The clue was quite inconspicuous, a scorched squirrel that lay in the forest with no hints of a camp being made anywhere nearby. Even the ground around it had no hints of fire. Unless some young magician was fooling around with magic right under the Illundra’s nose, there were few other reasons for such a sight.
Taking this as their first hint as to which direction they should head, they had continued deeper into the forests of Quellion until the pair decided to take a break mid afternoon.
“You know, if it weren’t for our reason for being out here Mel, I would find this place quite peaceful.” Al’ev commented after taking a bite of his military rations. He simply watched the water of a nearby waterfall as it cascaded down the side of a small hill and splashed into a pond below.
“Isn’t it though? Mel said from just beside him.
Despite the obvious danger they were sure to be facing, the beautiful young elven woman refused to let Al’ev go alone.
Al’ev had argued with her in the entry way of her home for most of the morning.
“Mel, I just don’t want to see you get hurt. You know this will probably come to a fight, right?” Al’ev had said.
“I know what going with you will mean Al’ev. I’m not stupid.”
“And I am NOT helpless. Wait right here. I will be back in a few moments.” She started to leave towards her room then stopped and turned back to him. “Don’t you dare leave without me Al’ev Reldin or not even the Gods themselves will save you from my wrath when I catch you.”
Al’ev did as she asked, having no idea what she was doing until she returned. When she did Mel almost looked like almost an entirely different person. Her hair was tied back in several braids that would ensure it stayed out of her eyes. Her body was covered in a tight fitting leather armor that was almost scandalous to look at. And on her back, Al’ev could see a familiar hilt of a weapon, one that he had held when he was much younger.
“Is that?” He started.
“Yes, the Halarian Blade.” Mel answered as she drew the weapon from the sheath that rest upon her back. She then took a few practice swings and cuts through the air.
Al’ev watched as she did so, noting that her footwork and that her grip on the hilt were perfect. “When did you?”
“Al’ev, come on. I know you’re smarter than that. Okay, remember the days before the tournament when you were practicing in old For Halar?”
“You weren’t just watching Joshua and I?”
“Oh, I was watching you alright. But I was doing so for more than just pleasure, Al’ev, though I did it for that reason too.”
Al’ev felt his cheeks begin to grow warm.
“I have spent the past four and a half years practicing the ways of the blade, among other things.” Mel said, returning the Halarian Blade to its sheath upon her back.
“What do you mean, other things?” He said, obviously shocked that the woman of his dreams had such a skill and that he had had no idea she possessed it.
Mel smiled then said a few words that Al’ev was familiar with. That they were in Sylvan hardly caught his mind, but what the words actually were was more what he was focused on. The sensation they produced. It was….
Three orbs of light shone into existence and hovered around Melesteil Rolovir as she finished a gesture to complete the spell.
“Dancing lights. You can cast spells too?”
“Some, yes. I am still not quite as good as I remember you being that night, Al’ev, but I did remember how handy those spells of yours were. That’s why I decided to follow in your footsteps and learn a bit of magic for myself. It has been very handy to have around.” She sent the lights dancing around the room.
“Well…I must say I am very impressed. I had no idea how much skill you had in the way of the blade or the way of magic.”
“Does this mean our argument is over and we can finally get to looking for my father?” She asked.
“Oh, the argument is over…and I will let you know when I find him.”
“Mel…you have no idea what combat is really like. What you saw at the tournament? That was nothing. Real combat, real life or death combat, is the most frightening thing in this plane of existence. One mistake and all you ever aspired to will go right out the window. I don’t want you to take that risk.”
“Are you done?” She said glaring at him hard enough to make him reconsider that line about “most frightening thing in this plane of existence.”
She did not let him finish. “Al’ev, you have been through things I could hardly even imagine since I last saw you. But we went through Halar together. If that does not prepare you for anything the world can throw at you, then what will?”
Al’ev was silent as he remembered the terrible night that changed everything.
The faces he would never again see…..
“Al’ev?” Mel whispered, stepping closer to him until she was face to face with him. When he did not stir, she gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. This seemed to bring him back to the present.
Al’ev sighed. “You’re right. I don’t like this, but you’re right. If you want to come along, I won’t stop you. But I will be damn sure to protect you from anything we may encounter Mel. And you had better be willing to listen to any orders I may issue.”
Mel stepped back from him, grinning, then gave him a traditional generic military salute. “Yes sir, Sergeant Reldin, sir.”
Al’ev smiled a bit. “I’m serious.”
“And so am I. But I can tell you we won’t be doing anything to help the situation if we just continue to stand here arguing.”
“Agreed. Let’s get moving.” Al’ev said and began to make for the door. With his hand on the door knob, Al’ev paused again.
“What is it? Forget something?” Mel asked from behind him.
He glanced back and looked her over. “Do you have a cloak or something you can wear over that? There is no way I’ll be able to concentrate with you running around in that outfit.”
She grinned mischievously then shoved him aside and opened the door. They stepped out into the early morning sun and had began the search together.She never did put a cloak on.
“Hey Al’ev. Al’ev?”
