MALRIK V.S. LZZ'NEN DU' TARNEN
Malrik Half-elven tossed a leather satchel on the table and grinned roguishly, wiping the grime and sweat from his face. “That’s the last of them.”
Kaladorn Tal’veilurian paled visibly and drew his silken robes closer about him, as if warding off a chill. Around him a half dozen elves of varying ages hovered in trepidation, a look of distaste on their fine elven features. The setting sun framed them in the small clearing, casting long shadows and displaying the splendor of their clothes. Some covered their mouth and noses with lace kerchiefs, none wanting to come any closer to the filthy half-elf or his motley band. Opposite them was Malrik, and his rag-tag band of half-elves. Each one was a stark contrast to the full blooded elves, covered in dirt and clad in leathers, bristling with a wide array of weapons. Only Kaladron stepped forward, his lips set in a thin line he reached out with trembling hands and plucked the satchel from the table. Numb fingers worked the knot and emptied the contents on the table. The collected elves gasped in shock and Malrik grinned even wider as the grisly contents spilled out on the table.
Kaladron averted his eyes, fighting the urge to retch. “Are you sure?” He choked. “Is that the last of them?”
Malrik stepped forward and poked through the pile of severed ears, each one delicately pointed and black as ebony. “Two, four, six, eight… Yes. That’s it. They had spent too long here. Their magic and weapons failed them at last, see?” He gestured and two of his warriors stepped forward, dumping torn and bloody pieces of armor and weapons that began to crumble visibly in the dappled light.
The elven prince turned away, able to bear it no longer. “Very good.” He gasped breathlessly. “You have served us well.” Turning he gestured towards a chest that had been set to one side of the clearing, a young elf in a fine chain shirt leaned down and flipped open the lid, revealing the contents to all. “Choose your reward.”
Malrik’s hands itched as he eyed the chest full of gems, jewelry and coins. Chuckling quietly to himself he fell to his knees before the chest and shoved his hands into the pile of coins, letting them slip through his fingers and spill everywhere. Behind him, his compatriots eyes shone greedily and they noisily congratulated each other on the success of their mission.
An elderly elf in purple robes slipped behind Malrik, his hands behind his back. “I thought there were more of you. Where is your compatriot? The young apprentice who was with you. What was her name? Ilyiana?”
Malriks hands clenched into fists and his face was suddenly stony. “She overestimated her power. I buried her yesterday.”
The wizened elf lay one hand on the Malrik’s shoulder. “I apologize, I did not realize.”
Malrik angrily brushed the wizards hand away. “I do not want your sympathy. Only your money. Don’t try and play false emotions with me. By tomorrow you and yours will be tired of me and mine. And then it will be time for us to go again, until something else comes along that you don’t want to sully your hands with. Then you’ll find us again. And we’ll be waiting.”
The elf wizard recoiled at Malrik’s tone, but could not deny the truth of his words. Slowly, he turned to leave the Half-Elf to his treasure. Unnoticed by all, a pair of golden eyes observed them from the branches above. The rest of the form was hidden in the shadows and leaves of the trees that sheltered the gathering. After a moment, the eyes blinked and vanished. The next instant, a single perfect ruby dropped from the branches above to land atop the pile of coins. Malrik blinked in surprise and picked it up. It was strangely warm to the touch and seemed to have an unusual sparkle deep within it. He held it up to the fading light to get a better look. “what have we here?”
Behind him the elf mage turned, his sharp ears catching the odd sound of the gem bouncing off the coins. His eyes widened in fear and instant recognition. Leaping forward with surprising agility he dashed the gem from Malrik’s hand, the words of a dispelling incantation on his lips. But it was too late.
A roaring ball of fire erupted in the middle of the clearing, scattering the collected elves like so many flaming leaves. So sudden was the explosion that none caught in the blast even had time to scream before the flames seared the breath from their lungs and the flesh from their bodies.
Malrik sat up gasping for breath. The iron ring on his right hand had protected him from the heat of the flames, but the force of the explosion had knocked the breath from him and left his head ringing. Around him death greeting him everywhere, no one had escaped. The elves were nothing more than twisted, charred corpses. Even his followers had not been spared. Their bodies strewn like broken dolls. Everything around him was on fire, the stench of burning flesh making him gag. Moving purely on instinct he fumbled a small vial from his belt and bit the cork off, swallowing the contents in one gulp, the potion hit his stomach like molten lead, burning through his body. It took effect almost instantly, his blurred vision cleared, his scrapes vanished and the ringing abated slightly.
Movement to his left caught his attention and he dragged himself painfully towards it, unmindful of the flames and bodies. Reaching the body he rolled it over and recognized Kaladorn immediately. Half of the elven leaders face had been charred away by the blast, leaving the other half mysteriously untouched. Malrik laid the dying elf out in a futile attempt to make him more comfortable. How the elf had survived was beyond him. Kaladorn’s lips moved weakly as he tried to speak, a coughing fit overtook him and violent coughs racked his body, staining his lips with blood.
“Shhh. Lie still.” Malrik said, or tried to. But now words came out. The half elf realized then that the blast had deafened him. He pulled another healing potion from his belt. He unstoppered it and placed it at his lips, only to pause. Glancing down at the elf he felt a pang of conscience, but quickly snuffed it.
“Save it for the living.” He thought to himself, the potion was strong, but the elf’s wounds were far to grievous. Quaffing the potion he felt his head lighten considerably and the sounds of the forest could now be hear, although distantly. Below him the elf coughed once again and died.
