"Yep - that's the DeLorien, alright," Emmer Ribord called down to the elves at the base of the tree. "It's looking a little worse for wear... and it's missing a horse, too! Looks like Gaymar's alright, though."
The little watch party looked at each other. After a brief discussion, one of the elves broke away and melted into the forest.
"Er...I meant Gaymar, your Lordship," Barthe Solte said.
"Oh. I thought you were talking about the chariot. That's good, I suppose. How far away is he?"
"I would suggest about fifteen minutes at his current pace."
"FIFTEEN MINUTES? Bloody hell, man! What am I paying you lot to do out there all day? I would have expected a day's warning at least!"
"He wasn't a days journey away, your Lordship." Barthe sighed. He hated explaining things like this to Vass. "Besides, we knew you were... busy." Barthe nodded towards the elf on his knees next to Vass.
Vass Saleen clipped the kneeling elf on the side of the head. "You heard him. Only fifteen minutes now. And you've still got the other hand to do. Get on with it! Manicures don't do themselves, you know!"
Barthe offered a salute and turned to go.
"Hey, you - security guy!" Vass called out.
Barthe sighed and turned around. "Barthe Solte, m'lord," he replied in a strained voice.
"Get a band or something down there. Maybe trumpets. I like trumpets."
"A band, m'lord? At such short notice, I suspect we could at best find one or two horns?"
"Sure. Yeah. Okay. You go ahead and get that organised. And get me my cloak. The lilac one. No, make that the fuchsia one. Chop chop, now!" Vass clapped his hands, much to the annoyance of the manicurist.
Barthe turned and walked out. That little shit had better have killed a hundred dwarves...
At the head of this pitiful procession rumbled the once pristine DeLorien. It was being led by Filli Paymassah, the only one of the chariot crew that could still limp in a straight line. The gathering elves stared as the procession rumbled forward, silent and dutiful.
Standing alone in the chariot, both hands on the rail, was Gaymar the Foccer. He stared grimly ahead, turning his head to look at his father only when the chariot creaked to a halt before him.
Lord Vass Saleen smiled at his son. Having taken in the scene, he thought he'd start in the most optimistic frame of mind and give his son the benefit of the doubt.
"Morning, chap! How's things?"
Gaymar nodded slowly, the pain causing him to scowl as he did so. "Peachy. Just peachy"
Vass walked up to the side of the chariot. Gaymar hadn't moved. Vass looked at Gaymar's hands and then peaked over the side of the chariot at his feet.
"Did they nail you to the chariot?"
Gaymar sighed. "I was hoping you wouldn't notice. Yes, actually, they did. Good chaps, the dwarves. Think of everything. This way, I wasn't in danger of falling out or anything, you know. Always embarrassing, falling out of chariots"
Filli shuffled his feet nervously.
"And they've shaved your head," Vass said in a matter-of-fact tone.
Gaymar nodded again. "Like I said, they think of everything, the little miniature wonders that they are. Couldn't get my hair stuck in a tree or anything, you know."
Vass nodded. "Yes. That would be awful. Pull at the nails, that would."
"Exactly. Don't want to pull at the nails. That would just be a uncomfortable."
"No, no. Quite right." Vass pursed his lips. "Very uncomfortable."
He looked closely at his son's face. "Is that a dent in your forehead?"
"A dent? That's a strong term. A dent. More of an impression, really. The briefest of inclinations. One of the dwarves was good enough to show me some of his jewellery, that's all. Just a bit of fun." Gaymar offered a wan smile and forced a light laugh through his cracked lips.
Vass raised an eyebrow. "Anyway, did you, uh, want us to take the nails out? Seeing as how you've safely arrived?"
Gaymar smiled brightly. "That'd be super if you could. I shan't be needing them anymore."
She felt groggy and slow. She blinked and blinked, trying to force her eyelids to open enough to see. She was just so tired. Eventually, she managed to lift her eyelids enough to allow the blurriness to clear. Without moving her head, she swivelled her eyes to the right, where she took in the shape of a dwarf, spread-eagled on the floor.
At this point, her strength failed her and her head lolled forward. Again, from the new position of her head, she forced her eyes open and rolled her eyes up and to the right to look at the dwarf. It hurt looking at him, but she forced her way through the pain. At first, she thought he was dead, but having stared at him for what seemed like a lifetime, she realised that the awful thing was breathing. Long, deep peaceful breaths - the horrid creature was sleeping.
Drawing her deepest breath yet, she rolled her eyes over to the left. Nothing. Her right eye was okay, but the left had nothing. She blinked again, raising her eyebrows as high as she could to force the eye to open, but still nothing. That was odd.
Ellendee the focussed her attention on the fire, dead ahead of her. There, sitting on a barrel - was that an elf? She couldn't make out his face from here, but it was definitely an elf. He was facing her, but his head was hung, exposing his bald pallet. She could make out cuts and scabs across the head, as well as a few tufts of hair.
She recognised the form, but surely it wasn't -
But it was.
Gaymar. So they had lost, then. They had been captured and they had shaved his head. She had heard of this before with the dwarves. It suggested that they weren't going to kill them, but the shaving of the head was a grave insult.
