Rewrite Complete! One Down, Three to Go!

Four Stars Second Edition Word Count Goal

Aaaaaannnnnddddd…..it’s official! The rewrite for The Four Stars is (finally!) complete. Yay! So excited. So…a 47,000-word book just turned into a 112,000-word book, but hey, it was so worth it. I had a blast going back into the world I created back when I was 16. There were moments when I was like, “Man, I was brilliant! Awesome line, right there, if I do say so myself.” And…then there were moments when I was like, “…did I really write that? Oh. My. Goodness. Teenage girl melodrama!”

Yeah…

Anyway, after my 112k marathon from the tail end of November to now, I think I’m gonna take a nice long vacation before I pick the story back up and polish it up for publication. I’m looking at an end of March, beginning of April release, depending on how long it takes me to recover. >.<

In the mean time, happy writing!

The Four Stars – Chapter 25: The Knight Rallier

 

Introducing…Cloony! This is actually the third chapter told from the perspective of Cloony, but I chose to share this one because it also introduces my favorite character in the trilogy: Sir Adrian. Adrian isn’t actually named in this chapter, but if you want to get a feel for his character, as well as the characters of Ceallach and Fogarta, this, I think, is a good one. Happy reading, and I hope you enjoy!

——

“Ranks! Center! Victory or death!”

Cloony stood impassively as he watched a wave of weapons spear the air beneath a roar that made the ground at his feet tremble. The Gaulian commanders had practically worked the army into a battle frenzy. With morale as high as it was, the soldiers really would fight to the death. It was the greatest strength of the Gauls when it came to battle. Once they got worked up, there was no bringing them back down.

“Are you sure you don’t want to ride your pegasus?” Ceallach questioned, though it was more of a rhetorical question than anything. His tone was practically dripping with mockery.

“I prefer not to be seen,” Cloony replied, mounting the chestnut horse he had been standing next to and adjusting the reins. “Raghnall would attract too much attention.”

“Of course, of course,” the Gaul king laughed. “Best not to distract the enemy from what’s important.”

Fogarta, on the king’s right, snorted at this.

“How much longer are we going to keep up this little charade?” the prince inquired bitterly, looking out across the mass of soldiers crowded into the pass. “We should have crushed the Livanian army days ago.”

“I must admit, I grow weary of it myself,” Ceallach nodded. “I lose interest when the toy refuses to break.”

“They are certainly holding on well,” Cloony said softly. “They’ve managed to fortify their position despite the circumstances. They may be pinned in there in that pass offshoot, but at least we no longer have them surrounded. King Dorrian is doing well despite not having the Stars at his side.”

“You sound as though you’re praising him,” Fogarta frowned.

“I was merely stating fact.”

“Is that so,” King Ceallach mused, staring off at the ranks of soldiers before him. Then he glanced over at Cloony. “Speaking of Stars, how goes your work?”

Cloony felt a chill run down his spine, and he turned away from the king.

“I have found a link between Altis and Eldel. One of my spies managed to come back alive, and he delivered a copy of the Star spell to me, so we should not need to try and get the whole army past the mountain guardians. However, unlocking the spell is proving to be difficult, as it contains elements of an elvish I do not know.”

“You are worthless, aren’t you,” Fogarta sneered.

Ceallach shrugged, then turned his horse toward a steady incline off to one side of the canyon wall.

“In any event,” he said, “we have the spell now. We can crush these pests and worry about unlocking the spell as we begin settling the lands of Livania.”

Fogarta snorted in disgust, then shot one more menacing glare at Cloony before turning his horse and following after the king.

Cloony sighed as he urged his horse forward. Right. Now that he had obtained the spell, his job had become of a secondary importance. Ceallach didn’t really believe he needed the Star power. After all, it was he who had brought the Stars to their demise. At this point in time, his interest in the Star power was merely because it was power, not because he thought he needed it to succeed in battle. And even taking Livania was not really all that important to him. No, Ceallach’s true interest was in destroying the ones who had made him look weak. Weakness was something the king hated, and he wanted those who made him feel that way to understand just how much he hated it. It was pride, and it was hatred, and it was ambition, all mixed into one and magnified in his protege, Fogarta.

“Forward!”

The command echoed up from the pass below and Cloony watched the movement of the troops as he listened to the sound of marching feet. He didn’t bother trying to direct his horse. He knew it would instinctively follow Ceallach and Fogarta’s horses anyway.

Cloony glanced up when his horse turned a bend in the path and came to a stop. From here he could see the nook in which King Dorrian and his allied armies were camped. The opposing army had managed to pull together a makeshift wall of stones and dirt to put some distance between themselves and the Gaulian forces, but even Cloony knew that the wall wouldn’t last long against the massive number of soldiers at Ceallach’s disposal. The sound of a horn split the air and the gate to the Livanian army’s camp, probably nothing more than shields and spears laced together, swung open. Instantly mounted knights began pouring through the aperture, followed closely by mounted elves and footsoldiers of all races. A line of archers rushed to the top of the earthen wall in preparation to do what they could from where they were. Another horn sounded through the pass, then, in a moment, there was chaos as the two opposing armies clashed.

The Livanian knights leveled their spears as they led the way into the fray, their heavy warhorses toppling the lighter infantry troops in front of them. From where he sat, Cloony could see the whole of the chaos, the black uniforms of the Gaul forces ebbing and flowing against a bulwark of the red and silver uniforms of Ardenia and the forest greens and earthen browns of Alfedan. Here a space cleared as a Gaul spearman unhorsed a knight and drove his weapon into him, there another space cleared as an elvin horseman sent a group of Gaul infantrymen darting out of the way of pounding hooves. The warriors were all so mixed in now that it was difficult for Cloony to tell which side had the upper hand.

For a moment, the Livanian soldiers fell back toward their encampment, and it almost looked like they might be retreating all together when, all of a sudden, a knight on a dapple grey war horse burst forward, sword raised high as he shouted, “Don’t let the dogs cow us down! Forward, men! For freedom!”

