The bolt of green light shot through the air like an arrow with a mind of its own, deftly cleaving its way. It subtly changed direction as it skimmed the sea of trees as they rose like a wave to a crest. Its light briefly flashing through the canopy as it passed, the shriek of Silvast’s scream in its wake, unsettling birds and other sleeping wildlife. Shooting off the crest of the mountain it slowly descended back down to the leaf sea, occasionally piercing through errant tufts and mounds of leaves. In mere seconds, it had already ridden the wave of another mountain, skimmed a valley’s walls and passed by the lower pass to Scarosant. One third of its journey already complete, searching for its target. Riding another valley, it skirted the base of a cliff that abruptly rose in front of it. It followed the wall until it met a pass over the saddle of two mountains, skipping off the compacted dirt roadway, scoring a line and throwing dust and stone chips into the air.
In the blink of an eye it shot along the roadway, following for a way before rising up over the forest and arrowing towards the outer elven domains of Meliandra where they met with the surrounds of Scarosant. It flashed over another roadway, trailing light and leaving behind the shocked expression of an exhausted elven rider who was resting his spent horse by the side of the road, preparing a makeshift camp, his missive already passed on to the next messenger more than an hour earlier.
Ahead loomed the final mountain in the chain that connected Scarosant to Meliandra, under which the joint dwarven and wilderelf stronghold of Shadowfalls stood in the meeting of the two steep arms of the valley. Tall walls of smooth hewn stone, with a river split into two falls over the bulwark of the fortress, dropping the distance to the large, shaped pool below, joining with the underground river that flowed out of the mouth and entrance. In the great valley alongside the river lay the sprawling wilderelf forest city of Meliandra, where houses were thicker in the trees than on the ground. Connected by dwarven stone roads below and wilderelf walkways spanning the trees above.
The bolt of light unerringly arced up the mountainside at an angle, already homing in on its target. Angling sharply as it reached the crest, it passed over the river that led to the top of the falls. Drawing closer to its target, it raised over the forest, pulling away from the trees, drawing attention to itself before darting towards a small observation area in the clearing below. A lookout set at the top of the left ridge that overlooked the fortress below and the left flank of the mountain. It started its final descent towards the campfire burning in the centre of the stone paved clearing and the recipient of its message.
* * * * *
Antrandis calmly watched the horizon through the mountains from their campsite. The observation point that overlooked the fortress and the valley of Meliandra while also giving a clear view of the forests and smaller mountains that stretched to the distant ocean along the left flank of the mountain chain aptly named: The Dragon’s Tail. The partial solar eclipse was only moments away from its zenith. He smiled, finding comfort in the warmth of his partner leaning back against his chest and in his arms.
‘I have never taken much notice, but is there usually such an abundance of dark energy present during an eclipse? Last night I felt that it was a lot stronger.’
‘I would not call it dark energy, but more of a disturbance, where the flow of the stream is turbulent. Last night was unusual, Sian. Quite unusual.’
‘Compared to when it happens normally?’
He considered the question, ‘Yes.’
She shifted in his arms, ‘Your thoughts have been occupied since last night.’
Antrandis nodded slightly, ‘Despite the festivities, something is amiss, it tugs at the back of my mind.’
She turned and looked into his eyes, her emerald green and silver flecks meeting his stormy blue as the last errant rays of the sun shone on them.
She placed a hand on his chest with a smile on her lips. ‘Do not let it trouble you, my love. If there is a problem, worry about it when or if we learn of it.’
She kissed him before turning back to the eclipse, watching intently as the moon slid silently across the sun, blocking its rays, ‘I find it beautiful. Last night was my first, as I am now.’
Antrandis raised an eyebrow, ‘How about before?’
Sian shook her head, ‘None that I remember.’ she paused, ‘To see so many of our people watching, the festival afterwards and into the night. Amazing.’
He nodded, smiling, ‘I saw that the Elders had insisted on bringing back some of the old customs, they went to great effort to hold the ceremony of the Fallen to honour the silent guardians.’
Sian laughed, ‘Stop acting like you did not know. You are a terrible liar.’
‘I swear, I did not know what they were intending. They had approached me, insisting on our attendance. I was not aware that after the eclipse you were to be the centre of attention.’
She looked at him sidelong, ‘That procession through the old ruins, by the gods!’ she shivered slightly, ‘The blue lanterns, the re-enactments of the ancient warrior spirits. The dragon dance of the black and white. The robes they prepared for me, they must have been working on them since…’ she sighed, ‘It is a shame that mother, father and little sis could not be here for it.’
