This is a unique fantasy story about a young woman who is disabled from a birth defect in the real world who becomes able to walk when she accidentally crosses over into the fantasy world of Elydir. At the same time, a prince of Elydir crosses over into her world and is unable to walk. They must adapt to their new surroundings and face obstacles.
Before the time of recorded history, the elves were a great people. This was not arrogance. It was a fact. They were the most intelligent and magical of all the peoples in Elydir. Tales had passed down through the ages of the great things these people had done. At first, they isolated themselves from the other races around them, human and dwarf. But, some began to feel the need to venture out beyond Ravynswold Forest, and they did so. Those who ventured beyond the forest encountered humans and, while in general they felt them crude, some humans were as intelligent as the elves. The dwarves were intelligent in their own way as well. Those elves brought back tales of humans and dwarves, which caused others to go see for themselves.
Some elves began to share their knowledge and magic with those humans and dwarves they felt equal. They also gave them warning to be wary of creatures such as Goblins and Trolls. To the surprise and disappointment of some in the elfin nation who felt such unions to be wrong, some elves even married humans and dwarves.
Such a tale was written of one elf who stayed among humans for many rotations. When Ronstanon, son of Anstanon, returned to his family in the elfin territory, he brought with him his new bride, a human girl named Annyaletha. His mother, brothers and sisters welcomed her and were happy to see Ronstanon after being so long away from him. His father felt differently. Anstanon was incensed that a son of his would corrupt such a pure line by having a human as his life mate, especially since Anstanon had chosen a lovely elfin girl for him. He had planned to give her to him when the boy would come of age. No matter how much his wife, Kaytal, pleaded with him, Anstanon finally disowned Ronstanon. When Ronstanon and Annyaletha had their first child, they named her Anistal and all their families and friends attended the celebration, except Anstanon.
Many people had brought gifts to the child’s celebration. One such gift was Ristal’s Star, named after Ronstanon’s uncle who discovered it lying on the table with the other gifts. No one else knew what it was and no one claimed to have brought it. The little blue and white crystal ball glowed and the colors eddied around when held. Since the gift was for the child, it had been placed in her crib. Ronstanon and Annyaletha heard the girl giggling for hours and, when they would look in on her, she would be staring at the crystal ball watching as the colors swirled around each other. As the girl grew older, she became very attached to the object. This worried her mother and father. But, when they tried to take it away from her, she would become violently ill until they would give it back to her.
When Anistal grew old enough to show magical ability, Annyaletha decided that Lady Kalyn should instruct the child in magic. Even without Ristal’s Star, the child possessed exceptional magical ability and she learned quickly. Lady Kalyn instructed Anistal on how to focus her thoughts and the girl conjured magical creatures with no problem. But, on her own, when using Ristal’s Star, Anistal created terrible creatures that caused much destruction. Anistal was easily annoyed by those who displeased her and would use the ball to hurt them. Because they could not control the use of her abilities, Ronstanon and Annyaletha began to fear their daughter. They decided she should dispose of the ball. At first, Anistal refused. Soon she realized that her powers had grown to the extent that she no longer needed Ristal’s Star. She carried it off somewhere and, after many rotations, forgot where she had hidden it. Ristal’s Star had not been seen since.
However, power had its price. The crystal ball had done its work on her. She began to look older than her age and her body became shriveled and bent. She began to withdraw and to trust no one. Even her mother and father became targets for her wrath. She became ambitious, using anybody without any thought who it hurt. Ronstanon and Annyaletha finally realized that they had no choice but to banish Anistal from the elfin territory. Angry at her parents and before leaving home forever, Anistal disavowed her own name and called herself—
“Hagah!” Pashandratha slammed the book of elfin history closed with a growl and then walked through the tall archway. He stepped up to the balcony overlooking the eastern portion of elfin territory. “How could you take my daughter? Why did you let him take her?” His voice carried swiftly on the cold southern breeze. King Pashandratha had been able to feel princess Alishandratha’s presence from inside the elfin territory but, during the past few days, it had become faint. At times, he could not feel her presence at all. Today was one of those times.