The Ardenian knights whirled their horses around and followed after the rider on the dapple grey, pushing the wall of black back a ways before retreating again. Again the knight on the grey horse shouted an encouragement, and again the knights pushed forward, swarming around him as they shouted his words back to him. A rallier. That’s what he was. A knight rallier. It was an important position in the Ardenian cavalry, a position that began with Sir Lance, the Star, in the last battle of the Second Gaulian War over 20 years before. And this one…this rallier seemed to Cloony to be as encouraging as the legendary knight himself. Perhaps Livania really would win with this knight in the lead.

Quietly Cloony glanced to the side. King Ceallach and Fogarta were both staring down at the scene with narrowed eyes and obvious scowls. They weren’t liking what they were seeing. To them, it wasn’t any fun if they were on the losing side.

Cloony was about to turn back to the scene before him when he noticed Ceallach practically snarl.

“Cloony,” the king said sharply.

“Sir?”

“That knight. Kill him.”

The hooded man swallowed hard as he turned back to the battle beyond. Then, with a nod, he whirled his horse around, charging down the incline and into the pass below.

Swords flickered in the sunlight, singing past him left and right as Cloony charged into the fray. Most of the soldiers were too distracted by the enemy soldiers to notice a lone rider in a hooded robe, and the ones who did notice him dove out of the way of his charging mount as he plowed through the masses toward the knight on the dappled horse.

The thundering of hooves against stone echoed in Cloony’s ears as he leaned down, yanking a spear out of the side of a dead warhorse as he sped past, and with a powerful swing, he knocked the knight from his horse. The knight landed on the ground with a heavy thud, metal armor clanking together in protest, and he rolled several feet before coming to a stop.

Instantly Cloony spun his horse around and launched the spear at the knight as he struggled to get up, but the knight quickly rolled to the side and the spear impaled the ground instead. At that, Cloony swung from his saddle and drew his sword. The knight had already pulled his helmet off his head by this point, no doubt to give himself a wider range of vision, and he brandished his sword as he turned to meet his attacker.

He was a young man, Cloony noted, hardly old enough to be a knight, with blond hair and blue eyes that had a good humor about them despite the circumstances.

“Hey, now,” the knight grinned slightly as he wiped blood from his busted lip, “waylaying people from behind isn’t nice, you know.”

“I highly doubt battle is a place to play nice,” Cloony replied, circling around the knight as he looked for an opening.

“Have you Gauls never heard of a thing called ‘chivalry’?”

With a frown, Cloony darted forward, slicing his sword downward at the knight. Instantly the young man brought his sword up, the clash of steel ringing in their ears before both darted away again.

“Chivalry is a fantasy,” Cloony responded, slicing outward at the knight.

The young man swerved out of the way, attempting to bring his sword down on the older warrior’s neck, but Cloony was too fast and he blocked and spun before the blond could react. The young knight was lucky, though, as Cloony’s blade came in contact with his metal chestpiece and glanced off harmlessly.

“Ah, you’re one of those pessimist types, aren’t you?” the knight laughed as he blocked another one of Cloony’s attacks.

The older man’s frown deepened. Impressive. Not many could keep up with him. This young knight was actually very skilled, despite his age and light-hearted personality. It was shame he had to die.

“Pessimism,” Cloony responded, launching a series of quick strokes at the knight, “is merely seeing the world as it is.”

“Or seeing its ugly half,” the knight responded, blocking each of the attacks.

Sweat was pouring down his face and he was breathing heavily. It was obvious that he was worn out from all the fighting he had been doing over the course of the past few weeks.

“Which, by the way,” the young man added, “seems to comprise a good half of your army. Is there some sort of religious edict against trimming beards where you come from?”

Cloony thrust his sword forward, striking the chestplate of the knight’s armor and knocking the young man back onto the ground.

“Looks,” the older man said, driving his sword downward. “Are unimportant in battle.”

His blade pierced the ground as the knight rolled off to the side and brought his own sword up at Cloony’s unguarded side. Instantly Cloony brought his sword around, blocking the attack and bounding backward out of the knight’s reach.

“You’re pretty good for an old man,” the knight panted as he stumbled back onto his feet again.

“You are a fine warrior yourself,” Cloony said softly. “I wish I did not have to kill you.”

The knight blinked at him in surprise.

“Well, I would appreciate it if you didn’t,” the blond responded.

Cloony sighed mournfully, then went in for another attack. His sword struck against the knight’s sword and the young man stumbled backward with the force. He was a good warrior, this knight, but he was worn out. He didn’t have much left to fight with.

“I am afraid,” Cloony replied, striking out and slicing a gash in the knight’s left arm, “that disobeying King Ceallach is impossible.”

“Oh, come now,” the knight laughed slightly as he dodged another of Cloony’s attacks and countered. “What, does he have a control spell on you or something? Anyone can disobey if they want to.”

The young man fell back against a large boulder behind him. He was wheezing slightly, with one eye closed due either to the pain or the exhaustion. Possibly both. He braced himself again, sword held at the ready, but Cloony could tell that the knight was trembling.

“Unfortunately,” Cloony responded, leveling his sword for another forward attack, “one does not always have that choice.”

Instantly Cloony darted forward, his sword slicing through the young knight’s side, but the blond had dodged in time to avoid any particularly deadly wound. The older man turned toward his opponent, who was bent over slightly in pain. Blood ran down the knight’s side, staining his armor, but he did not falter as he faced Cloony again.

“I would much prefer not to have to wound you unnecessarily,” Cloony said, brandishing his sword. “If you submit, I will make this quick.”

“Oh, yes, lie down and die. That sounds peachy,” the knight laughed sarcastically. “Wouldn’t it be nice if it was always that simple.”

The young man bit his lip as he straightened himself again. He grimaced at the pain, but seemed to be doing an admirably good job of ignoring it as he stood up straight and held his sword out defensively again.