Well. They're not getting my hair.
She took in the rest of the scene: Gaymar was perched on the barrel, more or less in the centre of a group of dwarves, all lying about in various states of drunken stupor. She could barely make out the back of a dwarf who appeared to be standing at the very edge of the camp site. He appeared to be urinating. She watched as he slowly keeled over backwards, creating a majestic fountain in the firelight before he hit the ground. His helmet rolled round and round on the floor like a coin, before shuddering to a stop somewhere out of sight.
It was at about this time that the pain started cutting through her daze. Her whole body was just one dull ache. Her eyes were scratchy, especially the left one. She was glad to be so far away from the fire - even from here she could feel the heat, which was extremely uncomfortable, especially on her exposed skin.
Ultimately, this discomfort, combined with her concern about her hair, caused her to start moving. With muscles straining, she managed to force herself to sit upright. All she could hear was the crackle of the fire and the gentle breathing of an army of drunken dwarves.
Ellendee realised that her hands were chained. She followed the chain with her eyes, locating the end of the chain in the hand of the first dwarf she saw. Despite the pain, she raised an eyebrow.
Unfortunately, not all of them had been asleep. She would have killed them all if that was the case. Some of them still had the discipline to keep a watch of sorts, keeping an eye on the surviving elves. It occurred to her that the only reason she hadn't been watched like the other elves was because they thought she was dead.
It would only be later in her life that she would learn that the dwarves always chained wizards, even if they were dead. Apparently, they could never be too careful.
But the dwarf with the chain hadn't been too careful. He'd been drunk. And now, he was dead. Until that night, killing had never brought her any pleasure. But that dwarf - she grinned from the moment she wrapped the chain around his neck until the moment he gargled the last blood-flecked dribble of saliva from his twitching body. It had been reckless, but worth it. No one had seen her.
A quick search revealed the freedom she needed from the chains.
After that, she had marshalled the remainder of her strength and simply crawled into the forest. If she could get far enough, she would be able to get help and possibly still save the remaining elves.
Slowly, Ellendee sat up and rested her back against the pillar -
"Wakey, wakey! Wide-awakey!" a glee filled voice squeaked above her.
Ellendee squealed in fright, the sound escaping before she could clap her filthy hands over her mouth. Shivering and wide-eyed, she looked up.
Sat atop the stone pillar, looking down at her between his oversized feet, sat a vile, yellow goblin. His eyes almost glowed red in the fading light, but there was no malice in his expression or countenance. She noted with interest his thick moustache and side burns - she had never seen such a goblin before.
"Hee hee," he giggled, amused by her shock. "Wakey elfy! Elfy wakey!" he sang, rocking backwards and forwards on the pillar.
Malice or no, she wasn't taking any chances. Fireball was ingrained in her, now. The words came naturally, and as she started chanting and gesturing, she could feel the power rising within her. The pain left her as she drew on the unseen forces disguised in the natural order of things. It felt so easy! As she chanted, she rose in the air and spread her arms out. Why hadn't she thought of this before? She knew she could fly and she knew that casting made her feel fantastic.
The goblin watched in awe, jumping to his feet on top of the pillar as she rose to the same height as him. "Yes, yes!" he cackled, dancing and spinning on the pillar. "Hee hee! Hee hee!"
Overwhelmed with the power of magic, she had to launch the fireball - there was no doubt about that. She was, however, a little hesitant to shoot the goblin - he seemed to be the only one there and he could have killed her while she slept. She hurled the fireball at the base of the pillar, pleased with the shape and intensity of the explosion. All of the brush and overgrowth was set alight.
Despite the force of the blast, the little goblin had retained his footing. He bounced up and down, delirious with joy, cackling and whooping.
"What do you want?" she barked.
"Ha ha! Hoo hoo!" was the ugly thing's only response.
She tried again. "What do you want?"
"Read! Lookey look!" The goblin pointed at the pillar. "Read the stone! Stone the read!"
She saw that as the undergrowth around the pillar burned, strange symbols had started appearing on the sides. She recognised them. This was the language in which her spell book had been written in - before it had been eviscerated in that accident with her idiot cousin.
Her eyes stretched wide as she read the runes, easily taking in their intent and meaning. It purported to be a spell of vengeance. From this, she could wield unholy wrath against her hated foes and the stone would do the rest. This was why it was so easy to draw power - the whole area was drenched in the latent magical power of the stone.
She flexed her fingers, and without so much as a word, caused the goblin also to raise into the air. The creature whooped in delight, spreading his arms out wide, as if to embrace the very air.
Together, they flew around the pillar - the goblin for the sheer joy of it, Ellendee slowly rotating around it to read everything it had. What an incredible find! All of her pain and discomfort had evaporated in the sheer joy of magic.
The pillar had turned out to be only the tip of the iceberg. Like an iceberg, most of it was hidden below the ground. She commanded it to rise out of the ground and display it's full glory and all of it's hidden secrets. And there were many.
