Ties That Bind
Blood in the Forest
Birds were singing in the thick blanket of trees. They called back and forth in a language all their own. Moss grew fat on the large trunks of the forest trees and the earth was soft. Water seemed to hover under the natural canopy, making it seem hazy even at midday. Many reptiles and brightly colored amphibians scrambled through the ground ferns and small brush. A howler monkey scurried through the canopy, using its long limbs and tail to brachiate on the branches. It sat on a limb; eating a leaf and watching.
The simian creature took no notice of the six figures that moved silently beneath it. They were spread out, with about fifteen feet between them. They were elves, and they were hunting. The group came to a small stream, only a foot deep and seven feet across. Three of the elves crossed the water; lightly jumping from stone to stone without any trouble. One of the elves, Bynn, attempted the same tactic; however the moss caused him to slip. The toe of his capybara-skinned boot had barely dipped into the water when an arm grabbed him and kept him from embarrassing himself further. He gave a slight nod to his savior, righted his footing, and shot across the stream. The female who had saved him, Vaidon, followed. The clumsy male was glad his face was covered by his cowl, for he was thoroughly ashamed of his misstep.
The final elf leaped over the stream in a single jump; landing without a sound. His name was Kaa. He was the leader of the hunting pack, and the father of Vaidon. He was not happy that his daughter had aided Bynn. Bynn was highborn, pampered in the comfort of the palaces for almost a century, and had no business on the hunt. Kaa had suspected there was more than friendship between his daughter and Bynn when she lobbied for him to join their hunt. As he watched the two, with arms entangled staring at one another, he knew that something must be done to stop the budding romance.
The elves continued their hunt until it started to get close to dark. Kaa gave a whistle that sounded much like a bird call, and the five others came to him. “We will make camp here,” Kaa commanded. “No fires, though. I think we are close to our quarry.” The group pulled hammocks from their packs and strung them between two trees. It was far too dangerous to sleep on the ground in the forest, where even the insects are killers. Kaa was not surprised when Bynn and Vaidon hung their hammocks next to one another.
“Vaidon, might I have a word with you?” It was a question, but both father and daughter knew the answer. Vaidon followed Kaa away from the others. “What do you think you are doing?”
“I don’t know what…”
“Yes you do! Do not play games with me,” Kaa whispered harshly. “If you wish to be an adult then speak to me as such. That boy has no business being out here. He is going to get hurt, or worse cause you to get hurt.”
Vaidon flushed with anger and embarrassment. She knew Bynn was a liability but she wasn’t going to admit it to her father. “That boy’s name is Bynn.” Vaidon managed. She was much more adept with her swords than with her words.
Kaa grabbed her arm, something he had not done since she was a child. “No!” he stated, louder than he intended. “His name is Bynn Al Tor. Don’t be foolish enough to think that the fact he is highborn means nothing.” Kaa softened as he looked into Vaidon’s wide eyes. “He doesn’t belong here, that is all I am saying.” He let go of her, and she lowered her gaze.
“He trained in the palace, you know.” Vaidon stated, hoping it might mean something to her father. It did mean something to Kaa, just not what Vaidon had in mind.
“Precisely, he trained in the palace.” Kaa grabbed her shoulders and kissed her on the forehead. “I am going to scout around tonight, tell the others.”
“Will you not sleep?”
“I wouldn’t be able to sleep knowing that you are sleeping next to him anyway.” Kaa smiled at his lovely daughter. He was glad that she was not too upset with him.
Vaidon approached the simple camp, her mind raced with the words of her father. The elves were all congregated in the branches of a large tree. Two of the elves were sharpening their weapons, using a thick leather strap to give the blades a razor-sharp edge. One of the elves was letting a huge rhinoceros beetle clamber across his hands. Vaidon watched Bynn; he was talking with the other elves, asking questions and learning. One of the elves dropped a rag which they had been using to clean their bow, and Bynn quickly scrambled down the tree; catching it before it hit the ground.
Vaidon smiled. An elf could be trained to become a great hunter, but a kind and caring spirit could not be taught. She approached the others, “Kaa is scouting. He wants us to be ready in the morning.”
“We will be ready,” one of the elves stated and the others nodded. They finished cleaning and sharpening their weapons, and the beetle was set free. Each made their way to their respective hammock. They left their armor on while they slept. Kaa wanted them to be ready, and they would not let him down.
Bynn whispered to Vaidon as they hung next to one another, separated by just two or so feet of air. “Your father does not like me; thinks I am a liability. I can’t argue either. I would have fallen into the stream if you wouldn’t have caught me.”