‘In good time, after keeping your identity secret for several years, let the people learn new things over time. Not everything at once. The Elders insisted to bring this forward to last night instead of waiting until new year.’
‘We did keep it concealed for longer than I anticipated.’ Sian noted.
‘They wanted to welcome you properly, not just as my wife. Our people, elves and dwarves alike are honoured that they have a living legend in their midst. A ghost of the trails, a warrior of the Eladar Wilderelves returned from being lost. You are now famous amongst our people in your own right. Even the eldest of the dwarven clans are in awe of you.’
‘I understand, but I do not welcome this extra attention.’
‘The only extra attention I want is yours. The final conditions for my return was fuelled by my desire to possess you and to be your possession. I am yours, you are mine. I do not particularly care for the opinions of others.’ she said quietly as she looked back to the eclipse, ‘My love, it is almost at its height.’ she said as she settled back against him, drawing his arms tighter around herself.
They both stood in silence, watching quietly as the last rays of the sun’s light were swallowed, a ring of fire now surrounding the shadowed moon. Antrandis lifted his gaze, his attention drawn away from the show on the horizon. At the edge of his vision he saw a green flash of light cutting over the saddle of the mountain chain, he followed its movement. He kept track of the rapid green bolt as it pulled away from the treetops and hung in the air at a moderate distance above them. His ears picked out the faint but curious sound of a woman screaming. Withdrawing his hand from Sian’s embrace he raised it, his palm outstretched above him.
‘What is it, my love?’ asked Sian as she followed his movements, looking up at the descending bolt of light.
‘I am not sure. But it is focused on me.’ he narrowed his eyes, his head tilting as he thought quickly, ‘Silvast?’
Sian looked at him questioningly as it fell, exploding loudly a few feet above them with the sound of Silvast’s scream, the green light filling the lookout with otherworldly glow.
Antrandis nodded to Sian, ‘Watch and listen.’
He stepped back, guiding Sian with him as the shadowy and indistinct form of Silvast kneeling manifested near them. Antrandis’s eyes narrowed further as he stepped forward.
‘Silvast?’ said Sian as she stepped closer, crouching to the shade’s level, she looked back up to Antrandis, his finger over his lips.
‘Antrandis, save me. Please.’ said the shade, Silvast’s unmistakable voice barely above a whisper, her form slumped over and dispersed along with the green glow.
Sian met Antrandis’s eyes with an alarmed expression, ‘What was that?’
‘Trouble.’ he turned, hearing the rapid approach of feet on stairs.
Silias rushed up the stone stairs, drawing her sword, whipping it into a low guard as she quickly approached Antrandis and Sian.
‘All is well, Silias.’ said Antrandis.
Silias swept her gaze around the campsite, her eyes penetrating the darkness. Satisfied, she cautiously slid her blade back into its scabbard, her eyes still testing the shadows.
‘I see you insisted on tailing us.’ Antrandis said, meeting Silias’s eyes.
Silias nodded. ‘My Lord Antrandis, an insistence well meant.’
Antrandis nodded with a small smile.
Sian looked at Antrandis, ‘She needs us.’
Antrandis nodded, ‘Silias, both Sian and I must leave tonight.’
Silias looked at him, ‘But Aleenastra and Seleene, they left with Arla for Knocht last night.’
Antrandis glanced at her, ‘They may officially rule Meliandra in my stead, but there are others that I trust who can take up the reigns of my domain temporarily in their absence.’
He quickly walked over and put out the campfire, ‘My dear, could you…’
‘She is already on the bulwark, I see her. She is making her way to the path at the top of the falls.’ said Sian as she looked down at the fortress from their vantage, before gathered their things.
Silias looked between them, ‘That light and the screaming was a message? It sounded like…’
Antrandis nodded, ‘You keep that to yourself. It is regarding a matter of grave importance. We will be returning in two or three days. You will accompany us to the top of the falls, from there you will inform your mother to resume Aleenastra’s duties. Tell your father to maintain current orders and the closure of the outer arc until we return, also a common occurrence after a festival. Do not be concerned, Silias.’
‘Yes, My Lord.’
Sian patted Silias’s shoulder as she passed her, ‘Come, we move quickly.’ she said before taking a few quick steps and descended the stairs to the trail.