He snapped back to present just as a pair of hands shoved him hard enough for him to lose his balance from where he sat upon a dead tree log. He was unable to recover before he found his arm caught by the woman he loved.
“Did I get your attention?” She asked from atop the log.
“You could say that. Care to help me up?”
“I’m debating just letting you go actually.”
“You wouldn’t dare.”
“Oh?” She playfully let his arm slip a bit.
Laughing, she pulled him back up. “Remember that the next time you think about ignoring me.”
Al’ev chuckled in response.
“Come, we’ve already been here too long. We need to keep searching.”
“Right right. Just let me…stretch…ahhh. There. Much better. Shall we?”
“After you.” Mel responded.
He hopped down from the log that lay about ten feet above the forest floor and landed with a cloud of dust flying in the air.He was straightening himself up then, when he saw something shiny flying at him out of the corner of his eye, he immediately dove to the side.
A bright spear, one that could only have been a weapon of magic for it was surely made of pure light, implanted itself into the side of the hill that the log had been resting upon. It then vanished.As it did, Al’ev returned to his feet and drew his weapon just in time to fend off the attacks of a diminutive woman cursing in dwarven. A voice, he thought, was suspiciously familiar.
“Ye have no right to be wearing that armor, blasphemer!” Another swing of a weapon, Al’ev guessed it was a hammer judging by the impact it had made on the first swing.
“Nora?!” Al’ev danced back again, narrowly avoiding a follow up blow.
“Al’ev? What’s going on?” Mel said from somewhere above him.
“Just a minute, Mel.” He shouted up to her as he danced around another hammer swing.
“Blasted traitor. Fight me!” The dwarf growled before swinging again.
This time Al’ev caught the blow on his sword and managed to lock the hammer on the blade forcing the fight to come to a standstill. Al’ev took a closer look
“Nora! It is you!” He managed to get out before she shoved him back away from her.
“Aye. Though why ye’re here must be a joke of the gods. Then again, I imagine you heard the same I did.”
Al’ev paused to consider her words, keeping his sword up in a guard position.
“You’re here for Zorbane too then?”
“Aye, the bastard killed me men about a weeks ago when we stumbled across him at the border. But that does not change the fact that you are a blasphemer and a traitor. By the law of Doul and the honor of my people I am sworn to kill you.”
Al’ev sighed and dropped his guard. “Can we deal with each other later? I’m trying to help my friend rescue her father.”
“What friend? I don’t see anybody else.” Nora replied.
Al’ev looked up and saw Mel was no longer on the log. “Mel?”
“I’m over here Al’ev.”
He turned towards the voice and Mel emerged from behind a several trees behind Nora.
How did she…
“Who is your friend Al’ev?” Mel asked slowly approaching them both, weapon still in its sheath.
Nora dropped out of her combat stance but did not put her weapon away as Al’ev introduced her to Mel.
“Nora, this is Melesteil Rolovir. Mel, this is Nora. We were at the Battle of Dorn together. She is here for the same reason we are. To find and rid the world of Zorebane.”
“So she was the one all those letters were going to, Reldin?”
Before Al‘ev could answer Nora‘s question, Mel’s arms suddenly enveloped her in a hug. “You helped him get through that battle! I don’t know you very well but thank you thank you thank you!”
“Ooof. Reldin, what? What’s going on?”
Al’ev couldn’t help but laugh. Mel had managed to resolve a situation that he knew he would never have been able to handle on his own without it ending poorly.
When Mel released Nora from her hug, the holy woman straightened herself out and sighed. “Reldin I…I owe you an apology. The truth is I knew ye were a arcane caster, Reldin. New it the moment I saw you in the ruins of Halar. I prayed to the gods that nobody would find you out. For years the gods protected you. You saved our town and the lives of so many. But you know how our laws are.”
“I do. But I also know I did nothing wrong.”
“As do I…which is why I have decided I am going to forget the fact that we met here, Reldin. And it is why I have decided we should work together to end what we started two years ago.”
Al’ev nodded. “Okay. But Nora….”
“They got married? Finally? Ha ha ha! Well it was about time!”
“I wish we could have been there with them. I couldn’t believe it when those two ended up together at the festival. And now they’re married!” Mel added to Al’ev’s response as she went over to him.
“And have a child on the way.” Nora added.
Both Mel and Al’ev looked down at Nora with wide eyes.
“Aye, a child. Should be any day now. The entire garrison is excited about it.” Nora confirmed with a smile eyes off in the direction of distant Dorn.
“And so life goes on…” Al’ev stammered out.
“And so should we, Reldin. Zorebane will not sit and wait for us forever. Come.”
The three set off on the path, Al’ev with his thoughts on his friends.
“We’ll see them again someday, Al’ev.” Mel said with her hand on his arm.
“I know. When I can safely walk back into Doul, you and I will head straight to Dorn and visit our friends. I promise.”
The two stared into each other’s eyes for a short time then shared a quick kiss.
Nora looked back at that moment. “By the way Reldin. Did ye ever get married to this beautiful lass?”