Jorr had never seen snow before. It wasn’t the kind of weather that Elves traditionally preferred, and so they had little to do with snow.
Stepping shakily out of his boat, Jorr’s foot sank deep into a soft mass of the damp substance. If the wetness of the sea couldn’t get through his oiled leather boots, he knew this snow would fare no better. Still, the cold was unpleasant.
He stood and stretched, satisfied that he could do so after three long, cold days on the sea. He looked out over the vast span of icy, dark gray water he had just crossed and frowned. It had taken so long, it was hard to believe that he had sailed across the narrowest part. Crossing that water again was not something to look forward to.
Then another thought – depending on what he found here, maybe he wouldn’t have to?
In any event, he was here now, and he still had a good distance to travel if the maps were correct.
Bending down, Jorr grasped the side of the small boat that had been his home for the past three days and pulled it completely onto the shore.
The snow was not falling any longer, yet there was plenty of it already on the ground here. The day was overcast, but was beginning to get darker, and the wind was not helping with cold or visibility. Waves of snow dust were constantly washing over him. He pulled the hood of his cloak over his bald head. He had waited too late. The hood had collected plenty of snow inside of it, and now it fell down past the side of his face and down his neck.
What a vile, vile substance!
He resigned himself to the sensation, then looked around some more. The snow-covered beach was stark white, contrasted with a row of dark, dead trees just a short distance away.
A very lonely place.
Jorr dragged the boat through the deep snow up towards the trees. He was so tired, but he had to get to those trees and get a fire started, or he would surely fall asleep and freeze to death.
If that happened, the hope of the Elven people would die with him.
Grasping the small pouch he carried reminded him of how painfully little food he had been able to bring. The Elves had little enough at all in these dark times, and Jorr had hidden away as much as he could before his trip. It was not a lot. He had hoped for a bountiful forest where he could hunt, but as the island had grown into view bit by bit he had realized the forest was dead.
Just as the Elders had said it would be.
They were right about this, but that did not mean they were right about everything. In Jorr’s opinion, the Elders were wrong about most everything, and were simply not relevant any longer. Only a little time left, and they would see that he was right. Although he was but fifty years of age, and considered a child, he felt he was the one seeing reality, while the Elders were content to meekly accept their fate.
Shivering, Jorr realized that he was standing around freezing instead of building his fire.
Leaving his boat by the edge of the forest, he made his way through the trees and found what he considered to be an acceptable spot to make a fire. There was a row of trees grown tightly enough together to block much of the wind and the snow, so beside them the ground was only lightly covered.
Jorr opened his pack and withdrew the Fire Element.
The dull red rock glowed warm in his hands. Powerful guilt came over him. Although snow was new to him, the Elven people were no strangers to the cold. They lived in a land that was nearly all desert, and the nights were as mercilessly cold as the days were hot. It seemed every night you would wish for the same burning sun that you cursed during the day.
Fire Elements were precious. They represented some of the last vestiges of magic the Elves still possessed. Supposedly they were used as children’s fireworks back in the Before-Times, but now the few they had left were critical to surviving the relentless cold nights of the ShirraLand Expanse where the Elves resided.
All Elves were now taught to make a fire as soon as they could hold a stick, so Jorr knew he could make one from the wood in these dead trees if necessary, but he couldn’t take the chance that there would be no forest here. He had to be sure he could survive his journey, so he had stolen one of the Fire Elements the night he left.
It would all be worth it. He did this not for himself, but for all the Elven people.
Placing the element on the ground and speaking a quick word was all it took to make the fire burst into life. The heat -by Vollius, the heat! He had forgotten what it felt like to be warm. When he had been sailing on the water, he used the element at a very low level, heat without flame. It barely kept him from freezing, but he couldn’t risk the full flames on his small boat. Seeing the flames now was quite satisfying.
How many fires were left in this one? Had he wasted its heat on himself when it should be heating the children back in the Expanse?
He felt for the small knife he kept on his belt. He had stolen the Fire Element, but he couldn’t bring himself to steal a sword. Weapons were very hard to acquire in the Expanse. Most Human traders would not sell weapons to Elves, and the ones they did sell tended to be poor quality for very high prices.
The creatures that lived in the Expanse were not weak, docile animals. You would need a strong sword or axe to deal with them, and so Jorr left them behind. It would be better if he died on this mission from lack of a sword, than return home and find out an Elf patroller had died for wielding a knife when he should have had a more suitable weapon. At least there had been enough wood to make fires when he had left, so if he returned soon he hoped the Fire Element would not truly be missed.
Keeping his hood up, Jorr lowered himself to the ground near the fire. Reaching into his pack once more, he retrieved the handful of nuts and dried fruit that would be his meal for the night. He was quite hungry, but did not dare to eat more. He still had to make it all the way back on his own, and there would definitely be no hunting here.
His water skin was over halfway full. Very good, he thought. Discipline had served him well. He took a large gulp, and it felt good going down. Looking around at all the snow, he thought that it should melt into drinkable water once placed in his water skin. At least he hoped it would. The very little rain he had seen in his life had always been safe. Hopefully this snow was, as well.
The fire was illuminating less and less of the dead forest as the night grew darker. Jorr was anxious to move forward, but not willing to traipse through an unknown forest, all alone half a world away from his home.
Though technically, he supposed he was actually going home.
If his crude maps and the lore were true, half a day’s journey through this cold forest should bring him to his destination. The homeland of the Elves, the place called Daeshan.
Apparently the word had simply meant “The Land” in ancient Elvish. A language that most of the younger Elves, Jorr included, no longer truly understood. Besides the Elders, most Elves grew up speaking the Human tongue.
