“Who goes there?” Shouted a strained voice. It was an attempt at a shout, but the voice was too faint for its purpose. The salty sea churned and overpowered any other noise save it. Yet, the voice asked again. This time, there was a tinge of hope, mixed with far too much desperation to sound threatening.
“Who goes there?” A mix of fear now, subtle but present.
A man in gleaming and gilded mail was emerging from the water in the cavern. He was so regal, that it would have appeared at first to be a statue with water receding all around it. But this statue was very real, and it wasn’t standing on its own. The man rode upon a magnificent steed. A steed out of legend. His body rose into the air higher and higher–perched as he was upon the great horned head of a serpent. Two dark blue eyes, like burning embers in a fire, shone out from the scaled face. The regal man answered the voice in an altogether different tone. Water showered off of him as the dark metallic neck of the dragon he was riding upon rose up and out of the water. His voice now filled the cavern, echoing off the walls. This voice was strong, sure, ready. “It is the Prince of Cellinor! I, Genoran, first of the King’s sons!” Shouted the prince and he withdrew a magnificent sword. “Genoran, and my comrades, the Lords Andril and Haryk and…who in the darkness are you anyway, boy?”
Next to Genoran rose the snout and snaking neck of a second dragon. Two burning blue eyes shone outward, dagger sized teeth glinted as the dragon opened it’s mouth and snapped it shut again. Waves splashed around them as the two riders coughed and sputtered for air. Tahg, from behind Haryk, piped out…”Just call me the pest control expert guys! They all do.”
Haryk, who felt like a water-logged ragdoll at the moment and was far more upset for thinking it, rolled his eyes. Andril cast a spell and fluttered to the stones piled up around the water’s edge–He landed gingerly upon the tip of one with the aid of some unseen force. “There is no danger here, my lord Genoran.”
“Come out,” said Andril to the figures hiding beneath the boulders strewn around him. “They’re tame dragons you see.” He turned to the prince and threw his hands up as if to say that was the best he could think of.
One of the dragons growled and grunted. There was a shriek from behind where the first voice had come. Quickly then light flared into existence, revealing several haggard souls–their silhouettes twisting and spiraling along cragged cavern walls.
But the figures did not come forward. One did stand but quickly dropped back to his haunches again. He was whispering to the others now.
“They want a fight, lads. Steady now,” growled Haryk.
“No, no they do not,” commanded Genoran with authority. “Warriors of Cellinor. I recognize my own, come forward. Present yourselves. We come for you, you are in good company, I so swear!”
But none did come forward! For despite their worn condition, despite their precarious footing upon a tumble of rocks at the back of the sea cave, all of the figures took a knee. Haryk could not see them do it, for they remained too well hidden by the boulders. Instead, he saw the shadows do so. Even their shadowy heads bowed.
“Men and women of Cellinor, we have no time for such auspices! Come forward. Who are you?” shouted Genoran again.
“You are not the prince!” Called one of the unknown figures.
“How dare you!” Cried Haryk. “Before you stands the prince of Cellinor, the Duke of the Seven Isles of…”
“You are not the Prince any longer! My Lord!” Shouted another.
Andril flashed the prince a little smirk and quipped, “Looks like you’ve lost your station there, Lord Genoran. Tsk. Tsk.”
But then, one of the men in the back of the cave, stood tall upon one of the stones. He shouted with all his might into the cavern below. “Goodly Celns, The King of Cellinor stands before us!”
Another voice, this one gruff and gravelly, as of a dwarf, shouted out. Haryk saw a stout figure stand. The bushy-bearded man held aloft his battle-ax, then he dropped it to his side. His eyes were filled with soot and ash, and something Haryk had never seen in a dwarf’s eyes, tears. “My Lord Genoran, it is my sad duty to inform you that the king, your father was killed in yesterday’s high sun.”
Haryk could not see the face of the prince, but he saw the Sword of Cellinor drop to his side.
“Long live the king. Long live King Genoran!” Shouted a far more familiar voice and Haryk knew immediately something else, it was their leader. The sleek form rose and nimbly jumped downwards to where he could be fully seen. Haryk saw the face, it was the face of guilt. “My lord, you should not be here! Why have you come? What steeds are these that bring you?”
The light now revealed him to be a silver-haired elf. His garments, despite the cave and the condition of all others being torn and shredded, were immaculately clean.
