The Elven Chronicles
The Fugitive Bride
Chapter 6 Elf
Night rushed toward her. Before she knew it the evening feast had begun and Robb had reminded her of her duty. This time she ate more but also drank considerably more. There was a plentiful supply of drink, more than usual as Robb had decided that the thousand gold pieces they would receive in ransom would more than pay for any small amount of brandy consumed now. And the bandits had not paid for the brandy in any case having stolen it from a wagon on the Kings Highway. As a result Honoria was so drunk she could barely stand when Robb sought her out. Still, it was not enough to prevent a thrill of fear stabbing through her. Oh goddess save me, Honoria said aloud. I have done nothing to deserve this.
Robb laughed. The gods were with me, not you when you fell into my hands, princess. Now I will enjoy what they have given me. He pulled her to the center of the camp and unlaced the bodice of her gown. She has breasts as sweet and firm as ripe cantaloupes, he leered, reaching inside to grope Honorias left breast. Even in her advanced state of drunkenness she fought to avoid her fate, but Robb who had also been drinking heavily gripped her dress, and to the cheers of his comrades, ripped it to the navel. Honoria swayed drunkenly and then Robb pushed her to her knees and began to loosen the ties on his trousers.
The arrow pierced his right eye and came out the back of his skull. The outlaw leader didnt even scream as he slumped to the ground, although some of those around him did. Half inebriated, the response of the outlaw band was slow. Four more arrows found their mark before anyone reacted.
Were under attack! someone screamed. It sounded like Vella, and then pandemonium broke out. Bandits ran in all directions; some for the safety of the forest and some to their weapons. Arrows continue to fly from the darkness, and then just a Jebb managed to organize a dozen of the outlaws into some semblance of resistance a ball of fire flew into the centre of the group exploding with a sound like a thunderbolt. As Jebb screamed in agony the rest of the band broke and headed for the trees.
Within seconds Honoria found herself alone in the centre of the camp surrounded by seven corpses pierced by arrows and Jebbs body which burned furiously. The only sound was the shrieks of fear as the outlaw band fled into the forest, and the crackling of the flames as Jebb burned. Whoever had shot the arrows had been deadly accurate. None of the figures on the ground stirred.
Honoria raised her head and tried to see beyond the light of the campfire. A slight movement at the edge of the camp caught her eyes and then a winged goddess stepped from the shadows. She was tall, with shoulder length hair the colour of fire. Black wings swept out from her back, contrasting with the fairness of her skin. She was nude from the waist up save for a quiver of arrows on her back and straps that crisscrossed between pink-tipped breasts that were so firm they barely quivered as she moved. Below a hard, flat belly, a dark skirt supported by a black belt fell to the front and back of her loins, revealing long, powerfully muscled legs clad in back leather sandals that were laced in black to just below her knees. In her gloved hands was a curved bow of polished dark wood.
Winged goddess, Honoria murmured, falling forward in was she hoped was a properly reverent position.
Get up you drunken fool, the goddess said. There is no telling how long the outlaws will keep running and we are both outlined by the fire.
Honoria sat back on her haunches and stared stupidly at her rescuer. It took her a second to realize the voice was that of a normal human although with a hint of an accent that she could not place. Through eyes that had trouble focusing Honoria now saw that the woman who stood before her was not winged as she had thought. Instead the wings were clearly fastened by the leather straps crisscrossing between her prefect breasts.
Princess Honoria, get up and come with me. If you do not I will leave you to the mercies of the outlaws.
The last threat and the womans commanding tone jerked Honoria out of her drunken stupor. Swaying unsteadily she got to her feet and was promptly sick, spewing a thick mixture of venison and brandy onto the ground. Come, the red-headed woman prompted again. I do not have time for this. Without further comment she turned and disappeared back into the shadows of the forest.
Terrified at being left alone Honoria staggered after her. Her head was swimming but she managed to spot the woman disappearing into the trees. Without bothering to pull up her gown Honoria ran after her. She had gone only a few feet before her dragging gown caught on a branch. The goddess help me, she gasped as she slipped out of her gown and left it dangling from the bush as she floundered after her saviour.
