Authors Note: Before you plunge in a little bit about this story. I have been working on it for the past ten years give or take. It pretty much covers everything I love about fantasy, dragons, elves, knights and magic. I really appreciate any reviews or feedback you can give and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. I would also like to apologise for spelling and grammar mistakes, they are not my strong suit but I am working on them.

Also I have now published a reference guide. It contains a list of characters and some notes about scale, language, weather and history if you are interested in that sort of thing.

Edit: Have removed part of the prologue which gives an overview of the distant past but is a bit too info dumpy for many people. If you would like to read it you can find it as part of the reference guide.

Fallen

Prologue

In the beginning there was nothing and the nothingness was infinite and eternal. However from the void came a light and the light expanded and shone and this light was composed of seven dragons. Each of whom burned with the power of a star and they created the universe and everything within it, for they are the guardians of time and without them all reality would cease to exist. But after many millennia they grew weary of their labours and sought to rest. They created a race of angels to take care of the worlds they had created, but the angels were foolish and they fell from grace. They were forced to walk upon the ground and become living creatures who must breathe, eat and sleep and they called themselves elves.

-Of the beginning, Yuriel, Light elf historian

Autumn 545 IY (Imperial Year)

1 Forest of Amandil

It was a magnificent autumn day. The scattered trees of the grove were a frenzy of reds and golds, their leaves falling one by one, drifting on the quiet lazy wind. The sun shone in golden rays through the trees, possibly the last warm day for months. In the midst of the grove nine elves stood, tall and rigid. Their ageless faces holding the long wisdom of many thousands of years piling up like the fallen leaves on the forest floor. A tenth elf was not like the others he stood more relaxed, his long, golden hair was unbraided and his clothes were not a simple white but a motley collection of forest greens which closely matched his eyes. Unlike the others he was smiling. Also unlike the others, belted to his side was an immense broadsword.

"Father," he interrupted the lengthy dissertations on some boring topic of which he had been paying scant attention.

All the elves turned to him with varying levels of reverence and irritation.

"Yes, son," the eldest elf, whose hair had long ago turned a crisp silver, spoke softly. His words said little but his tone spoke much. When you have spent several thousand years with not much to do but work on languages, mere words can convey entire conversations that a human would not even realise. Within the old elf's tone was a weary acceptance of his son's right to speak, an acknowledgment that he was in fact glad to have his son present yet also a reluctance to allow him to bring up yet another half crazed notion, another grandiose scheme, his tone begged the other elves for forbearance for a minute, it gave an apology for youth and immaturity and perhaps even reminded them that once they too had been young, finally it said to hurry up and get it over with. Exactly how much of this the young elf received is uncertain for the issue with communicating feelings without saying them is the other person may not even realise or they may just not care.

"I want to leave Valandor," his son said brightly.

This was answered by silence. The other elves faces remained completely calm and composed but elves had never managed to master their eyes. They all flickered to the old elf. They wanted to see how he would handle it. They knew he was an excellent king but as a father some of them had doubts.

"Not forever," his son continued hastily. "I just want to see what's out there, beyond the gate. There must be more to the world than just these trees and mountains. There must be other animals, other plants, other people."

"Enough," the old elf said sharply with a dark look. A look of disgust and even fear.

"You can't keep me here forever. I will leave. With your blessing or without it," the young elf said threateningly and the sky itself seemed to darken, like a giant cloud was covering the sun and the warmth was replaced by chill.

One of the elves raised their eyebrows exasperated. Another frowned. Such expressions were grave. The surrounding elves expected the old king to put his foot down hard on the youngster. No good ever came of challenging authority the elves had found in their long history. However the king did not do this.

"Fine. Leave then," he said brusquely. "Curiosity must be sated sooner or later and the sooner we are done with this foolishness the better."

The young elf laughed. A sound of pure happiness. "Thank you father. You shall not regret this I promise," he ran forward and embraced his father who stood stunned. The surrounding elves eyes lit with mirth but none of them dared to laugh.

The old elf managed a brief smile. "Go now, before I change my mind and take that mad horse of yours with you."

The young elf danced into the trees. "She is not mad just misunderstood," he shouted back as the leaves continued to fall.

Winter 546 IY

2 The White Tower

Winter had come and almost gone again before the young elven prince returned to the high elven sanctuary of Valandor. In truth many had not expected him to return. Some had expected him to return a lot sooner, apologetic and humble, a few had not expected him to return for many long years and be wise and humble. Only one expected him to saunter back through the gates with a huge grin as the snows fell in a howling blizzard.