“I don’t care who you are,” the knight stated boldly, his expression becoming more serious as he stared firmly at Cloony. “Sir Lance believed in me, and I owe it to him to be the man he believed I could be. I will gladly suffer a thousand deaths before I surrender like a coward.”

Sir Lance…

Cloony swallowed hard at the name, and he hesitated. So this boy was one of that knight’s proteges. No wonder he was so relentless yet good-humored in battle. Yes, if this boy’s goal had been to emulate that famous knight, he was doing a marvelously good job at it.

“Indeed,” Cloony answered softly. “Sir Lance would be very proud of you.”

A look of surprise crossed the young knight’s face at this, and he looked like he wanted to ask something, but just then the sound of horns blasted through the pass, and both warriors glanced in the direction of the sound. Apparently, without their rallier, the Livanian warriors had retreated back into their make-shift fortress, and the Gaulian soldiers had backed off, too, uncertain how far Ceallach actually wanted them to go.

With the knight momentarily distracted, Cloony found his opening, and instantly he reached out, striking the young man on the back of the neck and knocking him unconscious. The knight crumpled at the strike, but Cloony reached out and caught him, lowering him to the ground so as to prevent any unnecessary injury.

Just then the sound of hoofbeats caught Cloony’s ear, and the man turned to see Ceallach and Fogarta draw their horses to a halt behind him.

“Is he dead?” Ceallach inquired, frowning down at the body of the knight lying on the ground.

Cloony clenched and unclenched his jaw at the question.

“Merely unconscious,” he replied bluntly.

“Are you an idiot?” Fogarta spat. “Do you not know the meaning of ‘kill’? Fine, I’ll do it myself.”

The prince swung from the back of his horse, but Cloony stepped in the way.

“Cloony?” Ceallach inquired. His tone was as much warning as it was hesitant.

“The boy is a knight rallier,” Cloony said, swallowing hard as he watched Fogarta’s grip tighten around the hilt of his sword. He wasn’t convinced that the prince would kill him without Ceallach’s permission, but Fogarta was the sort to act first and ask permission later.

“And?” Fogarta snarled. “Out with it.”

“The rallier is an important position within the knight ranks. He keeps the morale of his fellows high. To kill him would be a blow to their morale, yes, but to make a display of killing him in front of the entire camp would be twice as effective, don’t you think?”

Fogarta looked both confused and doubtful as he glanced over at Ceallach. The Gaul king pursed his lips in thought, then nodded slightly.

“I see…” he mused. “So what exactly is it that you suggest?”

“Wait until you are ready to make the final attack. Then, bring the rallier in front of their encampment, call their attention to him, and kill him in front of his fellows. The Livanian army is already discouraged and worn down, and they lost their heroes years ago. It will not take much more to destroy what little morale they have left. Until then, keep the boy alive.”

A menacing grin crossed Fogarta’s face.

“I like that idea,” the prince chuckled, sheathing his sword.

Ceallach glanced over at his heir, then shrugged and turned his horse back in the direction of the Gaulian army.

“Very well,” he sighed. “I was growing tired of all this anyway. We will launch our final attack in two days. Send them a messenger and tell them as much. Perhaps if they surrender then, I won’t kill them all.” The king paused, then laughed slightly. “Perhaps.”

Fogarta chuckled with him as he swung back up into his saddle, and Cloony watched as the pair rode off into the ranks. Then he looked down at the unconscious knight nearby. Two days. He had two days to decide what to do. The man cringed slightly at the thought. There was no way Dorrian’s army would be able to win at this rate, no way for them to come and rescue the knight he had captured. No, most likely, he would have to do what he must. The thought of it made him shiver.

When Books Grow Up

For those of you who have been following my blog, you know that I have been working on rewriting the books I wrote when I was a teenager. It is interesting to see the difference between the originals and the new text, and I am happy to say that I am now nearly finished with the first book in my trilogy, The Four Stars.

When I began writing The Four Stars, I was a sophomore in high school. The story was based off of me and my three best friends, and was meant more for our own entertainment than anything else. Frankly, at the time that I began writing it, I had no idea what I was doing with the story. There was no clear plot or world rules for me to go by, so as the story developed, rules changed, facts changed, and plots began to form. The only problem was that pieces of old ideas were still stuck in the story when I published it and, looking back on it, I realized that the whole story needed to be cleaned up. Thus the rewrite.

The original edition of The Four Stars was a 12-chapter, 155-page book that really couldn’t even be considered a novel. It probably had, at most, 48,000 words total. Considering how small it was, when I first took up the project, I thought the rewrite would be relatively simple. The problem with that? Well, there’s a big difference between a 16-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman. And when I grew up, so, apparently, did my books. I am currently sitting at 88,000+ words, the longest book I have written so far, and I still have probably about 8 chapters to go.

One of the biggest changes that I have made in this rewrite actually has to do with point of view. Several years ago, my mentor, Dr. Robinson, was kind enough to take a look at my trilogy. When he came back with it, he also came back with a 2-page list of pros and cons. The pros totaled a whopping 5 sentences. It was hard for me to accept at first, and for a while I didn’t do anything with it, but when I began gearing up to rewrite the trilogy, the first thing I pulled out was those two pages. (And yes, I still have them). One of the biggest things Dr. Robinson noted was my lack of a distinct point of view in the original stories. And it was true. I have always imagined my stories as movies in my head. Thus, my description itself can be pretty good, but overall story quality? Well, constantly-changing camera angles don’t work so well in books.

The rewrite of The Four Stars has a slightly different feel to it. I have broken the story up into various viewpoints, focusing on the world from the eyes of the given character instead of an overall view. And actually, I’m quite enjoying the change, because it’s allowing me to get closer to my characters and reveal their inward struggles versus their outward behavior. It was one of the things I loved most about writing Prism World, and that style has been carried over, to some extent, in the Star Trilogy.