Tripping and stumbling through the dark, she barely kept the redheaded archer in sight. Strangely, despite her wings which project a foot to either side of her, the woman ahead of her seemed to move through the thickest vegetation with ease. It was not so for Honoria who found herself thrashing through nettles and brambles and catching on branches until her body stung with a thousand welts and bled from dozens of scratches. And then the woman suddenly halted. We are safe here, she said.
Honoria sank to her knees and leaned forward on her hands, completely done in. She doubted that even in her state of panic she could have gone much farther. In spite of her almost complete exhaustion she was able to look around her. She and the woman who had saved her were in the middle of a circle of gigantic stones that had been set on edge. Beyond was the darkness of the forest.
Too tired to even ask where she was Honoria watched as the woman put together a pile of sticks and then with a flick of her fingers set the wood alight. Honoria blinked. Surely what she had seen was witchcraft. Then she remembered the ball of fire that had burst in the campground and Jebb exploding into flames. Who are you? Honoria gasped, her heart rate accelerating.
My name is Ralasharia and you need have no fear of me. Again Honoria was struck by the strangeness of the womans accent, and her name was like none she had ever heard.
Ralasharia, she repeated slowly. I have never heard such a name before.
It means child of flame, the woman said. Come sit by the fire.
Now that she was no longer running for her life, Honoria realized that the sweat drying on her skin was now cold. She shivered and did as the woman suggested, wishing that she still had her robe. I will have to get you some clothing, the red headed woman said, but for now wear this.
From a small pouch at her waist the woman took out a filmy garment and handed it to her. What is it? Honoria asked.
Here, Ralasharia said, I will show you. She took the cloth and pulled it out. Somehow it seemed suddenly much larger than it had been when she had first taken it out. Then she placed it around Honorias waist and with a few quick twists and turns of her fingers turned it into garment that fell between her legs before and behind.
Honoria still felt naked, especially since her entire torso as well as most of her buttocks were still completely bare. Suddenly, however, she was no longer cold. She looked at Ralasharia disbelievingly. Are you a witch? she asked.
Ralasharia smiled, her beautiful face lighting up as she did so, but she did not answer the question. Instead she took something else from the pouch at her waist. It was a tiny glass vial sealed with a glass stopper. Carefully she removed the stopper and tipped a single drop into a slight hollow in the bottom of the stopper. Open your mouth, she ordered.
Honoria looked at her slack-jawed. Ralasharia smiled again. A little wider please.
Honoria suddenly understood what the woman wanted and opened her mouth. As carefully as she had extracted the liquid Ralasharia let the single drop fall on Honorias tongue. Oooooh! Honoria almost swooned as an incredible sensation rushed through her, beginning on her tongue where the drop had fallen and then rushing through her body with the speed of lightning. For as second her body radiated heat and then sudden chills swept through her replaced once again by a feeling of warmth and euphoria.
What she gasped. Her head reeled and then suddenly she noticed that she no longer felt any pain from her ordeal of the last few days and the numerous scrapes and bruises she had received had disappeared. What did you do? she finished.
Ralasharia got to her feet. I think you should sleep now. Well talk more in the morning.
Honoria was about to comment that her bizarre rescuer had answered almost nothing, but she was suddenly overcome by an incredible feeling of weariness. So much so that she could barely get to her feet and make it to the bed of boughs that Ralasharia had prepared for her. Within seconds she was asleep.
For the first time since her marriage Honoria awoke refreshed. It was a strange feeling after so much fear and torment. Sitting up she looked about her. A few feet away Ralasharia was stirring something in a small pot over the fire. It smelled incredibly delicious. Hungry? the redheaded woman asked.
Im starving, Honoria answered, getting to her feet. First though
Go outside the stone circle, Ralasharia said.
Honoria nodded and walked beyond the stones. As she did she looked back and saw to her amazement that even though Ralasharia should have been in plain sight she could see nothing of her. A sorceress, Honoria muttered. Im been rescued by a sorceress. She kept walking and completed her business and returned the way she had come. Stepping between the stones she once again found herself standing before her rescuer.
