Chapter 2 - The Quest of Coròn
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The silver-haired Elf drew his fine eyebrows into a frown, his lips slightly parted. “Sir, I’m afraid that our smiths no longer forge those particular arrows.” Coròn cleared his throat, clenching his fist. He quickly slipped his hand into his jacket and withdrew a leather bag of gold coins, clanking it onto the desk.
“Are you sure you aren’t forging them anymore?” Coròn smiled deviously. The Elf blinked slowly and stretched out his hand.
“I guess I was mistaken. If you will go through the door to your right and follow the corridor to the end, you will find the smithy. Thank you for your order.” Coròn slipped through the door, thanking the Elf heartily. He stalked along the corridor, ignoring the many doors that he passed on his way. Finally he reached a set of double doors, and pushing his way through them, found a bustling smithy beyond. He spotted an idle Elf, and tapping him on the shoulder, said,
“Sir, I have an order to fill – if you please.” The Elf hurried over to one of the many glowing fires.
“What will you have?” Coròn explained what he needed to the Elf, who took lengthy notes with an owl-feather pen. “You will be able to pick your order up in two days. For now, goodbye.” Coròn touched his forehead in a sign of respect and left the smithy. He returned to the forest-like city outside, searching for an inn among the many camouflaged buildings. At long last, he found a small inn nestled between a blacksmith and a baker. He picketed Xerxes in the stable that was provided at the base of the tree and climbed a white ladder toward the inn, which was balanced precariously at the top of a large, dead tree. The proprietor welcomed him warmly.
“Would you like any wine?” It was true that the Elves had perfected the art of wine-making in Amontia. Coròn nodded, taking a seat at the bar. The Elf handed him a bone goblet full of deep red wine. “Will you be staying at my inn?” he asked hopefully.
“Yes, but for two days only.” Coròn thoughtfully sipped his wine, trying to shake off the pesky inn-keeper.
“What is your business here?” the Elf pressed, sitting down beside Coròn.
“I’m here to order weapons, but that is all.” He swilled the wine about in the bottom of the goblet, staring at his miniscule reflection. The determined Elf persisted.
“You may not know this, but the Elves have been forging weapons for thousands of years now, ever since our ancestors set foot in Amontia. Our weapons are of the utmost quality, incredible in fact…not to brag,” he finished lamely. Coròn nodded noncommittally, still slowly sipping his wine.
“And where, pray tell, did the Elves originally come from, before they came to Amontia?” Coròn asked, trying to get a worthwhile remark from the Elf, who shrugged, grinning.
“Not even the Old Ones tell us that, now do they? But legend tells of a city in the clouds, where there are rivers of gold and the grass is the color of jade. Nevertheless, no one can tell what of this is fact and what is fiction.” By now, Coròn had finished his wine. He had never known that the Elves had a legend of their homeland, but he was tired, so he did not inquire any further.
“Can you show me to my room now?” Coròn asked, “For I am weary.” The Elf bowed and led him to a small room that overlooked the circular lake.
“Rest well,” the Elf said, closing the door and leaving a platter of bread on Coròn’s table. Although the sun was still high in the sky, Coròn crawled between the sheets of the cot that sat in the corner and fell asleep.
The dragon riders sped away, regretfully surveying their damage. What they had done had been horrible, but necessary. Their reasons were their own, but nonetheless, necessary. They fled back toward their hideout, Rider’s Keep, hidden among the rocks of Dragon’s Perch, far south of Fabone. Few knew where they lived, but the king had ways of finding out, and an inquiry was the last thing they needed.