This change in point of view has also had an effect on the minor characters as well. Though Razi, Rayne, Eryn, and Gavin are the major players in The Four Stars, I have also written scenes for events that are merely mentioned in the original book. Thus, there are scenes told from the viewpoints of King Dorrian (king of Ardenia and overlord of the allied kingdom of Livania), Lord Rolf (lord of Alfedan, the country of the forest elves), and even Cloony (a servant of Ceallach, the Gaul king; saying any more would mean spoilers ;) ). Doing this has allowed me to develop characters that were relatively unimportant in the original Four Stars, but who became more important as I got further into the series.

Of all the additional scenes and chapters I’ve added to the book, though, I’d say that the chapters told from the perspective of Cloony have been the most fun. Cloony, to be honest, was an afterthought in the original story, as were King Ceallach and the Gaulian royal heir, Fogarta. As such, none of these characters got much showtime in The Four Stars. In fact, the whole conflict between Livania and the Gauls was more like a side story instead of a driving force. Writing from the perspective of Cloony, however, I have the chance to bring the conflict to the forefront. I also have the opportunity to develop the characters of Ceallach, Fogarta, and Cloony.

I love all of my characters in this story. I really do. But I’d say that of all the characters I’ve created, Cloony is proving to be the most interesting. All the characters have flaws of some sort: Razi struggles with self-doubt, Rayne translates her fears into eccentric and brash tendencies, Eryn has way too big of an ego, Gavin is something of a pessimist, Shea is too proud to admit when he needs help and frequently allows his insecurities to translate as anger toward other people. But of all my characters, Cloony is the character that has the most depth. There are two sides to Cloony. He is most definitely a coward, and even though he dislikes Ceallach and Fogarta and inwardly protests their behavior, he still caves with each command he is given. And yet when it comes to the lives of innocent people, Cloony displays remarkably brave behavior, even putting himself between a wounded enemy knight and an angry Fogarta. But even then, Cloony still insists that he is worthless, that he can never escape the Gauls, and that he was doomed to destruction the moment he submitted to Ceallach. His story is a struggle between fear and guilt and the kind heart that is hidden inside of him. I think that is what makes him so interesting.

Overall, I expect that I’ll be finished with The Four Stars by the end of February. My goal is to publish some time in March, but stay tuned for further updates on that. And also keep an eye out for new excerpts, which I will be posting here soon as I finish up the book. Thanks for reading!

A New Year

It probably seems like I fell off the face of the earth in 2014, but even though I was pathetic at keeping up with the blog, here’s an overview of what I’ve been doing behind the scenes:

Fanfiction

Yeah, ok, I admit, I’ve dilly-dallied a lot this year with my side-writing, namely my Skyrim fanfiction. With two stories totaling 64,397 words, my fanfics have taken up the bulk of my writing this past year.

Willy’s Covenant, Ch. 1-4

As some of you may know, my last semester of college was occupied primarily with my honor’s project, the first four chapters of my historical fiction novel inspired by the legend of one of my ancestors. The project came in at 13,004 words and is on my list for things to complete in 2015.

The Four Stars, Second Edition

One of my major projects this past year has been to rewrite my old books and get them back up on the market. This has turned out to be more of a chore than I had originally anticipated, as the first book in my trilogy, The Four Stars, has gone from 12 chapters to 33 in the outline for the rewrite. As of New Year’s Eve, the project was sitting at 48,000 words, with another estimated 50,000 still to go.

I also posted 17 blog posts last year, if that counts for anything.

Over all, 2014 wasn’t too bad as far as word count goes, coming in at a total 125,401+ words. My New Year’s resolution for 2015 is to publish 5 books, 4 of which are just rewrites, the other being Willy’s Covenant. We’ll see how far I get, but why not aim a little high, right?

As I wish you a Happy New Year, I would just like to leave you with one final quote. I know this should have been posted yesterday, but better late than never, I suppose:

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.” -Brad Paisley

The Only Hope

Another short story based in the world of the Legend of the Stars. This one follows after “Elwyn’s Daughter,” and also focuses on Rayne and Rolf.

——-

The Only Hope

It was still dark outside when Rolf woke to a painful jab in his side. The elf lord groaned, then lifted one eyelid and glanced over at Rayne. The child had come crying some time in the middle of the night, frightened by a nightmare, and Rolf hadn’t found the heart to send her back to her room. Now here she lay, one leg thrown across his chest and a knee in his side as she sprawled horizontally across the mattress. Though the bed was decidedly too big for the child to take up all of it, she certainly didn’t lack for trying.

A movement stirred at Rolf’s feet and he glanced down at Kadin who stretched, yawned, then curled back up in a ball. The pup was, by far, the wisest of the two of them, Rolf thought, for the little creature had conveniently placed himself far out of the way of Rayne’s flailing limbs.

Heaving a sigh, Rolf gently shoved Rayne’s legs away and turned her until her head was back up on the pillow where it belonged. The girl whimpered slightly and buried her face in his shoulder, but it was a moment before he realized his robe sleeve had become wet with freshly-cried tears. Quietly the elf lord moved his arm, reaching around the child’s tiny frame and pulling her close to him, his thumb rubbing across her cheek and wiping away her tears.

It had been about three months since the Stars and their wives had disappeared. Rolf and King Dorrian, and even Sloan, chief of the Valley Elves, had exhausted their resources searching for the missing heroes, but to no avail. Rayne had been remarkably strong so far, no doubt helped along by Kadin’s suggestion that they would eventually go searching for the girl’s missing parents. But it was at night that she broke. This wasn’t the first time the child had come crying because of a nightmare, and Rolf wondered how she would take it when she discovered that her parents had been declared dead. He wasn’t going to tell her that a human spy had found an execution order about a week earlier. No, just telling her they weren’t coming back would be bad enough. Worse still, he had something else to tell her, too: she wasn’t going to be living with him much longer.

With the Stars gone, King Dorrian had met with Rolf to discuss the fate of the children. Cael’s remaining family had chosen to leave his son, Gavin, in the hands of Effie, a close family friend. Delwynn had long ago lost ties with most of his remaining family, and as such, his daughter, Razi, had also been sent to Great Oak Valley to live with Effie. That left the two remaining children, Lance’s 5-year-old son, Eryn, and Elwyn’s 8-year-old daughter, Rayne.