In a way, it made sense. For the past 300 years, after The Last Event, the Elves had been surrounded on all sides by Human civilization, and they had not been entirely welcome. Speaking their language was crucial to trade and survival in general, since they were forced to rely on the Humans for much of their food and supplies. Elvenkind were considered to be thieves and poachers, the beggars of the world, and they were made aware of this in many ways. Some of those ways were not subtle.
Jorr felt fierce anger rise up in him. Of course, if the damned Humans had been willing to allow them to be a part of society then they could contribute more and become self-sufficient, no longer needing to beg for scraps from the pitiful Kings of Humanity.
They would never allow this, though. Jorr knew, and the Humans knew, that given the chance an Elf could surpass a Human in any endeavor. If Elves were allowed to take part in politics, games, wars or commerce, it would not be long before the entire lot was ruled by Elves and Elves alone.
As it should be.
Ahhh! Jorr physically shook himself, trying to banish the dark thoughts.
Lacking a moon, this night was dark enough. He would focus his thoughts on the future, think about when he returned home. Depending on what he found here he would be either praised or punished.
What would he find here? His thoughts turned again to what he had come for, come halfway across the world to forbidden Elven lands to acquire.
A weapon. One of such power that it would raise the Elves back up to the top of this world where they belonged. Just as importantly, perhaps even more important, it would break the Humans. It would destroy their castles, their armies, their armadas and everything else they had that made them think they were so superior. Then they would be driven into the ShirraLand Expanse to scrape out a pitiful existence as best they could, while the Elves ignored their plight and laughed.
After all, Jorr had been taught that history liked to repeat itself.
At that moment, he couldn’t tell if it was the fire, or the thought of destroying Humankind that was warming him more.
He laid down then, mostly on top of exposed tree roots, but he barely felt them. Sleep was coming on and he was glad. The sooner he slept the sooner morning would come and he could travel on towards his destiny.
He awoke to harsh sunlight. There was no heat or cold, but the light was blinding him. He raised his arm to shield his eyes, except his arm didn’t raise.
He couldn’t move, yet he was being pulled forward. There were no trees to block the light, so he was no longer in the forest! Where was he? The damned sunlight was blinding him. He felt like he was floating.
Suddenly a wavy scene materialized before him. He was in the middle of what appeared to be some kind of town center, an Elven city! He could see the runes on the tall white buildings, and even engraved on much of the ornate stone walkway before him. The square was empty. What was he looking at?
Again a sudden shift, now the square was filled with Elves, and they appeared to be running for their lives. They ran in all directions away from ominous lights shining in the center. Some were dressed in the raiments of the old aristocracy, some were wearing the old Elven military gear, yet even they ran. They ran past him, and through him? Either way, they did not see him or acknowledge him at all.
He was still being pulled slowly forward. He could hear the screams of the Elves that ran, with their children and whatever else they could carry. The sounds were coming from very far away, even though the scene was playing out in front of him.
First sight had returned, then sound, now a horrible smell assaulted his nose. What was it? Jorr could not move to cover his nose but he wished he could. The smell, something was burning. No sooner had he thought it than he seemed to surge forward to the center of the square. Now he could see what was making the light. It was an Elf, he was holding it over his head. Holding The Weapon! He was burning the Elves as they ran, melting them, fusing them to the ground.
Why was he doing this to his own people? Jorr was horrified! He witnessed many Elves die with what looked to be dreadful agony as their bodies melted and burned.
Bolts of lightning shot past him and struck the figure holding The Weapon. They only slightly staggered him. Jorr could move his head now, as he discovered when he instinctively looked over his shoulder to see where the lightning came from.
Other Elves! At least twenty of them. And…Humans? They appeared to be working in concert, striking out at the figure together. The attack was almost completely ineffectual. The figure struck back, viciously swiping forward with The Weapon. A red light erupted from it and spread out across the square, disintegrating some unfortunate Elves caught in the path before striking the magic-using group.
They protected themselves as best they could. Jorr could see the outline of some kind of barrier that held back the light. It was not completely successful, however. Some of the blast got through, and three of the group appeared to drop dead on the spot.
Jorr realized he had stopped moving, only because he suddenly surged forward again, as if he was being pulled. It was definitely toward the figure in the center. Jorr fought as hard as he could, considering that he could basically do nothing but watch. He tried to scream, but nothing came out.
He moved closer to the figure, who continued his constant attack while not regarding Jorr at all. He was definitely an Elf, but not like one Jorr had ever seen before. He was bigger, wearing some kind of bright green armor that looked rather flimsy, as if it were made of leaves. There was some other strange air about him, though, besides the terrifying rage on his face.
Jorr was so close now that if he could move he could have touched this being. It was then that he suddenly could move. As he thought about reaching out to touch the Elf, his hand came up to do so. Before he could, the Elf quickly turned and in one frightening moment grabbed ahold of his wrist. The pain of his bones being crushed and his skin burning flashed through him and he tried to scream, but in the next moment that horrible rage twisted face filled his vision.
Jorr shot up off the ground in a split second as he awoke, and he screamed. His scream was one of primal fear, fear that quickly faded as he realized he had been sleeping.
He was still in the forest, in the dark. The Fire Element was still burning and the sound of his scream was thankfully fading away. He was out of breath and shaking violently.
He forced himself to be calm. Sitting down he tried to still his thoughts, but the dream was still at the forefront of his mind. He wanted to forget it, but at the same time he wasn’t sure if he should. It was obviously no ordinary dream.
Quickly he checked his wrist. He could see no burns or feel any broken bones, but he rubbed it anyway as if it had been injured.
An unpleasant thought worked its way to the surface: Had he made a mistake in coming here?