“Quickly, traitor,” Ferbish ordered as he flew over Brenden. “I don’t want to spend another moment in the lands of the Droors.” As if on cue, the frosty wind picked up, sending ripples over the shrubs jutting out from the snow.
“Dear, Athena,” Brenden said, wrenching his head toward me, “I will tell you everything once we’re in a safe place. The ruins are near us where no dark elves will venture. It’s just a short walk from here.” Brenden’s voice cracked, “I promise.”
I nodded at Ferbish.
Grumbling, the gargoyle cut Brenden’s bindings. Ferbish thrust his face inches from Brenden’s. “Ye better make good on ye promise to the little Miss. If no elf will venture to that place, we can leave yer body for the mealy worms to eat. Don’t fink I won’t.”
Brenden swallowed, blinking and not saying anything. He rubbed his arms from the rope pinching his skin.
Urgently, the gargoyles flew us toward the enormous, uneven mountains. Settling on a specific area, Brenden pointed the gargoyles toward the mouth of a small cave. Underneath was a steep cliff. One false step and we would plummet to our death. “There it is.”
“How did ye come across this place, elf?” Grigor wondered as he gawked at the glowing crystal orb mounted next to an open book.
Brenden didn’t answer Grigor’s question but said, “We’d better start a fire and eat something before we rest.”
Ferbish grumbled, “I’ll make the fire. You start talking, elf, before I lose me temper.” He marched over to the nearest tree and started yanking off the branches.
Grigor followed dropping log after log onto a pile.
After the fire was lit, Pigeon landed on a small pillar next to us. She made a loud squawk.
Brenden tracked Ferbish with his eyes as the gargoyle came up next to him. “I’d rather speak to Athena alone. This doesn’t concern any of you except for her. She will be the Wishcaster, after all, and if she agrees to allow me to continue, that should be good enough for all of you.”
Ferbish glowered. “Are ye joking, elf? Ye finks me so dumb I’d let you run off wif the Miss and allow you to spin ye magic tricks on her? No. Ye confess now. To all of us.”
Swallowing, Brenden responded, “Dear intelligent challenged creature, I’m not so stupid as to think that, but this is none of anyone else’s business. I can assure you I don’t have my powers. As you can see, I’m a fairy in shadow and believe me if I could cast a good spell I would have done it by now and jettisoned us out of this bloody hell hole I used to call home.” Brenden’s eyes locked onto mine. “Please, Athena? I’m not lying. I will tell you everything.”
“Let me go with you,” Francisco spoke. “I’m with Ferbish. I don’t trust him.”
Lifting the side of my mouth, I said, “No, it’s fine. I’ll be okay, Francisco.” Turning to Brenden, I asked, “Where do you want to go, Brenden?”
“Follow me,” he said, moving toward a small bench away from everyone. I sat next to him.
Rubbing his neck nervously, Brenden began his tale.
“I am the youngest child born to the king of the Droor Elves, Sir Giric Dub MacAilf. I have three older brothers whose mother died a year before I was born. Grieving, my father married my mother, Siobhan, within a few months, and I popped on the scene much to my brothers’ distress. It wouldn’t have been so bad if my father hadn’t doted on me.
“It also didn’t help that my mother would inflict the fact of his preference every time she could.
“I will have to admit, as I grew, I was much more adept in the ways of the Droor Arts, excelling in fencing, riding, and magic.
“By the time I had reached my zenith birthday, to you that would be similar to your fifteenth year, my brothers’ devised a plan to get rid of me. My father had grown old, blind, and sick, and in his dementia, mentioned to my eldest brother, Duff, that I was the intended heir.
“Duff would not be bested by his little brother.
“He brought me out in a fight to the death.”
I cringed. “That must have been awful for you. What did you do?”
Flinching, Brenden went on, “Droor law is very clear on the matter.
“I was to take up the challenge or be cast out as a coward. It was kill my brother or be killed by him. It was his right as he would have been the lawful heir if my father hadn’t deemed me his better. I knew I was done for.
“At that time, my brother was a fully-grown elf, and although I had marked potential, the fight would have been over in a few minutes. So, I took a chance that all my fool brother wanted was the throne. But I was wrong. He wanted my death.
“When I told Duff he could have the crown, he flew into a rage, whipping my other brothers against me.
“By the time it was all over, a trial by the Droor Council was set up to banish me.
“My father was powerless against it as all the elves in the Realm were repulsed by my perceived cowardice. A Droor Elf is always brave, always fearless, always cunning. I should have jumped at the chance to defeat my brother.
“The trial took a mere hour to decide my fate.
“The words were etched with magic on my body and I was cast out.
“My shroud was taken from me, so even in the daytime, all could look upon the curse and sneer at me as if I had a horrible disease. If an unseemly character happened upon me, it was their right to do what they would with me whether that be slavery, torture, or worse. Luckily, I did have my magic skills to get by, but any crafty creature could ambush me in a minute and so, all the magic in the world wouldn’t have helped.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and my heart sank, thinking about what Brenden went through. The words on his body said to show him no mercy. “But you survived,” I breathed.
Brenden gave me a dark look. “Yes, thank the Great Guardian. The Under Realm has many exceptional creatures, one of which is the raven. Ravens are special, although fearsome as you’ve witnessed with Pigeon, but if you make a friend of one, you will have a formidable ally. I made a raven friend. His name was Rory.
“He found me in the pit of despair in this very ruin. I was about to take my life through the use of dark magic. It is said that any Droor elf who even steps on these grounds will fall under a curse for the rest of their lives as it was used by our ancestors for torture and other dark arts.
“But it was a perfect place for me. I was going to use the crytallice to wield foul magic to kill myself.
“Thankfully, as I was about to utter the last incantation to obliterate my being, Rory saved me.”
“He then encouraged me to seek sanctuary in the Middle Realm.”
“So ravens can talk,” I said, thinking I hadn’t heard Pigeon utter one word other than a few garbled warblings.
“I wouldn’t call it talking so much as perception. I basically understood what he wanted me to do. Sort of a sixth sense. Ravens are like your Over Realm angels, in a way. They can peer into the soul of a person. He knew I was innocent and took pity on me. That is why Pigeon is here with us now. She knows I hold no ill will against any of you. I’m not a traitor. If I were, she would have destroyed me long ago.”
Thinking back, Pigeon did all she could to save us, but I didn’t have any sense from her like Brenden talked about. Maybe I couldn’t understand Ravens. But it seemed logical.
Brenden continued his tale, “I then followed Rory’s guidance to Gilly’s Trap. And believe me, Athena, when I tell you there were no ogres. We ambled down the trail to the Cave of Woe.”
“What happened to Rory then? Where is he?” I asked.
Brenden swallowed, putting his face in his hands. He didn’t speak for a long time.