***

“The children know each other well,” Dorrian had said. “Despite living in various places, the Stars seem to have kept their families in close contact. It would be best, I think, if all four stayed together. Their common experience should also help them to overcome the loss of their parents.”

“What of Rayne?” Rolf had asked, frowning slightly. “She has already lost one home. Would it not be more traumatic if she were moved again?”

“Perhaps for a time,” the king had nodded. “But with her friends there, it should not take long for her to adjust. And besides,” the man leaned forward, lacing his fingers together, his copper brows narrowing in concern, “we have a very serious issue to consider.”

“What kind of serious issue?” Rolf questioned.

“The fact that the Gauls have managed to defeat four powerful warriors,” Dorrian replied. “If they are that strong, our armies may have difficulty facing them in open combat again.”

“I fail to see how this concerns the children.”

“Their fathers were legendary,” the king responded, standing and crossing over to a window, his hands behind his back. “And while their mothers were not magical warriors, they were strong, too. The children, with the right training, could potentially grow into powerful warriors. Perhaps they will even inherit their fathers’ magic abilities. No one knows the true nature of the Star spell, and if the Gauls are truly as strong as we fear, these four could potentially be the only hope we have in defeating Ceallach and his armies.”

“These are children, Dorrian,” Rolf argued. “They are not warriors, and neither were their grandparents. The Stars were unique, their power inherited not by blood but by a spell. There is no guarantee that these children will grow to become that powerful, that they will choose to be warriors, or that Ceallach will wait long enough for them to become a threat. And if Ceallach knows, or if he were to find out about the children’s’ existence, you know their lives would be in danger. He would not wait for them to grow up.”

“As far as I can tell, he knows nothing about them,” Dorrian shrugged. “Or if he does, he certainly shows no interest in them. Besides, if we kept them at my palace and trained them to be knights, they would certainly gain the skills needed to defend themselves.”

“Drumach is the first place Ceallach would go,” Rolf responded with a shake of his head. “Treat them like heroes and they will neither be safe, nor will they grow with the humility and honor of a true hero. Ceallach will know and he will target them, and if it turns out that they are not made of the material you believe they are made of, they will either be crushed by this realization or become insufferably arrogant with the belief that they are greater than they actually are. Furthermore, if you force them to do something they never desired to do, they may learn to resent you, and then they will be no more help to you than they would have been if they were normal children living normal lives.”

“And yet,” Dorrian sighed, “they might also truly turn out to be our only hope. Where would we be if we let this resource slip by us?”

“They are neither resources nor tools.” Rolf could feel himself becoming just the slightest bit angry. “They are children, innocent beings who have been dealt a fate they never deserved. I swore to protect Rayne in particular, and I feel I would be doing her an injustice by treating her in the way you suggest.”

“You know that Rinba would be a target, too,” Dorrian added quietly, turning to look at the elf lord sympathetically. “I know, Rolf, how close you were to Elwyn and that you want the best for his daughter. Believe it or not, I want the best for her, too. For all the children. But you know as well as I do what we are up against. All our victories against the Gauls were due primarily to the efforts of Lance, Elwyn, Cael, and Delwynn. Without the Stars, I don’t know where we stand against Ceallach. My soldiers are scared, Rolf. We have been fighting the Gauls for years, and the loss of the Stars has stolen what little resolve my men originally had. They need hope, Rolf. If the children are to survive, they will need protection, and if they are to be protected, they will need defenders who will not turn tail and flee at the sight of danger.”

Rolf had sighed, then. He knew Dorrian was right. The whole of Livania knew that the heroes had been killed by the Gauls. Fear was a deadly thing, particularly in battle, but the hope of new heroes would give the soldiers the courage they would need to put up a good fight.

“I understand your point,” Rolf said after a few moments of silence. “But perhaps there is another way.”

“What do you suggest?” Dorrian inquired, returning to his seat.

“Effie,” the elf lord responded. “Two of the children are already there. If she is willing to raise the other two as well, the children could stay together but would be well removed from the attention of the world as a whole. They could grow up with as normal lives as possible, and when the time came, they could choose to follow in their parents’ footsteps.”

“They wouldn’t learn to fight, though,” Dorrian frowned. “Nor would they have guards to protect them. Great Oak Valley is incredibly secluded.”

“Precisely,” Rolf nodded. “Secluded, far enough removed from the attention of the public eye, but not so far that the castle and capital city would be out of reach. Don’t worry about their training or protection. I can take care of that, and I’m sure Sloan would be willing to play a part in that, whatever he can do. We can tell the children enough to satisfy them: that their parents were strong soldiers who died fighting the Gauls. As far as I know, the Stars spoke little of their powers. I don’t believe the children know the extent of their fathers’ abilities, and I think it would be best if we kept it that way. As they get older, we can train them if they so desire, and should it appear that they have inherited some special gift, we can send them to train at Drumach or Kelga. For the moment, let them grow up innocent.”

“And what of my men? What should I tell them?”

“Tell them there is still hope, that the Stars left us a safeguard that may yet save us should the Gauls decide to invade again. They must trust us despite having no visible proof of protection. If our soldiers do not trust us, how can we call ourselves lord and king? We have been too dependent on four men, men who were great, indeed, but still merely men. We are all mortal, and we all must die eventually. In order to maintain a stable kingdom, we must be able to be courageous and strong with or without magical heroes at our side.”

King Dorrian rubbed his bearded chin thoughtfully for several moments, then nodded slowly.

“I can accept that,” he agreed, reaching for a piece of paper and an inkwell with a quill pen protruding from the top. “I will write a letter to Effie explaining our plan. In the mean time, do prepare Rayne for the change. I hear she has become quite attached to you.”

***

Quite attached, indeed. Rolf had always been fond of Rayne, though his stoic nature had made it difficult to express it. But since the loss of Elwyn, who was at once a friend and a son to him, Rolf and Rayne had nearly become inseparable. Who, then, was more attached, Rolf wondered.