Through it, she learned about the power of emotions and feeling. She learned how she could channel feelings to strengthen herself. Not just through magic, but in her every activity. Anger was a rich platform from which to raise the deepest levels of magic or to just slice a fruit. She could use disgust to detect illness or reject poison. Love could be used to rule kingdoms, or damn the weak to oblivion. And it felt like she had always known this. Surely this was why she found it so easy to understand? How could this bastion of knowledge have lain here undetected like this? It must have been passed a thousand times, but with no-one having the aptitude to reveal its secrets.
Now they were her secrets.
The feeling she revelled in most right now was hatred. She loved hatred! As the sky darkened and gave way to stars, she lay on her back and fantasised about that dwarf and his warmachine. Even now, that little runt was no doubt making his way home, patting himself on the back for slaying an elven sorceress. As the night deepened, she concocted a thousand ways to find him and remind him of her and who she was. There was no fatigue and she became more and more excited as each thought became more real and tangible to her. The funny thing was, even as much as she revelled in the hatred, she was in no hurry to find him.
Her thoughts switched to her cousin. As for that idiot. Her hatred died away. She didn't hate him...no, it was more like sorrow. She felt sorry for him. She could afford to be arrogant - her new found power filled her with the confidence of a thousand wizards - but Gaymar? That poor sod had no substance at all. Thinking about it caused her to weep.
Great sobs wracked her body as she explored her sorrow. She loved sorrow! The more she cried, the more she laughed, until could no longer lay still. Joy gave way to shame, as she thought of all those failed fireballs and her own stupidity had nearly cost her her life and had certainly cost her her eye. She traced her hands over her burned skin, her fingers softly running over the scarred and melted surface. She explored her left eye, feeling the melded eyelid. The touch was painful, but each little sensation thrilled her in a way she couldn't even begin to describe. She loved pain!
The little goblin copied her wherever he could - when she laughed, he laughed. As she danced in the evening light, so did he, his exaggerated movements easily complimented by her own sensuous movement. Together, they danced and sang and laughed and cried, thrilled in each others company and the comforting presence of the great pillar.
Revelation upon revelation had come to her as she had danced that night. She knew that she was being called to devote herself to whatever god the pillar had been erected to. She cast augurs and divinations, exploring her own future and that of the forest. In doing so she learned that there was a companion for her hidden beneath the stone monolith.
Using hew new found powers, she summoned creatures from another place to help her. It seemed to her that they mimicked her appearance - each bizarre creature a woman similar in shape to Ellendee, yet wholly different. They each kept their left eye shut, in deference to her. Their legs were bestial, yet beautiful. Each woman had beautifully patterned claws, seemingly ideal for the magical dance they now weaved. In the shadows, they whispered more secrets to her and together, they again danced around the stone, casting a great spell of force, toppling the great stone obelisk.
As the stone crashed to the ground, a great bolt of lightning struck the site where it's base once was, deep in the hole where it was hidden. As one, the summoned women snaked past Ellendee, each leaning forward to kiss her on her cheek. As they sailed by, they urged her to get into the hole and claim her eye. The heavens opened and a blanket of water rained down, heavy enough to sting. Soon they could hear nothing else but the thunderous roar of the rain on the ground and the forest canopy. She loved the rain!
Down she climbed, the little goblin scarpering after her, still babbling and gibbering like a madman.
"Hooray!" he cried, bounding into the hole. "Moody Mud! Muddy Mood!"
She dropped into the knee deep mud, the goblin smacking face first into the muck shortly after.
Without seeing, she knew to put her hand into the mud, where she grasped the hilt of a sword. A surge of excitement and joy unlike anything she had ever experienced jolted through her body, causing her to cry out in excitement. The goblin jumped up and down in the mud, giggling maniacally.
"Splishy Splashy! Splashy Splishy! Hee Hee!"
Ellendee wrenched the blade from it's hiding place, thrusting it high into the air. It cried out to her in hunger. Give me the goblin! it cried, deep within her head.
But Ellendee was not so weak. "I am not your tool!" she shouted. "You are mine! And so is the goblin!" She didn't know how, but she injected her will into the blade. "Remember that!"
Ellendee's final act of madness was to cut her own eye out.
The forest erupted in a second howl, as she thrived on the pain of the blade sinking into her eye. Without waiting, she clawed at the fallen monolith, breaking off a piece of the ancient stone. Using her new found strength, she crushed the stone in her hand, leaving a piece of stone roughly the size of her eyeball. She unceremoniously pushed the stone into the eye socket, muttering words of magic as she did so. She wouldn't be able to see perfectly with the cursed stone.
Later, she would realise that the makeshift magical eye would only see at night, but for now, it would do.
"What is your name, my glorious master?" he hissed, making sense for the first time. "How will I announce you?"
After everything that happened, she was taken aback by the question. What should she call herself? Thinking about it, she could be almost anything now.
"Er...Ellendee Generis?" she blurted.
"Ellenn Degenerate!" the yellow goblin hissed. "Dellen Egenerate! Hee hee!"
"Um...no, let's just use Ellendee-"
"Ellenn Degenerate! Hee hee!"
"Fine," she sighed, raising her hands in surrender. "Ellen Degenerate."