It has been three years and Loralil can not find peace in freedom. The beings who destroyed her life are still out there and she vows to hunt them down and make them pay for all they have done. With her uncle, Mika Silvershaft she descends from the hidden elf city to travel to Greymer. Can she find the beings who killed her parents? Should she? The quest will take her past all boundaries that should bind an elf maid. Will she survive this quest with her mind intact? The second book in the Saga of Loralil Greyfox
If you want The Traveler let me know. Or anything else for that matter. I am coming toward the end of my next novel so I should have something new sometime next month (I hope) and of course once I get a cover done for Death Walks Through that collection will be out.
Travel during the winter was always hard; it was even harder for Loralil. She was leaving the only home she had known; she had spent the last two years living with her uncle, her mother’s brother. He had tried his best to make Loralil feel welcome and it wasn’t his fault that she was leaving. It wasn’t his fault that the people of his home clan could not accept her. She had very few of the mannerisms expected of an Elven maiden. She tried to fit in, but she just couldn’t. The prejudice of the people against anything non-Elven was too much to deal with. They felt that anything or anyone not Elven was beneath notice. Never mind that Loralil had spent thirty years in human hands, she was an elf and was expected to act like an Elven maiden of her years; with all the training and knowledge that an Elven maiden of her years normally would have. The clan elders knew her history and tried to ease her way, but many just didn’t care.
Her parents had been rebels in the eyes of many here. Her mother had left to train in a human run bardic college not staying and learning from the bards at home. She had then gone on to adventure in the outside world, instead of coming home to care for her family’s businesses. She had the audacity of meeting and then she marrying outside her clan’s wishes to a different race of elf, to an elf that worked for a human monarch. And worse yet she decided to settle down with a third race of elves away from the clan and raise her family there.
She should have come home when she was carrying Loralil. That child should have been raised to be the heir to the family’s business. Instead Silverspear had sold her part of the business to her brother and stayed out in the forest. Didn’t she know that only the wood elves lived there? No high elf should live there. It had to have been the influence of Stoneblade. He was of the Grey Elves. They were notorious woods’ runners.
Loralil tried to live up to the expectations of her uncle because really he didn’t ask much. Simply that she try and that she keep her temper under check. She had let it loose once early on in her residence in the city. That fool was now walking with a severe limp. Silvershaft had apologized, explaining to the young lord that Greyfox had spent the last ten years as a slave in the arena of Greymer. He had tried to swear the fop to secrecy, but the word got out quickly and after that she was pretty much left alone.
But that was part of the problem, she was left very alone. Mika had hoped that she would find friends of her own age and have a chance to grow, maybe work out a new self-image and understanding. A few would talk to her it was true, but it was mostly to learn about the bad things in her life, treating her much like a caged beast with their fascination. There were a few, a very few who would talk to her just because she was a sad and lonely sight.
She spent much time wandering though the city streets, alone. If someone had asked she would have told them she was trying to find a place of trees that she could feel comfortable. The first part of her life she had been surrounded by trees and had always found solace in the branches of the great trees. That part of her life she remembered.
These elves where less tied to the natural world. They seemed to be more ethereal than the people she remembered from her childhood. They were less free with their affection to each other and spent much of their time making art. The soaring buildings of crystal and stone were marvels to look at and dazzled many, but they felt cold to Loralil. The people seemed much like their towering buildings. They were cold and haughty, at least to the small, delicate woman. They were more concerned with rank than with the person they were talking with. Loralil could not understand this attitude.
When she could no longer stand to remain inside the tall marble walls of the city she started making plans. There were few trees inside the tall marble walls and she did not feel comfortable. It was if she could not find the peace to just breath and sometimes she felt like a small mouse surrounded by the sweeping towers. Insignificant and alone even with the love and care of her uncle.
She just had to find some trees to live under. She longed to hear the cry of the hunting falcons and the skittering of the small lives on the forest floor. She dreamed at night of long, winding paths through deep green. That is when she wasn’t fighting off the nightmares. So much stone around her was like being trapped back in Greymer.
For two years she put up with the stone, with the silence and with the stares, but she had had enough. She had tried to stay, tried to fit in, but there was a dark need inside her to get out and finish something. She hated that part of her and wished she could be what Mika hoped her to be.
Her uncle had given her a home and her freedom. He offered her love unconditionally and protected her from those who had no compassion. He held her gently when the nightmares got too much and she knew she could trust him. He did not care about her past and found people who didn’t care either to teach her those things she needed to know. He was a good person and had given up thirty years of his life tracking down his only surviving sister’s child. He gave up status in the city of his home by taking her in and trying to help her fit in.
While she made her plans she did not see his wise eyes following her. He knew she was planning on leaving what he had hoped would be a sanctuary for her. He knew that it was a difficult thing for the girl once known as Greyfox. He had come to love his niece in the time it took them to travel from Greymer to the hidden city of Mer’Beyrl. Now he knew that he had to let her go. She just didn’t fit in among the sweeping spires of Mer’Beyrl.