By now, grey morning light was filtering through the bedroom window. The sound of low voices talking out in the hall caught the elf lord’s ears, and quietly he scooted away from the sleeping Rayne, throwing on his outer robe and slipping out of the room. There stood Arin, who was talking quietly with a human man, a royal messenger by all appearances. The pair turned when they heard Rolf’s bedroom door close quietly behind him.

“Father,” Arin said softly. “We have a letter from the king.”

She held up a small sheet of paper that was folded and sealed over with wax drippings.

“Thank you,” Rolf nodded, accepting the letter from his daughter’s hand.

He nodded in acknowledgement to the messenger, then turned down the hall to go to his study. He paused after only a few steps, however, and glanced over his shoulder at the elf girl who watched him closely.

“Arin,” he said in elvish. “Rayne is sleeping in my room. Would you watch over her? I fear she will be frightened if she wakes to find no one there.”

“Was it another nightmare?” Arin questioned, also in elvish.

Rolf nodded.

“She was crying in her sleep, too,” he replied. “Do make sure she is all right.”

Then with that, he turned and continued toward his study.

***

The servants had already lit the fire in the fireplace by the time Rolf entered his study. He lit a couple of candles on his desk before settling down and opening the letter in his hand. Quietly his eyes scanned over the message, then he set the letter aside and leaned back in his chair, staring absentmindedly at the fireplace nearby.

It was as he had suspected. Effie had been more than willing to agree to Rolf’s plan. Lance’s son, Eryn, had already been moved to Great Oak Valley. All that remained now was for Rolf to bring Rayne.

“Friend Rolf?”

The elf lord glanced over toward the door in surprise to see Rayne, her small hand in Arin’s, Kadin pressed protectively against the child’s right leg. The girl’s free hand rubbed at one swollen eye, which was as likely swollen from crying as it was from having just woken up.

“She would not go back to sleep,” Arin explained, looking down sympathetically at the little girl at her side. “She must have woken shortly after you left the room.”

Rolf tried not to cringe at the thought. He hoped the child would not hold it against him when he took her to live with Effie.

“It is all right, Banné Rayne,” Rolf said, standing from his seat and walking over to kneel in front of the little girl. He patted Rayne on the head, then offered her his hand, which she readily took.

“Let us go for a walk,” he continued, starting out into the hall.

Quietly he glanced at Arin and nodded as he passed her. She nodded in reply, then turned and headed off in the opposite direction. She knew what his look meant.

“Where are we going, Friend Rolf?” Rayne asked as they stepped out into the front yard of the mansion.

“Oh! Are we going on an adventure?” Kadin yipped as he bounded ahead of them.

“Of sorts, I suppose,” the elf lord nodded.

“An adventure?” Rayne’s eyes lit up at the suggestion. “What kind of adventure?”

“I have some place I wish to show you. A special place.”

“Is it a secret?”

“Right now, it is.”

By this point, the trio had come to the stables, and a whinny met them as they came to a stop next to the open doors. Out stepped a servant leading a black horse with a white star on its forehead. The horse had already been saddled, and the servant bowed when Rolf approached.

“My lord,” the servant said in elvish. “Lady Arin instructed me to saddle a horse after the messenger arrived. She said you might need one.”

Rolf chuckled slightly. Of course. Arin was sharp. She knew what was going on.

“We get to ride a horse?!” Rayne gasped excitedly.

Quickly she released the elf lord’s hand in favor of petting the horse who stood placidly as the child stroked her hand over the white spot on the creature’s forehead.

“Atha?”

Rolf turned to see Arin. She held a long bundle in her arms, along with two bed rolls, and there was a satchel slung across her shoulder.

“I have brought what you desired.”

“Thank you, dear one,” Rolf smiled. “We should attach this to the saddle for easier transport.”

Arin nodded, and a moment later the bundles she carried had been secured at the back of the saddle.

Rolf swung up onto the horse’s back as soon as this was done, then he held out an arm toward Arin and Rayne. Quietly the elf girl pulled Rayne into a quick hug, then picked her up and handed her to the elf lord. She then handed Kadin up to Rayne before stepping back.

“Have fun, Little Rayne,” Arin smiled. “Safe travels.”

“Bye, bye, Sister Arin!” Rayne grinned, waving at the elf girl enthusiastically. “See you later!”

Rolf and Arin exchanged glances, then Rolf spurred his mount forward, the horse’s reins clasped in one hand and his opposite arm wrapped tightly around Rayne. It was now or never.

***

It was several days before the trio at last made it to the top of a hill overlooking a winding valley. A small stream curled like a river along the valley’s grassy floor, and off in the distance Rolf could see the towering branches of a great tree rising above the edges of the surrounding cliffs.

“Shall we rest here?” Rolf asked as he pulled his horse to a stop next to a small brook.

Yes,” Rayne groaned, drawing out the word dramatically. “We’ve been riding forever.”

Actually, it had only been perhaps an hour since Rayne had insisted on taking a break, but to a child of 8, Rolf supposed an hour might have seemed like forever. And then, of course, there was always the fact that they had been riding, off and on, for 3 days. Even Rolf, who rode consistently every day, was just the least bit sore.

Quietly the elf lord slid from the saddle, then turned and stretched his arms out toward the little girl. Far be it from Rayne, though, to dismount without fanfare. Before Rolf realized what she was up to, the child had coiled up and taken a flying leap into his arms. The elf lord gasped in surprise, quickly reaching out to catch her before she hit the ground or knocked him over.

“That was fun!” the girl giggled as Rolf stumbled back, visibly startled as he wrapped his arms tightly around his young charge, all the while trying not to squish Kadin who Rayne still held firmly in her arms.

“Rather dangerous,” the elf lord replied, setting the girl down on her own two feet.

“I wanna do it again!”

“Best that you don’t.”