“Canton!” Cried Haryk. His blood-stained eyes went wide and he stepped in front, holstering his weapon which he had instinctively drawn when he heard voices. “You bastard, you keep popping up whenever we don’t need you!”
“Speak for yourself, Lord Haryk.” Canton propped his high-heeled boot atop a rock next to him, perfectly balancing himself. His scimitar’s tip shone with gilded light under the hem of his green robes. “I’ve grown fond of this sea cave. Think I’ll retire here, actually.” The joke fell flat. Haryk and Canton stared at one another. It had been a long time.
Genoran climbed up the rocks, moving Haryk aside. When Canton saw Genoran’s face, his eyes flooded with tears.
“Well, I’ve got a count of one dwarf and one elf,” Andril. “Now I just need a human to cry and I’ve got Bingo.”
“Quiet, you fool.”
Canton bowed before the prince. “My King,” whispered the elf, his voice cracking with emotion, “I serve you now, in spirit and deed.” He began to sob openly. Haryk was overcome with disgust at the show of emotion from someone he had once thought was a strong warrior. Canton gulped again. “I have failed you, your majesty. I have failed your father.”
“How?” asked Genoran. “How was the king killed, Canton?”
Canton was about to speak, but Genoran stopped him with a hand. Lowering his head for a moment, Genoran seemed to pluck up his courage. Pulling himself together, he rose to full stature, regal once more, and brushed his dark hair out of his eyes. Haryk could see him screwing up his face. Now that’s how you do it, thought Haryk.
“I will not hear of my father’s death now. I will hear of what is needed, Governor. Why have you sent for us?”
“I didn’t,” said Canton, looking confused. Behind him, his comrades began to emerge. “We are all that is left of the defenses of Far Realm my King. We were cut off from the last of the warriors and took refuge here for the last day, to regain our strength. When the Sasser enemy fell, we thought we had won the day. Then, the mountain nearly blew itself apart erupting its foul ash and soot. We are about to take a final stand against the demons that have taken the isle. A final rescue mission, for Commander Fritz and the others, for Hojo, the King’s jester, among others–before the island is torn asunder by the dark force that is consuming it.
Andril sniffed. “You can’t have been here that long, elf.” He pointed his staff at the elf’s leggings. “Look you son of a ogre, you have a stain!”
“Where?!” moaned Canton, who just a second too late realized that he was dealing with these two once more. He grunted at the stupidity of the joke at that moment– which was altogether too much for Haryk to handle as well. Haryk though saw the prince, er the King’s face, and screwed his own up.
The Governor asked them all, “What army have you brought us?”
“Army?” bayed Andril. “You’re looking at it, Crybaby. And we aren’t your army. We’re here for revenge.”
Canton now surrounded by the dozen or so men that had survived, looked to the king. All others, those drenched in water, or covered in soot did as well.
“What happened here, Canton?” asked the king.
“My Lord, the Sassers invaded the isle like a swarm of fleas to a dog. They were unstoppable. Our men, our women, were slaughtered like sheep. We were divided and surrounded like ants do to their prey in the jungle.” While the haggard men listened, Canton described for them all how the Sassers overran their forces, how Commander Fritz made one last push to separate the invaders at the edge of the islands’ reefs. “The Ata’auh fell back to the citadel and fought valiantly my lord. They withheld until the last we believe. And then, the first thing happened.” Canton seemed to struggle to describe it.
The dwarf with the battle-ax continued for Canton, Unlike the elf, he was covered in bits of gore and stains of blood and he all together angrier thought Haryk.”My King. Telchar is my name, your majesty.” He bowed. “Your subjects fought valiantly, and I am want to admit so did the men and women of the isles, my lord. The enemy cut us down. I’ve never seen fighting like that. It was as though they knew at the precise moment what each other were doing. But then, the enemy laid down before us! Whatever force drove them was gone, just as we needed help the most. My lord Canton had sent your father to the east…” Telchar, with a cue from Canton, coughed, “…er…Whatever spirit they possessed failed them in an instant. Their souls departed, leaving only their bodies behind. We had won the day.”
Genoran’s eyes grew wide. “Wrath!!!! By the Light, my lady Iricah! You did far more than you know in Host Bay!!!!” Genoran raised his hands above him, and now it was his turn to weep.
“There’s my human,” sighed Haryk.
“Bingo,” replied Andril.