“Stop right now,” Vaidon cut him short. “My father wants you to perform. Show him that you can hunt; that is all that matters to him. He isn’t sure if you are ready, but you can’t blame him for that. He felt the same way about me on my first hunt. We aren’t hunting toucans. We are hunting dragons. Don’t lose focus on that.” Bynn started to argue, but Vaidon was on a roll. “If I am causing you to lose that focus, then I can step away.”
“Don’t do that,” Bynn said quickly. “I will focus. It is just hard. You look so comfortable out here; so beautiful in this environment.” Vaidon blushed despite her best efforts. No more words passed between the two that night. They needed rest. Tomorrow they would be facing a dragon.
Kaa returned with hours of darkness remaining. He woke the elven hunters by shaking the toes of their boots. No one said a word; they quickly packed up the hammocks and followed Kaa without a sound. As they walked, Kaa flashed hand signals to explain the situation. Bynn had learned the hand language in the palace, but some of the signals were different from his teachings. Regardless, Bynn was able to figure out what his leader wanted.
There were two dragons; one was very young. Due to the age, Kaa was certain that it was a mother and child. Snares were already set up to catch the young dragon. It was up to Bynn to kill the baby, while the other elves battled the mother. Kaa was very animated as he gestured to Bynn, “Kill! Quick!” Kaa and Vaidon would meet the mother with swords, while two others would use arrows. The elf who had been handling the beetle would be in charge of using earth magic in whatever way they needed.
The dragons approached the trap, and the elves were ready. Kaa’s snare was perfectly positioned, and the bait was too wonderful for the baby dragon to pass. The clever elf had placed a golden necklace on the ground in such a way that the mother would not see it, only the baby. The curious little violet dragon crawled toward the trap. Bynn was frozen with awe and excitement as the dragon stalked toward him. The mother stopped and seemed to wait for her offspring. She sniffed the air, but Kaa had made sure that the hunters were placed upwind. Nothing seemed out of place, at least until the baby dragon squealed.
Everything seemed to go quiet, muffled by the adrenaline. Bynn hesitated when the snare closed around the baby’s neck; it wasn’t a long a hesitation, just a heartbeat, but it changed the plan. By the time Bynn raised his sword to strike down dragon, the mother had teleported behind him. She plunged her scorpion-like tail through his leather armor. The other elves were completely out of position after the teleport. The two archers shifted in their perches to gain an angle. Kaa and Vaidon charged, but they were several strides away. The dragon needed only a few seconds to make the elves pay. With a mere thought, she summoned three groundlings. The earthen creatures immediately surrounded the baby, loosened the snare and herded her through the forest.
Bynn felt the sting of the dragon tail in his shoulder. He lurched forward just in time to see the groundlings free his intended target. He dropped to one knee, and felt the wetness run down his torso. The mother was finished with him; and she had taken care of her child. Now it was time to destroy the rest of the pointy-ears. She saw the shifting of the archers in the trees, and sent a storm of magic needles at them. The two elves fell from the limbs, filled with hundreds of the tiny spines. Then she felt the pull of earthen magic; she knew that one of the elves was trying to cast a spell. “How dare the elf try to use MY magic against me?” the dragon thought. She negated the elf’s spell, and located him. This elf deserved her worst. She teleported once again; this time next to the magic user, and bit him in half.
The move cost her; not only was it the last time she could teleport, but it put her closer to Kaa and Vaidon. Kaa cut the dragon deep, and the magic of his enchanted sword slowed her movements. Vaidon cut the dragon’s chest with a flurry of several cuts from her twin blades. The dragon was hurt, but far from finished. She opened her mouth spewed sticky black webbing onto Vaidon. The female elf was pinned to the earth, and the webbing started numbing her muscles. Vaidon was out of the battle.
It was now a fight between the father of Vaidon and the mother dragon. Both of the children were looking on; Vaidon from under the dark web, and the baby dragon farther away as she was restrained by the three groundlings. Kaa circled around the large dragon. She was bleeding from her side and chest. Kaa knew that the only hope he had was to puncture the chest area, but the dragon knew the same thing. She was not going to let him get the opportunity.
“You dare attack me and my child?” the dragon hissed.
The two continued to circle. All of a sudden an arrow shot past Kaa’s head and drove straight into the dragon’s exposed heart. With no scales to protect, the arrow sank all the way to the fletching. The life faded from the dragon’s wide eyes. Kaa turned to see Bynn standing with his bow steady. There was a pool of blood at his feet, but the highborn elf had killed the deadly dragon. Kaa nodded, and then rushed to free his daughter from the binding. Bynn dropped back down to his knees and tried to regain his breath.
It took all the groundlings had to hold the baby dragon back from its dead mother. They whispered promises of revenge, and softly vowed death to the elves. She repeated their words. She believed them. She would make them true.