Rolf half-expected the child to protest, but already she and Kadin were off exploring, and the elf lord had to quicken his usual pace just to keep up with the pair. He led his horse to the small brook to drink, then stiffened when he spotted Rayne as she climbed up on a boulder that hung over the ledge of a nearby cliff.

“Little Rayne, please be careful,” the elf lord warned, releasing the horse’s bridle and hurrying over to where the child sat.

“That’s a really big tree,” Rayne said in awe, completely ignoring Rolf’s warning as she dangled her legs over the cliff’s edge.

Quietly Rolf knelt beside her, then turned in the direction the girl was looking. Even from this distance, they could see a tall oak, broad branches stretching out left and right, towering to heights that no mortal-made object had ever achieved. The base was a good 50 feet broad, thick roots protruding from the ground only to plunge deep inside the earth again. To one side, smoke curled from a chimney at the oak’s base, and Rolf could just barely make out the shape of a round window on the opposite side from the chimney.

“It is a very big tree,” Rolf agreed, gently taking Rayne by the arm and pulling her away from the ledge. “It’s a special tree, and an old tree.”

“A special tree?” Rayne questioned, Kadin trotting quietly at her heels. The pup was listening intently, no doubt trying to understand the strange language his mistress seemed to prefer to speak.

“Yes, a very special tree,” Rolf nodded, moving over to a pile of dry branches at the forest’s edge. “It was planted by someone very special.”

“You know who planted it?” Rayne asked, eyes wide in wonder as she followed the elf lord like a shadow. “Who?”

“An elvin princess,” Rolf smiled, kneeling and beginning to build a campfire.

“Oh!”

A broad grin spread across Rayne’s face, and she squatted next to Rolf, her eyes sparkling with curiosity.

“Tell me, please!”

At this, Kadin yipped.

“Please, what?” the pup asked in elvish. “I want to know what you are talking about.”

Rolf chuckled, then reached into the satchel he had slung over his shoulder and pulled out a striking stone.

“A long time ago, long before the two of you were born, there was an elvin princess who loved adventure,” the elf lord said in elvish, watching as sparks leapt from the striking stone to the pile of leaves he had put beneath the pyramid of sticks. “Her father, the elvin king, worried about her a lot, but even though he told her not to go far, she did not always listen.”

“The elf king sounds like you, Friend Rolf,” Rayne giggled. “You would be him if you were a king. You always worry.”

Rolf smiled softly at this, then sat back as he watched the weak flame before him slowly grow in size and reach out to the branches surrounding it.

“The elf king loved his daughter very much, though,” Rolf continued, reaching out and drawing Rayne close to his side. The girl curled up against him, pulling Kadin into her arms before settling down to listen to the story.

“Her mother loved her very much, too, right?” Rayne asked, looking up at the elf lord. “Did her mother worry?”

Rolf closed his eyes for a moment and heaved a sad sigh. Then he looked back to the fire.

“Yes,” he said softly. “The princess’s mother loved her very much. But the elf queen never worried as much as the king did.”

“I like the elf queen,” Rayne grinned. “I think she would be fun to play with.”

Rolf smiled at this.

“She would have loved to play with you, I think.”

“Did you know her?”

“Perhaps.”

“Did the elf queen help the princess plant the big tree?”

“No.”

Rolf reached for a thin stick nearby and poked at the fire absentmindedly.

“No, but the princess did not plant the big tree alone. You see, back then, humans and elves did not like each other. The elves believed the humans would hurt them and the humans believed the elves would join with the humans’ enemies to take Ardenia from them. Most humans and elves would not speak to each other, and some even hurt each other because they were angry and afraid. But the princess just wanted to be friends with everyone. She thought her father worried too much, so one night she ran away to the human kingdom to make friends with the humans.”

“Did she find human friends?” Kadin piped up, craning his neck to look at the elf lord. “Were the elves and humans just being silly in not liking each other?”

“Silly, they were,” Rolf nodded, glancing up at the darkening sky above them. “But they very much did not like each other, all the same. Some very mean humans hurt the elf princess and chased her into a valley not far from here.”

Rayne jumped up at this, dropping Kadin in the process, and turned to look at the elf lord with an appalled stare.

“Why did they hurt her?!” she exclaimed incredulously. “She only wanted to be friends.”

“Some people hurt others when they do not like them. There are elves like that, too. Some choose to be mean. I do not know why.”

“Hmph,” Rayne frowned, crossing her arms over her chest. “My father would have scolded them for sure. He always told me that a person’s heart is what matters most.”

“Your father was a wise man,” Rolf replied softly.

“So what happened to the elf princess?” Rayne asked, coming back to sit next to the elf lord.

“A human hunter lived near this valley back then,” Rolf continued. “He rescued the elf princess and hid her so that the bad humans could not find her and hurt her again.”

“So there were nice humans back then, too,” Kadin said, wagging his tail.

“Yes,” Rolf nodded. “Now, this hunter had a daughter who was also very kind, and she and the elf princess became friends. One day, the two went exploring together and they discovered the secret entrance to the place where the valley elves were hiding. They snuck inside, but some guards caught them and took them to their chief. When the chief learned who the princess was, he told her he would let her go free, but the human girl he was going to keep as a prisoner. The elf princess, however, became very angry. She told the chief that what he was doing was wrong, and that if he kept the hunter’s daughter as a prisoner, he would have to keep her as well. The valley elf chief was impressed by what the princess said, and so he let both of them go free. While they were there, though, the two also made friends with the chief’s son, and for a time, he went on adventures with them, too.

“One day, the three friends met a mysterious traveler. He looked hungry and cold, and so the princess and her friends asked him to join them at their campfire and offered him food to eat. In return for their kindness, he gave them an acorn from a far-away land. The acorn, he told them, was from a great old oak that had been planted at the beginning of time and that if they planted the acorn, it would grow into an enchanted tree.