Truthfully he found that he himself didn’t fit in anymore. He was thinking of leaving the city to live in the world outside. All the years he had spent looking for his niece he had been working and living with beings of almost every race. Many friends had come and gone in that time, friends who still held a place in his heart. The three he had lost in his quest especially came to mind when he stared out of the city in the depth of the night.
He could not hold the view that they were not worth the air they breathed that the elite of the city had. He had known his brother-in-law and had found him to be an honorable and loving person. He had kept up writing letters to his sister after she had made her decision to leave and live her life as she saw fit. He had read everything she had written about her family and her friends in the woods. She had loved her world and everything she had learned. A part of him would always belong to the crystalline towers of his birthplace, but like Silvershine and her daughter, he did not fit here any longer.
Loralil rode through the mountain pass and down into the woods that hid the city. Even though these were woods they were just to close to the city to feel right to her. Too close to those prejudiced fools. A part of her longed to be on the road with Mika again and it was too bad that Uncle Silvershaft had stayed in the city. He had more life in him than almost anyone else she had met. There were two or three young elves that looked as if they would rebel against the path their parents had chosen for them, but she doubted they would. Tradition was just too strong in a place like that. The so-called high Elves were just as stodgy as her mother once joked they were. She wished she had a little company, but found that it was nice not to have the babble of voices surrounding her.
She rode far into the night and only pulled up to camp when her horse was showing signs of fatigue. It took her very little time to learn how to care for such a large animal on the trip to the city. Just brushing his hide was a relaxing and soothing activity, one that helped her come to grips with no longer being a slave.
Truly this creature was a revelation to her. The giant, to her, creature was calm and surprisingly sweet. Simple gifts of sugar cubes or an apple from dinner brought about a gentle head bump and wicker. The simple companionship of the beast helped her in ways she did not yet understand. Yes it was nice to have the mobility it represented, but more it was a life that she could care for and not be expected to lose at a whim.
Her uncle had presented her with this horse just hours after he gave her her freedom. She was not sure if he knew just how great a gift he had given her. From being property to being free to then being given the gift of her own steed was almost overwhelming.
She had slowly come to trust and care for her uncle. He had gently taught her that life held more than death and pain with simple acts of kindness that really were not as simple as people claimed. When he had finally convinced her that she was truly free ad that what she wanted mattered she had started to trust. It had taken them a month to reach Mer’Beyrl, but that month was taken slow and easy, not because either rider needed to the pace, but to give her the time to come to grips with her new world.
The first nights had been harsh. The nightmares that she had learned to repress via strong drink came back in force. She had cut her uncle before realizing he was trying to calm her. His calm acceptance of her reflex action puzzled her at first, but he talked her slowly through the following nights of unformed memories and dreams. He came to understand her and he never judged her for what she had been forced to become. They did not speak of what had truly happened to her, but of commonplace things. Mika had used the beauty of the nature around them to bring her back from the nightmares of blood, fear and pain.
She found that she really loved him and was glad that he was safely living beyond the reach of the people she planned on tracking down. She knew that she would find no rest until she knew that each of the individuals who had killed her parents and all her childhood friends were dead. She knew that it was unlikely that any of them were still alive, but she had to clear the slate.
She knew just where to start, back in Greymer. The house she had been first sold to was still in business when she left Greymer. The madam who bought her would be getting very old, but then a Madam didn’t need to service the clientele. Loralil had heard that the woman had paid a mage to make her a youth potion. She was rumored to look no older than middle aged. Admittedly that was from a fighter who had been to the house after Loralil had been sold to the arena. Things had probably not changed much in the time she had been gone, she hoped. She needed to face that first woman and find out if the Beast of her nightmares still lived.
Hours later she sighed as she pulled out of her thoughts. It was getting on toward night and it would be best to look for a place to camp. She pulled her horse to a stop and dismounted as she came near a stream. This was one of the spots that had been set aside as a campsite for the few traders let inside the city. It always had a stack of wood put to the side and a fire pit.
She set up camp and then moved to groom her animal. The big roan whickered and snorted when he saw the brushes come out. He leaned into her strokes like a cat being stroked. It was that in fact that she had named him, Catkin. While she worked him over she unconsciously started to hum. When she felt she was alone she would let the music that filled her at peaceful moments out. It was just a little tune that she made up during all the boring lessons that the city council decided she needed to learn.
She knew within days that the things that mattered to the city councilors were not what her mother had meant by learning about being an elf. Manners were all well and good in some situations, but most of the long and involved practices of how to address who and when to bow or not just baffled her. In the arena you bowed to the lords and to your trainer. On the sands you bowed once to your opponent, the rest was hogwash to her. Why did it matter how deep she bowed to whom? The difference between the artist and the baker were not so distinct in a city where everything was done as art. The simplest thing was taken to a new level and she guessed that giving all that appreciation would be taxing if you didn’t know who was who.
When she was finished grooming Catkin she covered him with his blanket, tethered him and spread out fodder. With a final pat she turned to make her own meal. The woods were quiet around her and she savored the peace. No stiff rituals here, she could make a bowl of soup and not have to worry if the slices of carrot were carved into roses or some such.
