King Daroth walked through the crowded paths as he made his way to the High Lord General Gabriel Eagle Claw’s headquarters. He was hesitant to bother the Elf, because the last time he had seen him, he had looked so tired he appeared to be ready to collapse. Eden hadn’t looked much better, and it pained him to see his subjects in such a state. He realized it wasn’t his fault. The whole of the Elven Empire had the same problem, and it would only get worse, before things began to improve.
This time, King Daroth had another concern to add to the growing problems the High Lord General was facing. There was another army closing in on the West gates of the Light Elven Kingdom. He wasn’t sure what Gabriel was going to be able to do about that, if anything. He walked into the command post area, to find him in a deep discussion with General Vermeer and King Lothrariel. He realized that this was a very inopportune moment, and gave a sigh of relief, when Eden pulled him aside so the others wouldn’t notice the troubled expression on his face.
“What is the matter, King Daroth?” Eden asked.
“We have company approaching our West gate, in the form of another army. I need input from Gabriel,” King Daroth admitted.
Eden looked thoughtful, as she sent a probe through the trees, to see who was close, as well as to whom she could delegate the problem to. She found two likely candidates, and a smile crossed her face, as she turned her attention back to King Daroth, with what she felt would be a viable solution to his problem.
“Marious is free at the moment, and so is Endiku, although the latter won’t be for long. Send Marious to greet those who come, for all you know, they may not be foes. At this time, we could use all the help we can get,” Eden suggested.
King Daroth looked at Eden in surprise. He wasn’t sure why he hadn’t thought of this himself. Marious was the perfect solution. He turned to leave and King Lothrariel noticed him, as he headed for the exit.
“King Daroth, come meet General Vermeer. We could use some input from you, as well as a look to the future.”
“I am afraid I have nothing to say about the future. My talent has been suspiciously quiet lately. I am surprised you would even ask, for your talent in that direction is even stronger than mine,” King Daroth commented, as he tossed Eden an imploring look.
Eden realized he wasn’t going to be able to get away from the men at the meeting, and she nodded in understanding. She knew what needed to be done, and headed for the doorway to carry out his task. He smiled at her in gratitude, for she was taking a burden from his shoulders without him needing to ask. He looked at Gabriel and nodded a greeting, as he sent him a private message.
“You are a lucky Elf.”
Gabriel smiled back, as he watched his Life Mate leave, and sent her a parting mental caress. He loved his Eden and never failed to let her know. She sent a mental kiss back to him in return and he held on to it in his mind. This was the way love was meant to be, was his thought.
As King Daroth joined the other men in the map room, Eden slipped out of the house, and headed for Marious’ home. She knew that was where she would find him, along with Endiku, who happened to be resting with him. Ennacas was with Eärwen, for the moment, helping her with the baby, and preparing for the battle. It wouldn’t be much longer before she would be calling for him to join her and they would head for the front together.
The moment Eden got close to Marious’ home, she could hear the sounds of songbirds, and knew Tamarak would be waiting at the door for her. This meant that she had also been resting. She felt a twinge of guilt about disturbing their time together, but it couldn’t be helped. The door swung open as she approached it, and immediately got down to the reason for her visit.
“I need to speak with Marious, immediately. I have a message for him from King Daroth.”
“That Elf never seems to run out of work for me,” Marious grumbled good naturedly, as he rose to greet Eden with a smile and a hug. “What does our King need me for this time?”
“It looks like you have been volunteered to go to the West gate to greet an advancing army,” Eden chuckled, as she gave him a quick hug back and stepped back.
“Lucky me,” Marious grinned, before asking, “Is this a friendly army, or a hostile one?”
“No one seems to know for sure,” Eden admitted sheepishly.
“Sounds like a party. One lone Elf, against an invading army from unknown origins,” Marious replied. He then got serious, as he asked, “I am not really going alone, am I?”
“Do you see anyone standing behind me?” Eden asked.
“Damn,” Marious swore. “Daroth has put me into some nasty corners before and, told me to figure a way out, but this tops them all. Surely he could have supplied at least one Elf to walk out of the Kingdom at my side. Where is Branith?”
“I will get him, he isn’t very far away, as luck has it,” Eden informed Marious, before sending a quick order off to Branith.
“Is there anything you can tell me about the approaching army, using your Tratchar powers?” Marious asked.
Eden gave a sigh of resignation. She barely had enough energy left to do what Marious was asking, but she couldn’t send him into a dangerous situation without his knowing something about what he was about to face. She let her Tratchar talent flow through the leaves and grass, gathering information as it moved through the forest, and then smiled in relief. The army headed for the West gate of the Light Elven Kingdom appeared to be friendly, even if it was made up of Humans. They also seemed to be very well equipped and well mounted. There was no infantry in this army. Whoever was at the head of these men had brought cavalry. If they were here to help, they would be welcomed with open arms. If not, well, she was sure Marious would find a way to straighten things out.