When the elfin princess had first been taken, she and her father had been able to communicate with each other. She had told him how she had been led into a trap. She had been sitting in the garden behind the ivory palace. She had become bored and had begun daydreaming. Alishandratha had watched as a colorful izmadie had moved from flower to flower. Then, the izmadie had alighted onto her bare foot. Fascinated, she had watched as it sat there and changed colors. She had been so taken in by the bright colors that, when it had fluttered away, she had gone after it.
In Ravynswold Forest, the izmadie talked to her. It told her that it could become something bigger if she desired and could show her how beautiful things looked from above the mountains. Alishandratha had desired that very much. So, the izmadie landed on the ground in front of the princess and changed into a huge celisan with the wingspan equal to that of the Serran prince’s dragon. The giant black bird allowed her to climb on its back and took flight. The view had been so breathtaking she had not noticed where she was going. The huge black bird landed at the entrance of an old palace north of the Haldeth Mountains.
Princess Alishandratha had pleaded with the bird to take her home. But, it had remained still and said nothing. Then, Emperor Aton and Hagah emerged from the palace. She had known them by reputation and, when they ordered her off the celisan, she did not hesitate for fear of what the witch would do to her. Since then, princess Alishandratha had been kept in the dungeons of Aton’s palace.
Aton had sent a taunting letter by messenger to King Pashandratha telling him that he had his daughter. The frustrating thing was he did not say why he had her or what he wanted. The elfin king had rounded up his army and led them on the long trek to Aton’s palace. They had been expected and Aton forced them to retreat back to elfin territory with what little was left of the elfin king’s army. Several days later, Aton had sent another letter stating that, if he tried to rescue Alishandratha again, he would have the princess killed.
Then, on the day when King Paleq had paid Pashandratha a visit to discuss the fact that Aton had kidnapped some of Paleq’s people and was forcing them to dig in the mountains as if looking for something, Aton had sent another messenger with a wedding invitation. The elfin king had been beside himself in total anguish. He had to find a way to rescue his daughter. It had been Paleq’s idea to go to Serras and ask T’Kerr to join armies. Instead of going himself, Pashandratha had sent Prince Keriandratha in his place. He still awaited his son’s return.
He just wanted his daughter back.
King Pashandratha walked from the library to Seer Valeshandratha’s chambers, wondering what was happening to his children.
The king needed to talk to his sister.
He stood out of sight looking at the ivory elfin palace that stood in the center of the capital city of Ballyndor. The ancient edifice rose up into the hard gray sky. The white walls gave the appearance of being lit from within by a mysterious glowing light, possibly elfin magic. Looking at it from just inside the castle gates, the palace seemed not at all protected. Possibly an illusion of elfin magic, he thought as he blended into the tree he had been leaning against.
Slipping inside the castle gates had been exciting for the shape-shifter. The guards had been used to seeing rodents skitter around and had even thrown daggers at them for sport. Morphing into a rodent had been the most interesting way in, despite dodging the errant daggers. How to enter the palace proper would be another question.
Even from where he was, Darstan-Col felt the frustration and tension inside the elfin palace. He knew the elfin king was anxious over his daughter, and with good reason. The shape-shifter had to find a way to talk to Pashandratha and to tell him how Alishandratha fared.
While recuperating from the attack by the jamantha plant, the elfin princess had been on Darstan-Col’s mind, especially how she had looked and sounded. Darstan-Col would not have said she was weak. No, not the elfin princess. Despite the weakening of her elfin radiance, her defiance and anger toward Emperor Aton had proven she was not frail. She has to be free of that place. Unspoken and unthought were the ideas that he wanted her free if for nothing more than to feed his odd sense of fairness. It would also give Aton his comeuppance. Not to mention, there might be some reward in it for him.
Darstan-Col spotted one of the palace guards walking toward the entrance. He moved away from the tree and transformed himself into a blue cyathiger. With his two sets of long transparent wings, he flew at the guard and landed on the helmet. The six legs were more adapted to catching prey than for walking, so the shape-shifter felt unsteady with the guard’s bouncy step. But, with the wings out at right angles to the tapered, segmented body, he kept himself balanced and did not fall off. The multifaceted eyes on the top of the head were not a new experience for him but it took some time to adjust to them. Seeing the same object in different angles as well as seeing behind made his transport interesting.