While the stew cooked she settled herself into a comfortable position and took a deep breath. She had focused hard on the lessons from her uncle. Of all her teachers he had found the things that she really needed to learn. The old lessons from her parents on how to ground and center herself came back quickly under his patient tutelage. She slipped easily into a meditative state.
From this state she could feel the sleepy life around her and could feel the slow flow of that life. It was very soothing to her battered soul and it gave her a piece of mind she could not find in the city. Each time she tried to mediate in the city something or someone would interrupt. Here the creatures just lived and she found the peace she so desperately longed for
The solitude of her simple camp opened up her mind in ways she had struggled to do back in Mer’Beyrl. It was wonderful, cold and peaceful here with no one around, but her horse and the small lives in the trees. She turned her senses inward and looked at the landscape inside her mind. There were now more open doors and new connections that had not been there before. Places that she would look into and then lock down, places that she was not yet ready to take a look at. Yes some day she would need to work through so many things, but until she removed the power of the monsters of her past she would never reach the inner stillness that her mother wanted for her.
She did not plan on a long meditation, just a quick easing of the day’s labors and a time to relax. It wouldn’t be wise to sit still out in the open on the ground, as it was a cold night. She slowly came up out of her trance to the savory smell of the stew she had started. She had learned to cook during her time in the city. Not the fancy dishes that so many there loved, but the simple and basic food that any peasant could learn. Yes she did take the lessons on flavoring to heart. Simple herbs and seasonings did not take up much space and things that were found in the Elvin city were not likely to be found elsewhere. It was a very satisfying thing to know that you could make a good and tasty meal with whatever came to hand. She stretched and reached over to the pot to give it a good stir. Another intercepted her hand.
Before she opened her eyes she sensed a presence in camp with her that was not Catkin. She kept her breathing level and slowly looked through her lowered lashes. It took a moment and she found the face before her surprised her. “Uncle!”
“Niece!” He smiled at her surprised expression.
“What are you doing here? I thought you were going to stay in the city.” A part of her leapt with happiness while another small part roared in rage. She had thought to make this journey alone.
“I decided that I could no longer sit and watch the world go on about me. I thought I’d join you on your quest. Together we can travel the world, looking at the wonders around us.” He spoke with the haughty tones of the city dwellers Loralil left, but she could see a twinkle of laughter in his eyes. “Really child, I need the outside as much as you do. I miss my friends. Besides I can help your search. I still have contacts in the large cities.”
Loralil did her best to keep a smile from breaking out. She took a shallow breath and tried to be stern. “But Uncle, I have plans I don’t want to involve you in. Dangerous plans.”
“I know.” Mika became serious now. “You plan on tracking down the villains who hurt you.”
Loralil started with surprise. How had he figured out her plan? She had told no one and had made no obvious plans in that direction.
“Greyfox, I think that I can honestly say I am the only person who has any inkling of how you think. We have spent many nights talking of your past in your village and of your memories of your parents. Also remember I grew up with your mother. You are very like her and she would have followed the trail of anyone who hurt someone she loved like a bloodhound. , but you must realize that few if any of the beings will still be alive after 33 years.” He watched her face, saddened that his use of her birth name caused her to shudder and the light briefly flicker in her eyes. She was not yet ready to use that name it seemed.
“I know that.” Loralil said quietly. “I expect to find little if anything, but it is something I must do. I can’t go on and find peace knowing that even one of those animals is still alive.” Loralil’s face became stone hard as she spoke and her eyes turned black with the hate she carried.
Mika was startled by the change and concerned at what it meant. He had seen the quiet part of his niece and on one instance he had seen the temper she held under tight control. In the past two years he had rarely seen her laugh and he had never seen her cry. It worried him to no end when she told him that she had not cried in all the years since her parents had died. Almost the only emotion he had seen was a deep sadness that she kept locked up inside and a deeper loneliness. He was just glad that she trusted him enough to smile and relax in his presence. He wisely kept his silence. It looked as if he might finally learn more about a time in her life that she kept silent.
Loralil sat a few moments in silence holding an internal debate. She had not spoken to a living being of her life after the destruction of her home. Many in the Mer’Beyrl had tried to get something out of her and she kept silent. They had known that she had spent thirty years in the hands of several human owners and that the last fifteen years of that time she had been forced to kill other living beings, but only her uncle knew that she had spent fifteen years as a slave in the brothels of Greymer. Looking up at her uncle she took a deep breath and launched into the tale of her life from the moment her village was invaded. Mika wisely kept his mouth shut. He knew that if he interrupted her recital that she would bottle it all up again. Her lost memories had returned in the quiet years in the elf city. They needed to be talked out. They were eating away at her heart.
As the evening wore on he went from sickened to outrage to something like the controlled hate that Loralil had been holding inside these past two years. He now understood her need to put to rest the past. He was amazed that she had held onto any sense of sanity. As she ran down she looked up at her uncle with a touch of fear in her eyes. She expected to see disgust at what she had to do to survive. Instead she saw understanding and compassion and a touch of the rage she herself carried inside. She knew with that look that her uncle would help her track down the fates of all the beings that abused her. Without a word they rolled up in their bedrolls and went to sleep. The morning was soon enough for them to talk of plans.