Coròn slept well through the afternoon and into the night. When he finally awoke, the sun had set and a number of eerie voices were wailing a lament. Coròn knew that this was a lament to mourn the passing of the sun; the Elves sang it every night in their beautiful and haunting tongue. He rose from his cot and ate the bread that the inn-keeper had left on his table, and then hurried out the door, hoping not to be noticed by the pesky manager. Coròn climbed down the ladder that spanned the length of the tree on which the inn was balanced, and trotted over to the circular lake. There, every Elf in Alba stood, clothed in dark blue velvet, wailing the song that they had sung every night since their childhood. In their hands, they each held a silver lantern, which swung gently in the breeze that was rippling the waters of the lake. The pale hunter’s moon was reflected in the depths of the lake, shimmering and white. After staring at the peculiar scene for a few moments, Coròn stalked back to the inn’s tree and mounted Xerxes; it was time for an evening stroll. The diamond stars lit his way through the town of Alba, showing him the city at night, which was extraordinarily different than it was during the day. Lights glowed blue and yellow from the boughs of the trees, without source or substance. Although they were around the lake, all the Elves were out, beautiful, albeit mournful. And mournful was what the Elves were; they had not one song that was not a lament, be it for lost love or death. Coròn had only met one truly happy Elf in his lifetime, and that was the manic inn-keeper. When he was through with his stroll, Coròn returned once again to the tree. Once he was back at the inn, he sat down at the bar, relieved to see that a different Elf had taken the place of the inn-keeper, who had apparently gone to bed. “What’ll you have?” the Elf asked solemnly. Coròn thought this funny, as the Elves drank and served nothing but wine. He threw two gold pieces to the Elf and said,
“I would like some dinner.” Coròn knew that he couldn’t get dinner at the bar, but the Elves were quite hospitable, and the Elf hurried to the kitchens to get Coròn a proper meal. As he sat, Coròn’s thoughts wandered to his daughter. Was she all right? Was Grimmold keeping an eye on her? Was she happy? The Elf interrupted his thoughts by bringing out a large platter full of bread and meat and a large bowl of stew. Coròn ate slowly, waiting for the Elf to speak.
“Does the food suit you?” he asked after about a minute. Coròn nodded, hoping to get more out of the Elf than just a simple question. When the Elf spoke no more, Coròn finally decided to start a conversation himself.
“What do you know about the legends of the Elves?” he asked, looking up from his savory meal. “I’m Coròn,” he added, holding out his hand.
“My name is Ilian,” the Elf said, taking Coròn’s hand. “I don’t know much about our legends, but what I do know, I will tell you.
“Legend says that all the Elves were born of two beings, perfect in every way. These beings were called Alorean and Marnor. They lived across the Unending Sea, in a city in the clouds. No one had yet even dared to try to cross the Unending Sea, so no one knew of this city. Very soon, Alorean and Marnor had borne so many children that the city in the clouds was becoming crowded. They decided that it was time to begin populating another place, and fill it with perfect people. So they and some of their children, the Elves, came across the Unending Sea in their silver ships, traveling closer and ever closer to Amontia. After years of sailing, they finally reached a small island. They called it Salina, and they stayed there for but a short time, for they realized that it was far too small to hold their vast numbers. Only two months after they landed on Salina, the Elves left and sailed farther west, toward the Silver Sand Beaches. They landed there and migrated to the Shady Woodlands, a bit farther to the west, and populated Alba. They’ve lived here ever since, learning from their past, and populating slowly. Alorean and Marnor returned to the city in the clouds, forever leaving their children, the proud and noble Elves.” Coròn nodded slowly – again, this was something he had never heard before.
“Do you believe the legends?” he asked, slurping up the last of his broth. Ilian silently twirled his russet hair around one finger. Finally, he nodded.
“Yes, I think I do believe them. The Elves have always had it in their hearts to return to the city in the clouds, but they have never really pursued their dream.” Coròn thought about this for a moment, pondering the story that Ilian had just told him, but the food had again made him drowsy, and the sky was beginning to blush with dawn.
“Goodnight, Ilian. I must be off to bed. Thank you for the story though,” he added before padding off to his room.
It was midday before Coròn awoke again, and he was ravenously hungry. He didn’t bother to stop at the inn bar, but galloped away on Xerxes to a bar that normally sold food. At a bustling bar out on the lake, he had a large meal of roasted venison and tomatoes, with another goblet of wine. At last, he thought, it was time to gather his arrows. He slowly made his way back to the weapons refinery, excited at the prospect of finally being able to exact his revenge – that was the reason he had ordered the poison arrows – revenge. Revenge on those who had taken his family from him, on those who had made his life empty; yes, that was what he wanted.
He entered the refinery, again smiling pleasantly at the silver-haired Elf. “My order?” he asked smoothly. The Elf produced a sleek, black quiver from behind his desk; the fledging that showed above the rim was raven feathers, deep purplish black. All thirty arrows had shafts of gleaming silver, bearing a carved and curling dragon, and the heads were black onyx, etched with Coròn’s personal mark, a narrow eye with a single teardrop below it. “They’re beautiful,” Coròn said, shaking the Elf’s hand. “Thank you.” The Elf smiled.