Once inside the palace, Darstan-Col flew from the guard’s helmet and watched the elf as he strolled down the hall. He hovered over the green marble floor, trying to decide what to do next. He needed to locate Pashandratha.
The seer watched her older brother as he paced back and forth next to the table where she sat, his black boots clicking on the light blue marble floor. He made it difficult for her to concentrate. She held the medallion that hung between her breasts—two brown cyathigers holding each other’s tails with a rainbow inside the circle that the two cyathigers created. She closed her eyes, but that did not help. After trying unsuccessfully to focus, she sighed in exasperation.
“My brother. Please, either sit down or stand still. I cannot concentrate with the sound of your clicking heels.”
Pashandratha grabbed the chair next to Valeshandratha but just stood and gripped the back. She knew he was anxious and he had good reason.
“For the past few days, I have not been able to know how she is.” The elfin king’s tone was quiet but that was always when he was most dangerous.
Valeshandratha knew Pashandratha was not someone easily angered or violent even when angry, except where his family or close friends were concerned. He had always been the one who protected Valeshandratha when they were young. Their younger brother, Mishaelandratha, was the total opposite from Pashandratha, which was probably the reason their father, Kilesandratha, had made Pashandratha the heir apparent. It was the correct choice. Mishaelandratha was not interested in elfin affairs and had a tendency to frequent taverns. Since being King, Pashandratha had been attentive to the needs of his people.
Valeshandratha remembered one incident when they were young. She had been six rotations old and he eleven, when they had been walking around the palace grounds. She had been admiring a huge bush that had pink fragrant flowers all around it. Pashandratha had been looking off somewhere else. When she had tried to move away from it, she found she had been caught in the briars that had wrapped their way around the bush. They had stung her and cut her whenever she tried to pull away. She had become scared. The briars had seemed alive. She had screamed and called out for help. Then, her brother had come and used his dagger to cut the briars away from her. It seemed like nothing but, at the time, it had been frightening. Since that time, she had trusted her brother implicitly.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw something come through her door, which brought her out of her thoughts. Pashandratha did not see it as it came up behind him. When Valeshandratha turned to look, she was surprised. The tiny gray feline with thin black stripes seemed familiar. When she saw the vertical yellow slit in the center of the emerald green eyes, Valeshandratha felt sure she had seen the animal before. She started to draw Pashandratha’s attention to it when the telton, a distant relation to the pellus, sat down behind Pashandratha and mewed softly.
The king’s head snapped up at the soft sound. His hazel eyes turned toward Valeshandratha and a puzzled look crossed his lined face. Pashandratha let go of the chair and turned around.
“Silba?” Pashandratha stared down at the gray striped feline, stunned. He had been thinking of his beloved pet. Pashandratha had possessed several pets in his youth but none like Silba. Silba had been the most affectionate and non-confrontational creature of its kind. The day Silba had been found dead, killed viciously by another animal, had been the most devastating day of his young life.
Valeshandratha watched as her older brother picked up the telton. He sat down in the chair, stroking the furry body. Then, something odd happened. The colors began to change, to wax and wane in subtle degrees.
“Brother, I think that animal is not what you think it is.”
“Well, what have you there, big brother?” Mishaelandratha said, as he walked into the room. He stripped off his heavy black cloak and dropped it on Valeshandratha’s bed. Mishaelandratha dropped down in front of Pashandratha and petted the telton’s head. “Seems I remember a pet you had once like this. This cannot be the one though. That was ages ago.” Mishaelandratha reclined on Valeshandratha’s bed.
“You need to stop coming in here and dropping your things just anywhere you want,” Valeshandratha scolded her younger brother, not for the first time.
“But, I have always done that.”
“Yes, you have. I think it is time you grew up.”
“Yes, mother,” Mishaelandratha replied with a bow and a grin. Exasperated, the seer sat back in her chair. As an adult, she found it useless to talk to him. It was like dealing with a child.
The feline jumped off Pashandratha’s lap. “I know it is not Silba,” Pasthandratha responded to his sister’s earlier comment. He stood and asked the telton, “The question is, what are you?”
Although not his reason for being at the elfin palace, Darstan-Col had almost decided to prolong the illusion of being the elfin king’s Silba. “Darstan-Col, at your service,” the shape-shifter responded as he began changing into the human form. During the change, while the emerald green eyes with the vertical yellow slit in the center remained, the king’s sister ran toward the door, yelling for the guards.