Ralasharia stirred the contents of the small pot slowly, intent on her task. As she did so a strand of her breast length hair trailed toward the pot. Absentmindedly she brushed her hair back and then looked up at Honoria with a smile. I think its ready, she said.
Honoria stared at her open-mouthed. You youre Youre an Elf! she gasped.
Ralasharia shrugged. Yes, she said. You have seen my ears. I am one of the Jauntaur; the forest elves. I had been seeking that band of outlaws for several days. Ever since I learned that they had set up camp in my forest.
Your forest? asked Honoria.
Yes, Ralasharia replied. I know that your father presumptuously refers to these woods as the Kings Lands, but rest assured. My people rule here. No Man enters here without the leave of the Jauntaur. Now would you like some breakfast?
Honoria felt famished, almost as if she had not eaten in days. She nodded quickly and Ralasharia spooned a small amount of what she had been cooking into a small cup carved from the bole of a tree. It was translucent light green fluid and smelled delicious, but it hardly seemed like enough to satisfy her appetite. As Ralasharia had not provided her with any spoon she raised the cup to her lips and drank. A warm feeling followed the flow of liquid down her throat all the way to her stomach. Her taste buds tingled. The liquid was overwhelmingly delicious, the taste remaining in her mouth long after it had passed to her stomach. Almost lost in the overwhelming taste sensation was the fact that her hunger had completely disappeared. Elven magic, Honoria observed.
To you perhaps, Ralasharia answered. Just as the making of iron weapons must seem like magic to those who work only in stone. She got to her feet. We must go now. We have a long way to go before we reach our destination and you have much to learn.
Honoria got to her feet and shook her head. I do not wish appear to be ungrateful, but I do not intend to go anywhere with you until you tell me what is going on. Where are we going and what am I to learn?
Ah, Ralasharia smiled. I am glad to see that the horror of your ordeal has not robbed you of your spirit. Very well I will tell you. It would not be fair to lead you into the dangers we may face uninformed. But please walk with me as I explain.
As I have told you, Ralasharia began. I am Jauntaur what you Men call a forest elf. But I am special among my kind. As you have noticed I have certain powers and am regarded as a shaman among my people. Some powers such as that of calling fire I can control. Others I have not yet mastered. One of these is to see that which will happen and that which is happening even though I am sometimes far away. It is in this way that I first saw you in a dream. I saw what would happen to you and what was happening to you, but I was too far away to prevent it, and perhaps I was not meant to save you from such suffering.
What do you mean? Honoria asked. You mean you saw my marriage to the Duke and what he would do to me?
Yes, Ralasharia replied. I saw everything that was going to happen to you and everything that did happen to you, but I realized that I had been given this vision as a summoning. I found you in time to save you from your last ordeal, but was unable to intervene in what happened between you and the Duke. It was something I believe the gods intended to be that way. But I saw something else in my dreams as well, and that was that I was to find you and take you to the Throne of Fire where you will meet your destiny.
The Throne of Fire? My destiny? What are you talking about?
Unfortunately, that is something I do not know. I only know that our journey there will be long and dangerous and that the Throne of Fire lies deep in the southlands in a region of which I know nothing.
Honoria stopped walking. Let me understand this. I have known you for only a few hours. I know nothing about you except that you are a Jauntaur, one of the forest Elves, and that after rescuing me from a band of outlaws you wish me to accompany you on an epic journey fraught with danger.
Ralasharia smiled. Yes, thats about it.
Does this journey perhaps involve the same sort of danger I faced at the hands of the outlaws? Honoria asked.
That might be the least of it, Ralasharia replied. We could face ordeals much worse than that. We must pass through the lands of the Grothargs.
Grothargs? Honoria asked.
Does the world of Men know nothing outside its own existence? The Grothargs are brutal man-like creatures with all of the vices of Men but with none of their redeeming qualities. We would be well advised not to fall into their hands.
Honoria took a deep breath. During the last week she had been forced into a marriage by her loving parents; repeatedly raped and brutalized by her husband; and captured and violated by bandits. She faced a charge of murder if she returned home and would probably be in complete disgrace for destroying the careful alliance with Magdoran. She didnt think she really had very much to lose. Ill go with you. But would it be possible to get me a sword?