their own as they now are."

Moran looked aghast. "They were trying to transform him?"

"Yes. The poison has few antidotes and thankfully, we had them on stock."

"How is this poison made? And where is this antidote found? How does the poison work?"

The King looked flustered with the string of questions.

Moran, embarrassed, said, "I apologize, my lord, if I have in any way disturbed your mind with my questions."

The King smiled a little and said, "You need not apologize to me, Moran. Young minds are always curious and curiosity is no sin. It is your age that makes you ask questions for which you seek answers that you know not. Do not be ashamed. It is the wyrd of youngsters that they seek answers from the old. But, tell me, have they taught you nothing of this in the old schools?"

"No, my lord."

"Then I do wonder what they teach you now."

"They teach us how to make our minds strong and skills with the arms and history and the lay of the lands. They teach little of herb lore."

"The study of this poison does not even remotely link to the lore of the herbs. This poison is rarely used and mostly by those who use the Dark Arts. Of course those who are lost have knowledge of it but they dare not use it. This poison has been used by the Dark Lord before now. It will not be a surprise to me if it is not used now."

"So, what does this poison tries to do?"

"This poison attacks one's heart and then transforms him into a huge gigantic beast so powerful that it will be very difficult to annihilate it. Swords do not sting it. Every blood that flows from its wounds aggravates its anger and grows twice the stronger. The only weak spot it got is it's –"

Moran interrupted. "It's eyes."

"Correct" said the King. "It's eyes are weak because the eyes are that of a mortal human and so also cannot see far and wide."

"But the Beast we fought upon the dire straits, it howled when we attacked it with swords. Then it ran away when we were almost tired."

"The Beast in question, I think, from what you have told me is Lord Tudor. He was a man good at heart. Some goodness still resides in him, whatever he is and may that power come to use in the grave future that awaits us."

"How do we fight this evil?"

"As we always have. Have faith in the power that is in you."

"This herb you were talking about -"

"It is called Aria Polaris. It is mostly found in the southern lands beyond the Moiki River."

"But this man said that Lord Tudor was not given any herb. He said there was something supernatural."

"I understand. There exist two ways for such transformations. One is the use of this herb which is crushed to form a deadly potion. The other is to use the help of a spirit who is imbued with the herb."

"How can you imbue a spirit with an herb?"

"That is a technology long forgotten by those who dwell in this land. I do not know how but the process is tedious. I cannot tell you. You will have to find some other lore master."

Moran nodded. He then looked around the room while the King sat in grave thought, maybe thinking over the poison – lore long forgotten.

One thing he could not understand. The room was very well ventilated even though he could not see any kind of system that allowed such fresh forest to air to roam freely within. He strolled around the room. His steps were brisk. The mystery was consuming him. Elves are certainly strange creatures, he thought, their houses even unusual.

The King seemed to have read his mind though because he suddenly awoke from his deep thought and said, "You are wondering, Moran, from where the air flows in this room. We, unlike you, will our windows to be visible only when we want to. A part of our security plan, no doubt. Come here, you."

Moran walked to the King's side who took him to the nearest wall. The king waved his hand and the wall opened up sideward to let them see a huge round opening. It looked as if they were seeing the outside world from the bark of a tree. The window looked towards the west and the dawn had given way as they talked to a hot afternoon. Although, the view outside was darker due to the thick canopies of the forests that surrounded this elvish castle.

Moran moved closer towards the window. He saw that the room was on the lowest level to the ground which was bit a little foot lower than the room's base. The scene was very picturesque; a sparkling pool bearing clear water sprawled some way yonder in the thickets to the west. A warm wind blew, pushing his hair backward.

"Do not be so mesmerized by the pool. It is an enchantment that holds even the strongest of elves. Nearer you go, the more perilous it becomes."

"Why is it so perilous?"

"Perilous, did I say? Perilous to mortals, perhaps. The pool makes you wonder at it and when you fall into the trance that it spreads around you and inside you, it makes you see drastic visions. The secrets of the pool are known to a few. It has been here since the beginning of the world. We do not go near it. Some that have gone have not healed yet fully. But still we preserve it as we would, consider it as a monument of the ancient world."

Moran looked at the pool once more before turning his back on it. The king waved his hand again and the walls slid back to their original position.

The man on the bed moved, his eyes opening half way.

"Your friend is well and coming back to normal. Stay a day more, Moran. You both may take your leave and go unhindered then on your plan which was to reach Gwenthil. My men will escort you to the western end of the forests tomorrow eve. You shall journey in the dark."

Moran nodded.

"I take your leave now, Moran. Perhaps you should also take rest. My servants here will take good care of your friend. You could see him walking about tomorrow morn as the sun rises. Come, my halls have many wonders and you shall see them whilst you are here. Come."

Moran smiled and went along with the King, closing the door as he did.