“I’m sorry.” He whispered to the dead elf. Unnoticed, a shadow floated down from the treetops. Lzz’nen landed lightly, canceling his levitation. He had mistimed the explosion and the concussion had thrown him skyward, only his quick wits and innate resistance to magic had saved him.
The half-elf’s survival had surprised him, but it was a trivial matter. He paused to pick up a fallen elf’s long sword and admired its balance.
“One last detail.” He muttered as he strode purposefully towards the kneeling half-elf. Malrik turned just as the drow started his swing. Luck was on his side as he threw himself forward, the sword whistling just over his head, and tackled his opponent.
Lzz’nen managed to roll with the half-elf’s momentum and threw Malrik across the clearing, rolling lightly to his feet, sword at the ready.
Malrik landed hard but managed to keep his wits about him, drawing his own blade and pushing himself roughly to his feet. Growling incoherently he charged, only to have the drow dance lightly to one side.
Lzz’nen flicked his blade out lazily as Malrik roared past him, scoring a light hit, the tip of the sword trailing blood as the fine elven blade hummed through the air.
Malrik dropped his blade and clutched his wounded arm reflexively. It was a minor wound, but well placed. He was used to fighting in numbers and knew he was at a distinct disadvantage.
Grinning in victory, Lzz’nen strode forward to finish the half elf. As he raised his sword to impale his opponent a faint movement caught his attention. Reflexively he threw himself backwards, sensing a trap.
A loud bang and bright light filled the clearing several small ceramic spheres shattered. Cursing, Lzz’nen whipped his sword about in a dizzying defense until his vision cleared. When it did, Malrik was nowhere to be seen.
He knew chasing the half-breed would be foolhardy. That was how the rest of his party had been killed, arrogantly and foolhardily chasing the half-breeds through the woods against all his warnings. Still, he knew that he could not have gone far. Muttering an incantation, he sharpened his senses to far beyond their already acute level. A faint rustle of leaves and scrape of bark alerted him to the half-breed’s presence. Feigning confusion he shuffled closer, hoping to spring whatever ambush lay in wait for him. He had hardly taken three steps when a stout spear was hurled at him with deadly accuracy. Only his superior reflexes and training managed to save him, as he twisted to one side, cutting the spear from the air. Almost immediately he realized his folly, the spear was a ruse. No sooner had the pieces fallen to the ground when a stone struck him in the back of the head, knocking him to his knees.
Malrik Leaped from the tree and tackled the fallen drow with all his might, send the elven blade flying wide. Grappling his dazed opponent until he was eye to eye, Malrik head-butted him savagely, splattering the drow’s nose with his forehead.
Lzz’nen’s eyes rolled back in his head as his strength left him and he went limp.
Seizing his opportunity, Malrik wrapped his powerful fingers around the slender drow’s throat and began to crush the life out of him
Lzz’nen fought back desperately. His head spinning from the beating he was taking. He knew that the half-elf was stronger and heavier than him, so continuing hand to hand would result in an unacceptable outcome.
Unable to break the stronger half elf’s grip, Lzz’nen changed tactics. He let go of Malrik’s arms and whipped his left hand inward in a tight arc, catching Malrik on the inside of his elbows, pitching him forward. At the same moment he drove his right hand upwards, catching Malrik in the eye with his thumb. Bucking his body upwards, he threw a startled Malrik headlong into the dirt. Rolling with it, Lzz’nen seized the straps across the back of the half-elf’s armor and concentrated.
Malrik gasped as he suddenly found himself drug skyward. He thrashed in terror as he watched the ground fall away and the treetops pass with frightening speed. Panicking he thrashed madly against his captor, kicking clawing and punching to break free.
Lzz’nen obliged the half-elf all to happily and watched as the fool plunged to the forest floor with a sickening thud.
With a deep breath, the drow collected himself and lowered himself to kneel next to his broken opponent. He felt for a pulse and found one, weak and thready.
Lzz’nen slapped the half-elf roughly awake. “Not yet. I’m not through with you.”
Malrik glared up at his captor through his one good eye and snarled. “Let me up, drow! I’ll tear your head off!”
The dark elf shook his head. “I think not, your back is broken.”
Malrik froze in terror, then realized that he could not feel his arms or legs. Struggling in terror he tossed his head to either side. Lzz’nen place a knee in the paralyzed half-elf’s chest and leaned close. “You killed my warriors.” He pulled a knife from his belt and held it under Malrik’s eye. Slowly he pressed the tip forward until a thin trickle of blood started to flow. Then the drow pulled the knife back and grinned. “For that I thank you.”
Malrik blinked in surprise. “What?” He asked weakly, completely confused.
Lzz’nen patted the half elf on the head as if he were a small child. “This was merely a small excursion. If not for you, we would have simply returned to the underdark. But, thanks to you, I don’t have to anymore. For many years I had planned escape, only to have to discard it because there was no easy way to escape the warriors and priestess that accompanied us. That was until you killed her.” Lzz’nen sighed and looked skyward, admiring the stars while rolling the knife across his knuckles. “Down there I was nothing more than a slave, a male. But here… The possibilities are endless.”
He sat there, staring at the stars for several long moments, not moving in the slightest. Finally he turned back to Malrik and grabbed the half-elf roughly by the hair. “I owe you a great debt. But unfortunately what you know could be… troublesome.” He turned the half-elf’s head to one side and placed the knife behind his ear. “If it’s any consolation… I won’t enjoy this… Much.” With that he slashed the knife forward, severing the half-elf’s ear cleanly. Malrik screamed as blood poured from the hole where his ear had been. Again the blade slashed, and again, and again. And the screams echoed for hours.
By: Jason Haley