Branith arrived, as Eden began to report on her findings, “This army is made up of Humans. They are all mounted and seem to be well prepared for battle. There isn’t much more I can tell you beyond that.”
“No idea if they are friendly or not?” Marious asked.
“The trees only give what information they have,” Eden admitted.
Branith’s eyes widened, as he put his own interpretation on events, and then asked, “Another army to face off against?”
“Not to worry little brother,” Marious grinned, as he teased, “They don’t stand a chance against my charm and your mouth.”
Branith shot Marious a droll look, as he commented, “You wish. My wit will outshine what little charm you have in the wink of an eye.”
Marious laughed and he put his arm around Branith’s shoulders, as he made a suggestion, “I think it is time that we borrowed a couple of Daroth’s Pegasus horses and went to show off. I am sure that Daroth won’t mind if we warm Storm Cloud up for him.”
“Of course he won’t mind if you ride Storm Cloud. I will leave a note with Eden, to let him know I had nothing to do with the idea.” Branith replied.
“Coward,” Marious teased.
“Survivalist,” Branith corrected, before adding, “What I wouldn’t give to mooch a couple of shining Fletchling uniforms and a Battle Bird right about now. You couldn’t see if there were any good looking girls in the crowd while you were looking them over, did you Aunt Eden?”
“No, but I will mention to Celebriän that you were asking,” Eden answered with a smile.
“You ever notice how cranky our pretty aunt gets when she is tired, or is this a sign of old age?” Branith returned. He knew it could be living dangerously to say something like that to any female but, at this moment, he didn’t feel he had anything to lose.
“I will also mention where you are to Celebriän; she will want to know that too,” Eden chuckled.
“What did I ever do to deserve this type of treatment, I ask you?” Branith asked back. “I will have to spend more time with Valendil.”
Eden’s smile widened, as she walked off, and made one last comment. “I will let Eöl and Eärwen know that you offered to volunteer for diaper duty, so they could spend some time alone when this is all over.”
“Not exactly what I had in mind,” Branith admitted, as Marious laughed out loud. He didn’t say that he wouldn’t mind, as long as they made it through the upcoming battle.
Marious gave Branith a nudge and commented, “I know and I don’t blame you. We better get going, so we can be waiting at the border when our guests arrive.”
“Or, at the very least, arriving when they do. The sight of Pegasus horses coming in for a landing always leaves Humans in awe,” Branith pointed out.
It didn’t take Marious and Branith more than a few moments to single out two horses and leave. They knew they didn’t have much time, and had no idea what they were going to be faced with, when they got to the border. The size of the army they were about to meet with surprised them, as they flew to the meeting place, for it was a lot larger than they thought it would be.
“I don’t know who is more impressed, them or us,” Branith muttered, as they dismounted to greet the eight Generals, who led the Human armed forces. The rows of mounted men seemed to go on for miles, there were so many.
“There must be over one hundred and twenty-five thousand men,” Marious quietly replied.
“My question still is, why are they here?” Branith asked.
“We are about to find out,” Marious answered, before he turned to greet the man who appeared to be in charge. “I am Marious, of the House of Eagle Claw, Emissary for the Light Elven King Daroth.”
As Marious bowed in greeting, so did the Human Generals, before they removed their helms. They didn’t waste any time, but got straight to the reason they were here.
“Zailon told us about the problem you are having. We have come to offer our swords to help.”
“Which Kingdom does your army come from?” Marious asked.
“We have no Kingdom, no place to call home. We have nothing left to lose but our lives, and those, we offer freely,” the leader replied, in a bitter tone.
“Do you have any idea what you will be facing?” Branith asked.
“The same as you and your people. Our actions are not popular with those in power, where we come from, but our intentions are honorable. We ask only one thing in return from your people,” the leader ignored Branith, as he spoke to Marious directly.
Marious, realizing that he hadn’t introduced his brother, spoke to correct that oversight immediately. “This is Branith, also of the House of Eagle Claw, he has been serving as the Light Elven Kingdom representative to the Free Lands, until just lately. What would you ask of our people for your aid?”
“That should any of our people survive this war, they will find a home where they can live in peace. We will work hard to take care of ours and offer our services to your people in return,” the leader in charge spoke.
“We do not have slaves. We serve the light, we are simple Elves,” Marious sounded insulted by the idea that they would offer servitude for a place to live.
“My name is General Westhawk and, by offering our support, we have made many enemies. We could not standby and allow you to sacrifice your people, so ours might live. That is what would be happening here, if we didn’t try to take our place by your side. We fight a common enemy and, like you, we are a simple people. To be honest, this is the first time I have ever heard anyone refer to any Elf as simple. Your people are not what they seem. Will you accept our services in exchange for a place for our survivors to live?” The leader of the Humans asked.
“I speak for my King and, in his name, if your offer is given as received, you shall be granted all you wish for,” Marious decided. To be sure that they knew what they were about to face, he added, “We pray that when this is over, there will be survivors, for the odds we are about to face are overwhelming.”