“And thank you for your order. And be careful with those tips,” he said as Coròn gently fingered the arrowhead. “If they as much as scratch you, you will be plagued with torturous pain. If an arrow pierces any part of your body, you will die a slow and horrendously painful death. And please,” he added before Coròn could get too far towards the door. “Don’t tell anyone where you got these. King Tabor banned them years ago.” Coròn nodded and thanked the Elf once again. Soon, he was on his way back towards Fabone, back to Reena. As he rode, he saw black smoke curling gently on the horizon, in the direction of Fabone village. Fear began to edge its way into his mind and doubt began to gnaw at his heart.
“I shouldn’t have left her,” he said wildly to Xerxes, who broke into a gallop, feeling his master’s fear. The smoke became blacker and blacker as Coròn approached, and finally he saw what he had been fearing the most – Fabone lay in ruins. Blackened trees and charred wood was all that was left of a once thriving village. Bodies were scattered about, some burned beyond recognition, others bleeding freely from knife wounds. Coròn couldn’t believe his eyes. He rushed over to the riverside, hoping to find at least one survivor, but what he saw there made his stomach turn. It was a sight he would never forget. In the water bobbed the severed head of a little girl, her blonde hair flowing out behind her in a golden fan. A thin trickle of blood flowed from her mouth and her large blue eyes were wide and staring. Coròn turned away in disgust. Where was Reena? He looked about, praying that Reena wasn’t among the dead. He headed toward one tree that was still standing, a tiny ray of hope penetrating his fear. He could clearly see a body that was still breathing, lying there, draped over two other bodies. “Reena?” he said tentatively. The body heaved itself over. It wasn’t Reena – it was Grimmold.
“Coròn,” he said frantically. “Coròn! The Dragons…the Dragons came! I couldn’t stop them, Coròn. The fire…the screaming! Oh, it was terrible!” Grimmold took a laborious breath, struggling to go on.
“Grimmold, where is Reena?” Coròn asked savagely. Grimmold did not meet Coròn’s blazing eyes, but instead tried vainly to stand.
“The Rangers came and – and killed almost all the people. I believe I’m the only one who survived, and I won’t be alive for long.” Coròn noticed that Grimmold was bleeding freely from his chest.
“Is Reena…is Reena…dead?” he asked slowly, hardly believing his ears. Grimmold rolled to the side, revealing the two bodies he had been laying on. One was the body of a raven-haired boy, but the body it seemed he was protecting was a female, a female with brown hair and startlingly blue eyes. “Reena!” Coròn cried in anguish. “My little girl!” It seemed that something had snapped in Coròn’s mind. Everyone he loved, every single person he held dear, was now gone. He cradled her head on his knee, sobbing uncontrollably. Three grey arrows stuck out from her back and a knife wound blemished her milky white cheek. “Oh, darling,” Coròn wept. “How could I have left you? My one and only, and now you’re gone!” His wails echoed dully across the river, scaring birds out of the trees. Grimmold wept too, holding his son.
“You should know that my son died protecting Reena,” he said, tears making shiny trails down his grimy cheeks. “They loved each other and they died in each other’s arms.” The two men wept together, for hours it seemed, until finally the sun began to sink in the sky. Coròn began digging a shallow grave in the riverbank, his shoulders shaking with suppressed sobs. Grimmold had lied back down, his breath ragged again. Coròn gently laid Reena’s still form in the hole, kissing her bloodied face.
“I love you, “he whispered, sprinkling a handful of dirt over her body. By the time he was done burying her, Grimmold was quite near death. Coròn knelt next to him, trying to calm his uneven breathing.
“Coròn, it is time for me to die. I’m so sorry…so sorry, that your daughter’s life was ended so suddenly. I wish I could have done more to save her.” Coròn was silent, tears still sliding down his face. “Please…please avenge our children’s deaths. That is my dying wish.” Coròn nodded. Suddenly, Grimmold went rigid and he spoke no more. His body relaxed, and his last breath faded.
“Rest in peace, my old friend,” Coròn said quietly. He dug two more graves next to Reena’s and laid Grimmold’s and Calvin’s bodies in them. He blesses their spirits and remounted Xerxes. He felt strangely empty inside, as though Reena’s death had drained every single feeling he had. He was numb with shock. But then, he realized, all his feeling was not gone. In his heart, he felt a burning, a boiling hate filling his being. He would have revenge on everyone, every last person, who had taken from him. The poison arrows hung heavy on his back. He would do all that was left in him to do – he would kill.
"I walk in the rain so no one knows that I'm crying."