The Half Elf, Volume I
Light started to flood in once again as Talos opened his eyes. He was on his stomach, lying on coarse stone. As his senses returned to him, he felt a pain in his ankles and his entire body was stiff. He craned his neck to see that his ankles had been shackled to the wall behind him. He just about managed to shift his body into a sitting position with his legs stretched out in front of him.
His mind suddenly turned to Red, and what had happened before he lost consciousness. They were searching a destroyed house, and then he’d been shot with something. Where was she? He tried to peek outside his cell, but the heavy stone door meant he could see nothing except the roof.
“Oi! Hey! Let me out of here, you bastards! What did you do to Red?”
Using all his strength, he shouted at the top of his voice for a few minutes. He paused a bit, noticing the pain and dryness of his throat. He decided it was best to save what he had left of his strength for when his captors eventually showed himself.
Sure enough, after Talos was stuck staring into the distance for what felt like years, he heard the door unlock and a troll walk in, followed by a tall man in white wizard’s clothes.
The troll made a grunt, before leaving the room and closing the door. The man turned to Talos and raised his hand.
“We won’t be needing those.” He said, in a cold, collected voice. The chains on Talos’s ankles unlocked themselves and fell to the ground, limp. Talos stood up and gave his legs a stretch.
“So then, let’s cut to the chase, shall we? I’m not one for monologues. Where’s the mask?”
Talos was stunned to silence. Surely there must be some mistake – what mask could he be talking about?
“Look, I think you’re mistaken – I don’t know any mask.”
Talos suddenly felt his body fly up and his head smash against the roof of the cell. He let out a cry of pain as he fell to the floor.
“Don’t play dumb with me, Mr Talos. You know exactly what mask I’m talking about. Now tell me where it is.”
Talos looked up at the wizard, his eyes watery from the pain of his head. It hadn’t been smashed with any sort of intensity, there was no blood. The shock however had meant that he felt a sharp pain and sting in his head.
“How do you know my name? And who are you?”
Again, Talos was suddenly thrown against the roof, this time the impact hard enough to draw blood.
“I know everything about you, Mr Talos. I am Kelto, the most senior magic user in the Back Line Alliance. The mask that you took from the cave in Masportana. Where is it?”
Kelto’s voice was getting louder and stronger every time, but still seemed calmed and collected, like he knew exactly how to control the situation.
“Um, I,” Talos stumbled on his words, struggling to think with the intense pain in his head. “We lost it. The mask, we lost it.”
Talos felt his body rush up towards the roof again, and he screamed waiting for the pain to come. His head was held about an inch bellow the ceiling, and Kelto looked straight into his fear-stricken eyes.
“You lost it? Mr Talos, do you expect me to believe such bollocks? If you lost it, how come your group has been radiating with Nesamar energy? Oh, don’t you try and tell me you don’t know what that means.”
“For fucks sake, I have no idea what you’re saying! Please, just let me down! I don’t know, I don’t know, I DON’T KNOW!” Tears were streaming from his face at this point.
Kelto dropped Talos back onto the floor. He groaned as he wallowed in his blood, and Kelto turned round and opened the door. He called to the troll in the hallway to bring some wound dressings.
The troll appeared in the room a few seconds later holding some dressings, and bent down to apply them. Talos however had zero faith in the troll’s ability to dress wounds, and so snatched them out of the trolls hand and started applying it to himself. Out of anger, the troll nearly smashed Talos’s head in again. Kelto, however, stopped it with magic, before telling the troll to leave the room again.
The wizard then squatted to be level with the still-dressing Talos, and whispered quietly to his ear.
“I think I understand what’s going on. Tell me – where is your friend Rathron?”
Talos turned his head to look at Kelto. He saw the menacing, mocking look in his face, and his heart sunk. It didn’t take him long to realise what had happened, too. His face sunk and his head dropped when he realised what Rathron had done.