The Human Generals grinned as Marious spoke, “So Zailon said, and he wasn’t quiet in the telling. I am General Elbrat.”
Another stepped forward and added, “I am General Knott and, to be honest, I believe it was Zailon’s parting remark that made the biggest impression on us. He said that if we sat back, it would show the world that the Human race had no heart, no honor. He also said that we were risking our survival over the dead bodies of the Elven people. He said that without your magic, the beauty of the world would slowly diminish. He wasn’t clear about what he meant, but we all know that your people work to save the Earth, not destroy it as others do. That, we believe, is what he was talking about.”
“He is a great man, a humble man,” Marious commented. “We consider ourselves lucky to be able to call him our friend.”
“We hope to get to know him better. I am General Braddock and I pledge our fealty to the Elven Nation.”
The Generals lowered themselves down onto one knee, each in turn, as they swore their allegiance to the Empire. General Westhawk then turned to the army and yelled across the distance, “It is done.”
Every solder in the ranks removed their helms, as they gave a cheer. They then replaced them, while their Generals returned to their horses to remount. They would wait here, to learn what their next order would be.
Marious and Branith didn’t know what to say. They needed some input from those higher in command than they were. When the soldiers had uncovered their features, they had noticed something astounding about this army. There were as many women in the mix as there were men. Some of the troops had looked very young, too young to be fighting in a war. They wondered what the High Lord General Gabriel Eagle Claw was going to say about this. They weren’t long in finding out, for both King Lothrariel, and Gabriel, walked out of the forest, with Felcor and King Daroth following immediately behind them.
Marious was quick to bow to them, as were those who were mounted.
“The Human Generals have brought their armies and families to join our ranks. But, in doing so, they have lost their homes.”
King Lothrariel nodded, as he replied, “Enter our lands in peace, fight at our sides, and we will provide you with lands that you may call home.”
“You have our word of honor, we mean no harm to the Elven people. Our intent is to rid the world of the evil you seek to eradicate,” General Westhawk declared.
“I am Lothrariel, Warrior King of the Elven Empire, and I bid you welcome.” Lothrariel bowed, before adding, “You will answer to the High Lord General Gabriel Eagle Claw, Commander in Chief of the Combined Elven Forces, until the outcome of this war is known. Pray that our side is victorious, for we fear the outcome.”
The High Lord General Gabriel Eagle Claw stepped forward and, after a short assessment of the people before him, projected his voice over them, so they could all hear what he had to say.
“Children do not fight. They are too precious to lose, and the enemy would make short work of their vulnerability. Those who carry children will be left to see to the needs of those who cannot fight, whether they belong to them or not. Those who fall into that category, leave now. A portal will be opened to take you to the City of Torendal, where you will be given food and water. You will be provided with temporary shelter and wait with the others who share your position, until the outcome of the war is known. We do not suggest that you try to be brave and try to remain behind for no other reason than you believe you are warriors, when you are not. Those who are not old enough, or those who are not trained for battle, should not be a part of this. Such people serve only to cost more lives than they save. Rather than cause trouble for those who can and will fight as needed, we hope you will go with the others voluntarily, so people who would otherwise die, will live to fight another day. There is no honor in bravery, only in the way we live and die, in a manner that serves our people. Go now, follow those who would lead you in truth.”
King Lothrariel and Felcor opened a large portal, through which the view of the City of Torendal could be seen in the distance.
General Westhawk was the one who oversaw the transfer of the people who belonged in that setting, as those who rode at his side quickly moved to make sure that the High Lord General’s orders were carried out. Their numbers fell by over thirty thousand women and children and, when they were sure that everyone who should have left was gone, the portal was closed.
While the move was taking place, Gabriel was thinking about where the best places would be to put these Warriors. He decided to locate them close to the borderlands that separated the Light Elven Kingdom and the Dark Elven Kingdom. There, they would be under the command of Timorean, and he could keep track of them. He realized he would be hobbling his sons, but that didn’t matter. What counted was there were nearly another one hundred thousand more weapons than they had before, to help serve the Empire at the front, where they were badly needed. In this case, with the extra reserves that had just been put in place by the Fae, they would be able to make up a second wall of defense. That could make a lot of difference to the overall effectiveness of their defenses. He could begin to see where the odds were beginning to get closer to something approaching bearable, depending how well these warriors could fight. That was a question that only time would tell.
As King Lothrariel looked to his High Lord General to give the order, Gabriel nodded at him and called out, “Open a gate to take these warriors to Galador and Timorean’s positions. They will know where to position them by the time the Human armies arrive.”
The High Lord General Gabriel Eagle Claw then turned and spoke into the foliage of the forest, as he sent his sons their orders. They were to treat the Humans as they would their own men. No one was to be given preferential treatment. This was war and everyone was equally at risk, equally important to the outcome of the battle.
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