This time the high council met in the top of the tower of Ithildan, the only real city in Valandor. It was a graceful stone room, decorated in the classic elven style, simple yet elegant and containing mainly depictions of nature, leaves, deer and the like.

"So what did you find?" His father began and a human would almost have been convinced he was genuinely interested in his sons' adventures but the watching elves knew that nothing his son said could impress him. It would only affect just how disappointed he was in his eldest son.
"Humans," the young prince said with a smile. One could think given what has already been said about the nature of elven communication that the young elf implied more in this word but in fact he didn't. He just didn't know how else to summarise them, for humans are … complicated. They make elves easy to understand because elves are intelligent and humans are not.

The elves looked at each other with concerned glances. They had met humans once before and it had been an exceedingly unpleasant experience for all but that was now centuries ago.

"And what did you learn from these savages?" His father questioned, his tone making it clear that savages was really too good a word for them.

"I was rather surprised but they are people too."

"Don't be foolish." One elf said reproachfully.

The young prince shrugged. "They have language, they have music, they have art, they have dance, they have laws, they have gods, well only one god, which is a bit weird but still."

"You talked to them?" The old king said in a tone suggesting that this was similar to asking insects over for dinner.

"I did," the prince said proudly. "And they were nice. More than nice. They did everything they could to make me feel at home."

"Well at least that is done with and we can now move on," the king said wearily. The elves went to leave but the prince stepped forward.

"That's not all. I came back for a reason, father. I want to ask for your blessing."

It took a minute for the elves to understand. One by one they all went perfectly still, their faces deathly pale. Their eyes speechless. It was perhaps fortunate that elves could not have a heart attack. The king was motionless and briefly closed his eyes as if praying to the gods. This was a concern for the other elves in the room for they all knew that the last thing any sane sentient being would want was for a god to answer. With his eyes closed nothing could be read of his thoughts, calculations or plans. No one there could guess what was really going on inside his mind.

At last the king opened his eyes and smiled broadly. "What it is to be young and free," he said, his tone too cryptic for anyone present to understand. "Go ahead my son, may you be blessed with…?" He paused.

The young elf smiled and his eyes were far away. "Alviarin," he said softly. "Her name is Alviarin."


Part 1- Quests

Spring 547 IY

And so it came to pass that the elven empire was shattered, like a crystal goblet which can never again be whole. And so brother fought brother and sister fought sister. We broke the land itself in our struggles and while we were victorious the cost was too great. The dead rose to demand justice and we were found wanting and now there is just silence where once there was joy.

-Yuriel, Light elf historian

1 Redwood Forest, Darath

Golden beams of sunlight cascaded through the redwood trunks in the ancient forest of Darath, gently illuminating the swirling clouds of dust, like thousands of fairies glittering in the air. Through the trackless trees rode a tall, slender figure on a midnight hued steed. Many might mistake him for a man but on a closer, detailed glance they would tell that he felt, other. His skin was unblemished and very pale, in the sunlight it almost seemed to glow radiantly. His ears were tilted slightly back and tapered to a narrow tip hidden in his hair, which was the colour of finely spun gold and reached down to his shoulders in a shimmering wave. His most disconcerting feature though was his eyes, a bright forest green circling a ring of darker green, reminiscent of the evergreen conifers of the North. Humans who had read the old books and heard the old stories would say he was an elf. Though if they said this to anyone they would be ridiculed. 'Elves don't exist any more.' Parents told their children in Farad, the human empire which stretched across most of the known world. 'Maybe they did once but they vanished into the deepest forests or fled far away across the seas and good riddance too, they were full of magicks of the worst kind.' Yet this one was as real as the fallen leaves upon which he lightly tread.

He smiled as he rode, singing lightly in the tongue of the elves about the colour of the leaves, the sound of the babbling brook, the smell of the fresh flowers, embracing the first day of spring and the glorious warmth of the sunlight. The warm weather heralded the return of life to the forests which had lain dormant over the cold winter nights. Everywhere wildflowers were blossoming in a vivid display of colour. Bees hummed and buzzed as they flitted from plant to plant sipping nectar. Baby foxes tumbled and played in the soft green grass oblivious to his presence. In this idyllic picture his black mare's angry eyes seemed out of place. The horse snorted angrily at a passing daffodil and the elf laughed. Draped around his shoulders was a weathered green cloak which had clearly been through a lot and was very dirty. He was unarmed except for his broadsword which hung at his hip, a grim reminder of the real perils of the world. The more he sang the more irritated his steed became but this only made him sing all the more.