“No! Wait!” Darstan-Col turned to find the younger elf standing, holding a dagger. There were noises down the hall. He knew he must act quickly. The thought of being locked up terrified him. He knew the elves were too smart to lock him in a cell where he could escape. They would put him in a sealed box.
Darstan-Col still remembered the time many long rotations ago when he discovered his ability to change into other creatures. At first, he could only change into creatures the same size as he, none smaller or bigger. One day when he had grown bored and restless, the shape-shifter had morphed into a grishta cub and gone exploring. Before he had known anyone was behind him, Darstan-Col had been scooped up into the arms of a child. The child had talked of taking the cub home and taking care of it. Darstan-Col had thought that a great idea.
What happened had been completely different. He had been locked up in a wire cage too small for him to move around. He was never sure how long he had been there. The child had never come to feed the cub or even to talk to it. Darstan-Col had been so terrified that, no matter how hard he tried, he could not change back into his usual form…or any form for that matter.
If it had not been for the child’s mother hearing the cub’s cries and letting it out, the shape-shifter would have perished. Even after several rotations, he still remembered what it had felt like to have been in such a small space, hungry and lonely.
He wanted to leave. But, he also wanted to talk to Pashandratha. Just as one of the palace guards burst into the room with sword drawn, without trying to hide the fact, the shape-shifter morphed into a rodent and scurried off towards a nearby hole in the corner wall.
Before he asked what the trouble was, the guard spotted a large rodent scurrying off. “That is the intruder you were yelling about?” he asked, trying not to laugh.
“No, there was a shape-shifter in here and he changed into that rodent.”
“Go after him!” Valeshandratha shouted.
The guard went up to the hole, knelt down and thrust his sword into the opening. A horrid squeal came from inside the hole and the guard pulled out his sword with a dead rodent skewered on the end.
“He killed it!” Valeshandratha shouted. “He killed the shape-shifter.” The others looked on in amazement.
The guard strutted away from the hole with a pleased smile on his face. “My Lady, if any more of these filthy little nasties bothers you, just call me and I will take care of them.” He waved the sword with the dead rodent impaled on the end. “We keep score on who catches the most, so I will take this to prove I caught another one,” he said, chuckling to himself as he walked out of the room and down the hall back to his post.
As soon as the others in the room relaxed and went back to talking, a fuzzy little dust-gray, oval-shaped gortyk looked out from the dead rodent’s hole, its long antennae twitching. Then, the insect’s six hairy legs scurried behind a chair leg.
When Darstan-Col had entered the hole, another rodent half again his size greeted him with a hissing snarl. The rodent had lunged at him. But, by the time it had snapped its pointed teeth where the shape-shifter had been, Darstan-Col had morphed into the gortyk. Within a few seconds, the rodent let out another horrible noise, which turned out to be his last. He had been skewered by the guard’s sword.
From the chair leg, Darstan-Col saw Pashandratha and the other two arguing. He knew what to do.
“Your Majesty. I need to speak to you about your daughter.”
The tiny voice, no more than a whisper, had come from over Pashandratha’s right shoulder.
“What?” Pashandratha saw an izmadie perched on his shoulder, changing colors.
Without another word, the izmadie flew off Pashandratha’s shoulder and, in the middle of the room, Darstan-Col changed into his human form. “I need to speak to you about your daughter,” he repeated.
At first, Valeshandratha and Mishaelandratha wanted to call the guards again. Instead, they sat in stunned silence. They wanted to hear what the shape-shifter had to say. The seer caressed the medallion over her colorful robes, waiting.
“You…you have seen her?” The king’s voice shook with emotion.
“Yes. I was in Aton’s dungeons and saw her.” While his sunken hazel eyes studied the elfin king, the shape-shifter’s mask-like features remained expressionless.
“How is she? Is she well? Has he hurt her?” Pashandratha tried to control his rage as he asked that last question.
Darstan-Col told the other three what he dared to tell them about Alishandratha’s dimming radiance and her desperate plea for help to escape Aton. Darstan-Col mentioned nothing about the other prisoner but only said Alishandratha had been defiant toward Aton.