“Not here.” He simply said
“Yes, Talos. He abandoned you, almost certainly knowing that you would walk into my trap, and took the mask with him. He’d been hiding it with him the entire time since you’d left that wretched mine. He never trusted you. He was never your friend. He thought you were going to steal it, so he hid it from you.”
Talos felt the tears well in his eyes, partially from the pain, and partially from the feeling of betrayal. He couldn’t believe it. He knew that Rathron had thought little of him, but to think him a thief, and to lie straight to his face?
“Listen here, half-elf. Now that I know you don’t have the mask, I have no need of you. I am willing to make you a deal. Tomorrow, I put you on a cart to the Squoma border. From there you can make your own way home, and this meeting with me is never talked about. Not that anyone would believe you, in any event.”
Talos seriously considered this for a second. He felt no more allegiance to this task for the BLA, and wanted to get as far away from Rathron as possible. He turned back to look at the wizard, still squatting next to him.
“Fine, as long as you can prove to me Red is okay.”
At the mention of the human, Kelto stood up and stared at the blank wall, contemplating for a moment.
“While I normally would like to avoid any unnecessary bloodshed, she has seen too much. The location where we are now, the forces we have here, and the influence she has unfortunately mean that it is too risky to set her free. And we do not currently have provisions to keep her lodged here indefinitely. Which, while I do hate to say it, means we have no choice but to kill her…”
Kelto had barely finished his final word when Talos sprung up at him, aiming to grab his neck. Kelto noticed out of the corner of his eye and threw Talos to the other end of the cell with one sweep of his hand. The impact with the wall made a horrendous crashing sound and Talos fell to the floor, barely conscious.
“Please, Talos. You are only making this more difficult for yourself.”
The half elf, still lying on his stomach on the floor, looked up again at the wizard again.
“If you kill her, I swear to Atmenea and Herrohalia and every other damn god that I will destroy you. And I will not leave here without her.”
The wizard made a loud sigh.
“As you wish, then.” He simply stated, before exiting the cell and looking the door behind him. It wasn’t long before a combination of exhaustion and pain took over Talos as he fell into something between sleep and unconsciousness.
The next day, Talos was gagged and dragged out of his cell by a troll into an open courtyard. He noticed at the other end a masked figure, holding a long sword in his right hand. Below the figure was a block, presumably for a head to rest on, before being severed from the rest of the body.
As he was standing in the courtyard, he heard the dragging of another body from behind him, and he turned around to see Red, also gagged in a similar manner to himself. She looked in about as good condition as Talos figured he must have been in. They didn’t have to wait long for Kelto to arrive.
The wizard walked into the centre of the courtyard, looking at the two figures in front of him.
“I lament that this is necessary. Two brilliant minds, destroyed. It is, however, unavoidable. Progress will always require the sacrifice of a few, for the good of the…”
“Stop delivering your life story, none of us here want to here it!” A loud shout came from outside the courtyard.
Everyone was stunned, having no idea who had said those words. Talos, his mind not quite functioning thanks to his recent experiences, couldn’t recognise the voice initially. It didn’t take long, though, for his brain to kick into gear again, and for the voice to make an appearance.
An unmistakable figure levitated over the walls over the courtyard and showed himself to everyone present. He was tall, wearing the clothes of a scholar, was clearly old, and held a extremely thick book in one hand. Rathron.
“Mr Kelto, I believe you have injured some friends of mine. As you could probably imagine, this transgression of yours is not one I find easy to forgive. I would, however be willing to talk something out.”
Kelto’s eyes burned with rage, seeing the elf here. He had never imagine that he would have been able to find his fortress nor breach its defences. Still, he figured, the situation could be salvaged.
“How’s this for a negotiation, then? All of you, the first Troll to bring me that elf, alive, get’s to tear him apart once I’ve got my mask. That clear?”
The trolls all readied their weapons, except the two who were still holding Talos and Red tightly.
“Well then, it seems negotiation is not your preferred option. No matter – I haven’t had a chance to do this sort of thing in a while. Shall we get started then?”