He paused suddenly hearing the dull muffle of distant hoof beats and smiled, dismounted and leaned back against a tree to wait. It was some minutes before the rider came into view for the elf's hearing was far sharper than any human's. A young, human woman with long, soft, black hair and wearing forest green riding skirts approached upon a bay mare which whickered happily at the sight of the elf and halted. She was of an average height for a human but compared to the elf she looked short. Her face was delicate and elegant. If someone was to describe her they would probably use words like pretty or cute rather than beautiful. When she smiled she looked wondrously happy but she was also very capable of pouting like a lost puppy. It should also be remembered that to an elf she looked exotic and foreign and this had its own appeal. For the way elves see humans is substantially different from the way we view ourselves. The woman hastily vaulted off and embraced the elf in a fearsome hug.

"Berendan, I missed you," she whispered breathlessly into his ear as she nuzzled her face in his golden hair.

"I missed you too, Alviarin," he replied with a light laugh. "I am so glad you came out to meet me, for I have the best of news, my father actually agreed. We are to be wed."

With a radiant smile, she squealed in delight and kissed him.

"I cannot believe this is really happening."

"I know, but it feels right. Here I have something for you," he said happily reaching into his dark green cloak and pulled out a small silver figurine the size of his fist on a length of chain. It was shaped like a pegasus in flight. The detail was extraordinarily meticulous and it looked almost as if it was alive and at any second would begin flapping it's majestic feathered wings.

"It's beautiful," Alviarin said spellbound as Berendan gently clasped it around her neck.

"So you will always have a memory of the forest," he said softly.

"I love it," she giggled in ecstatic delight and kissed him again, firmer this time, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and pulling him close.

When they finally let go, they were both out of breath. Berendan smiled, his face full of innocent joy.

"It matches my own," he said. He held up a similar piece fashioned of a wolf, howling at the moon. "So we will always be together in spirit, no matter how far apart we might be."

"How very touching," said an ancient dry voice which whispered of cold, barren lands and the weight of centuries.

Both of them spun as the warm sunlight vanished beneath dark storm clouds which had appeared as if from nowhere. Only metres before them stood a horse, or something that had once been a horse. Its sweaty flanks were heaving and its eyes were burning red, as if inside it was a furnace of unquenchable agony. Atop this demonic steed was a figure hooded and cloaked in the blackest of night which seemed to leach the very light from around it. With a dead white hand it pulled back its hood to reveal a man's face, surprisingly handsome with short, jet black hair. His eyes were solid red and his canines were elongated and pointed.

"Vampire," Berendan whispered under his breath as drops of rain began to fall, he had never seen one before, but it was quite obvious. "Alviarin, run!" He yelled as he drew forth his sword which glittered even in the growing darkness.

"I won't leave you," she sobbed, holding on to him desperately, her face streaked with tears. It was too late either way though as from all around them marched the shambling bodies of the dead. Some freshly killed, their skin green and rotting, their hands outstretched in yearning. Others ancient, now just white bones, their skulls making them look as if they were laughing, as if they had finally got the joke.

"Who are you? Why are you doing this?" Berendan yelled, his sword held ready, his eyes watching the dead carefully.

"I am Count Markus Darkhand of Necrondia. I do this because I can," he declared with a pointed smile. "Take the girl, kill the elf," he ordered and the undead advanced.

Berendan's sword lit up with burning flames and he attacked the skeletal army with fury and terrifying skill. His sword a mere blur as it sliced through bones as if they were butter. Yet the dead merely rose again and again despite the worst injuries, slow and pathetic but relentless. A chill wind blasted through the trees, all trace of the happiness of spring gone as winter returned in full force. "Berendan!" Alviarin screamed over and over as the bony fingers grabbed her, dragging her forward and away from the fell elven lord. He tried fighting towards her but the skeletons were an unmovable wall of bodies, no matter how many he cut down and dismembered more took their place. He saw the vampire pull Alvirain onto his horse, his thin body belying his enormous strength and ride off into the darkness, Alviarin's cries grew fainter and fainter and finally ceased. Yet still Berendan fought against the tide of corpses, his arms aching despite the elven sword's minimal weight and he felt hopelessness rise within him under the unending onslaught.

He wasn't sure how long he stood there, blade whirling, flames burning, day passed into night. Finally the skeletal hordes collapsed into dust and he was left utterly alone. The clouds broke and the stars glittered faintly high above. He fell to his knees, muddy, bruised and covered in all sorts of horrendous substances which he didn't want to think about but what really hurt was the hole where his heart had once been.