“I must find a way to rescue her. There must be a way. I will not let her die in there if there is a chance of saving her.” As he spoke, Pashandratha’s voice rose in conviction.
“I have seen where she is,” Darstan-Col responded carefully. “Maybe I could think of a way of rescuing her. If…” Darstan-Col let the word hang in the air.
“If?” Pashandratha glared at the spy, his hands clenched. “If what?”
“If you make it worth my while.”
Pashandratha sat a moment trying to control his anger. “You arrogant bastard,” he said through clinched teeth. “You are nothing more than a panisthear.”
“Well, Your Majesty, you are almost correct. A panisthear sucks blood indiscriminately. I, on the other hand, only do it if the blood is worth something.” A smile spread across the spy’s face.
The elfin king moved toward Darstan-Col, his jaw clinched tight. “You are here only to torment me further.” He reached out to grab the spy around his neck. But, in a flash, Darstan-Col became a tall jamantha, the mouth-like trap at the end of each leaf snapping at Pashandratha’s hands. Pashandratha backed up and Darstan-Col changed back into his human form.
“You do want her rescued, correct?”
“But, how do we know you are telling the truth?” Mishaelandratha stood next to his older brother.
In response, the shape-shifter allowed the three elves to look into his thoughts. They saw that Darstan-Col had told them the truth. They saw how pale Alishandratha looked and how her elfin radiance was fading.
“Alishandratha,” Valeshandratha whispered. “She could die if she stays there.”
“My daughter.” Pashandratha wept as he sat. Then, he looked at Darstan-Col. “All right. I will give you whatever you want. Just bring me my daughter.”
“Very well,” Darstan-Col responded. “What I want is something very little. What I want is—”
A gasp cut Darstan-Col off. The elfin king, his younger brother and the shape-shifter saw Valeshandratha with her mouth open, a blank expression on her face and her hands clutching her medallion.
Upon seeing Alishandratha’s dimming radiance, Valeshandratha had tried focusing to locate the princess, find out how she fared, and maybe even speak to her. The spy’s visions could have been a trick, but the seer thought that unlikely. She had begun praying for a way to rescue her. What had entered her thoughts took her by surprise.
Valeshandratha had heard rumors that the Serran prince would attempt the Bloodfire soon. Valeshandratha saw the young human prince standing in the white robe and with the medallion around his neck catching the rays of the afternoon sun. She heard nothing the high priest said, but she felt the fear from the boy. Then, she had felt hot searing pain from him and saw him drop to his knees, a silent scream on his sweaty face. The prince had fallen prone and lay still. Valeshandratha saw the high priest touch the prone figure. When the figure stirred, the hood of the white robe slipped away from his face. Instead of the prince, Valeshandratha saw a young woman.
Pashandratha gripped her shoulder and shook it. “Val, what do you see?” All eyes stared at Valeshandratha, waiting for her reply.
Once Valeshandratha told the others what she had seen, silence filled the room. Each one tried to understand what it meant. They knew the purpose of Bloodfire but what the seer had described took them by surprise.
“A woman?” Darstan-Col whispered, his mind working, trying to see the connection with the Serran prince’s vanishing and the appearance of an unknown woman.
“Yes. The prince disappeared and she appeared in his place wearing the white robe and the Krycus of the Coritus.”
“You had been trying to communicate with Alishandratha.” Darstan-Col sat in the chair next to the seer, studying her face. To see if I was telling the truth, he added to himself.
“Yes.” Valeshandratha still saw the woman’s face in her mind’s eye. Where has she come from?
“And, you began praying for a way to rescue her?” Mishaelandratha asked as he looked from his sister to the shape-shifter. You stay out of this, shape-shifter. This is none of your affair.
“Yes, I did. That is when I began seeing the Bloodfire.”
“I see.” A thought began to form in the spy’s mind. But, he was not quite sure what it all meant.
The shape-shifter left the three elves, smiling to himself. The king never found out his price. He would find out soon enough. And, if that young unknown woman who had suddenly appeared were what Darstan-Col believed, Aton would pay handsomely for that information. And, King Pashandratha would also pay well to have his daughter rescued. It was the perfect situation. Everyone pays. Darstan-Col laughed out loud.
He needed to think about the situation. See how he would play it.
Maybe he needed to find out for himself who or what that woman was.