Treguard holding helmet of justice

Crossed Paths

By Nicholas Lam

A 17,000-word, 8 chapter tale by David Ishida.


Prologue

The deer shrieked as its leg was caught in a trap. The metal barbs bit deep and pierced the bone. The deer flailed about, trying to get free but only managed to further entangle itself. It was in agony and terrified. The boy laughed.

He emerged from the shadows, still laughing. The deer tried to bolt and broke its leg. The boy laughed again. He would take this prize back to his father and be the envy of the village. However, the deer was still alive and he needed some target practice.

The arrow shot through the deer's hide and stuck in its stomach. It collapsed in a dazed heap, still shrieking. The boy nocked a second arrow and pulled back the string. Then the bow and arrow burst into flames. The boy dropped them with a yelp.

Three dark figures moved into the clearing. They threw back their hoods to reveal pointed ears. Elves, realised the boy. Where had they come from? He had not heard or seen them. The elves moved swiftly. One blew sparks from his palm into the boy's face. The boy stopped moving or thinking and simply watched the scene unfold. The other two elves headed for the deer. It was still agonised and now dying. One of the two bent down and caressed the deer, speaking to it softly in elvish. The deer calmed and became peaceful, blood still gushing from its wounds. The second elf fitted a silver arrow to its longbow and pulled the string taut. The first elf crooned in elvish for a few seconds more before kissing the dying deer on its silken muzzle. He then turned to his companion who shot the deer cleanly between the eyes. It fell instantly dead.

The elves looked mutely at the fallen creature for a short while. Then the crooning elf raised up its hands and chanted in elvish. The corpse burst into flames and burnt down to ashes. The elf smiled crookedly and then inhaled and blew at the ashes as hard as he could. Immediately a wind whipped through the forest and carried the ashes away.

'It is done,' said the elf with the arrow, speaking in English for the first time. The boy jumped and snapped awake.

'Hey!' he cried. 'What have you done? That deer was mine!'

The elves all turned to face him and the boy suddenly felt afraid.

'What we have done is to ease the pain you have created, mortal,' said the crooning elf in utter disgust.

'It was for food,' mumbled the boy.

'Sinking random arrows into a wounded animal is not necessary to acquire food. If you must kill, kill cleanly. No, what you were doing was for your own idea of fun.'

'We do not tolerate mortal cruelty in our lands,' added the elf who had cast the spell on the boy. ''How did you even get here, mortal?'

'I - followed the stony path,' mumbled the boy.

'He found a ley-road,' groaned the first elf in elvish.

'We must remove him from our lands,' said the second.

'But not without punishment,' finished the third. They all nodded. Then all three flexed their fingers and even as he stood, the boy's eyes closed. They caught him as he fell forward, fast asleep.

'Should we kill him?' asked the first.

'No!' replied the second. 'There has been enough killing tonight.'

'You are right, Distilled-mischief,' said the third. 'But what can we do to him that he will remember?'

All three pondered.

'Perhaps...'said the elf called Distilled-mischief. 'What if we apply a runic base to his chest and then return him to his kind.'

'Yes,' replied another, whose name as it happened was Flickering-candle. 'That is a fair warning.'

'But if he comes back,' warned the other. 'We should kill him. Nothing should suffer like that deer.'

They all nodded. Then they pulled their hoods back up and turned to the slumbering boy.

---

A 17,000-word, 8 chapter tale by David Ishida.

DownloadCrossed Paths (164.0kB)

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