“Now, what the elf princess did not know was that her father had been looking for her all this time. One day, the elf king also met this mysterious traveler, and so he found where the princess had been hiding. When he found her, the elf king told the princess that she had to return home, but she did not want to leave her friends. She also wanted to find the perfect place to plant the acorn, and she wanted to watch it grow into an enchanted tree. And so the elf king found a place in a hidden valley, a valley that was hard to get into by foot. There he let the elf princess and her friends plant the acorn, and he told the princess she could come to that spot whenever she liked.”

“Did the princess ever see her friends again?” Rayne asked worriedly, pulling Kadin back into her arms and close against her chest.

“Yes,” Rolf nodded. “And she also got to watch that acorn grow into the big, strong tree you saw in the valley.”

“Where is the elf princess now?”

“Not far from here.”

“Can I meet her some day?”

“Perhaps. Or, yet, you may have already met her. One day you will see.”

Rayne pouted at this.

“But I want to know now,” the girl protested.

“Ah, but patience will make it that much sweeter.”

“I hate patience. Patience is boring.”

Rolf chuckled at this, then stood up and went to remove the saddle and pack from his horse’s back. He should have known better, he thought later, for when he turned around, Rayne had gone back to the rock hanging over the cliff.

Quickly the elf lord hurried toward the girl, but he hesitated at the far-off look in her eyes.

“I want to see my friends again,” she mumbled quietly as he approached. “Razi would have liked to hear your story.”

A sad expression crossed Rolf’s face, then he held out a hand toward the little girl.

“Banné Rayne,” he called softly, “come here. I have something I need to tell you.”

The girl cast him a quizzical look, then she and Kadin stood and trotted over to him. He didn’t say anything, however, until they were both standing by the campfire and a good space away from the cliff’s edge.

“Little Rayne,” Rolf said, kneeling down on one knee so as to be on eye level with the little girl. “Your friend, Razi, is waiting for you down there in that valley.”

Rayne’s eyes lit up at this.

“Oh! Is that all?” the girl laughed. “Well, why are we not going to find her? Why are we camping here? I thought you were going to tell me something bad. Let us go, Friend Rolf! I want you to tell Razi that story.”

The girl turned to rush off, but Rolf grabbed her by the wrist and gently pulled her back.

“No, Little Rayne, that is not all,” he said softly.

“What do you mean?”

Rolf swallowed hard as he looked into those confused brown eyes. He hated to tell her, but she had to know.

“Little Rayne,” the elf lord spoke slowly, “some very bad people took away your parents, and Razi’s parents, and Gavin and Eryn’s parents. King Dorrian and I have done all we can to find them, but…but Little Rayne, they are not coming back.”

All the excitement in Rayne’s face drained away at this.

“What do you…” she questioned, this time in trade language. “What do you mean? Father and Mother have to come back.”

“They can’t, Rayne. I’m sorry.”

“Then Kadin and I will rescue them.”

“Little Rayne, don’t you think I would rescue them if I could?”

By now, tears were running down Rayne’s face, and she broke down into violent sobs when he said this. Gently, Rolf pulled the girl into his arms and held her there as she cried against his chest.

“Razi, Gavin, and Eryn are all living in that valley now, together, and they are waiting for you to come live with them, too,” the elf lord said softly.

“I don’t want to!” Rayne nearly shrieked, clinging tighter to Rolf’s robes. “I don’t want to. I wanna stay with you. Please, please, can’t I stay with you?”

By now, it was all Rolf could do to keep himself from crying, and he pulled the girl tighter to him, pressing his forehead to the top of her head.

“Little Rayne, I am so, so, so very sorry. But I promised your father that I would make sure you were taken care of, that you would be given the best that I could possibly give you, and this is the best I have. You will have your friends to live with, and you will be safe as you can be there in that valley. I will make sure that you are protected, even if I can’t always be there myself.”

“I don’t wanna leave you,” Rayne cried, shaking her head for emphasis. “Can’t you protect me in Rinba?”

“Not like I can here,” Rolf replied softly. “Don’t worry, little one. I will not be far away, and if you need anything, I will do what I can. I don’t want to let you go, Little Rayne, but I must.”

“Will you and Sister Arin come visit me?” Rayne sniffed, rubbing at the tears in her eyes.

“As often as we can,” Rolf nodded. “You will never be alone, Little Rayne. You will have Kadin and your friends and a whole valley to explore. You won’t even notice I’m gone.”

“Of course I’ll notice,” the girl whimpered in response.

Rolf sighed, then brushed at the girl’s tears with his thumbs.

“You think that now, but I doubt it. But don’t worry about it too much just yet. We can go say hello in the morning.”

Then with that, Rolf went to retrieve the bed rolls and set them out for the night, all the while keeping an eye on Rayne who sat dejectedly poking a stick into the campfire. He sighed, then smoothed out Rayne’s bed roll next to his own. He hoped he was doing the right thing, but the way he felt right now? Right now, he wasn’t so sure.

***

The morning was still grey as Rolf and Rayne approached the great old oak in the hidden valley. From up close, it looked even bigger than it had from the previous night’s campsite. That the tree was also a house had not been lost on Rayne, for even her protests on having to leave Rolf had traded themselves out for awed silence.

The pair hadn’t even managed to reach the door when the handle turned and out stepped an older woman with snow-white hair and a youthful face.

“Do you remember the story I told you yesterday?” Rolf asked as he felt Rayne’s grip tighten on his hand.

“Mm-hmm,” the child replied quietly, nodding her head slightly.

“The chief’s son and the hunter’s daughter, the elf princess’s two friends, they fell in love and got married. This woman here is their daughter. Her name is Effie, and she is the one who will be taking care of you.”

Rayne’s jaw dropped at this, and she gawked up at the elf lord for a moment before turning back to stare in awe at the old half-elf before them.

“Good morning, Lord Rolf,” Effie smiled. Then she squatted down to be on Rayne’s level. “And this must be Rayne. Your friends have been so excited to see you.”

At this, a red-headed child appeared in the open doorway. Both Rayne’s and the red-head’s eyes lit up when they saw each other.

“Razi?” Rayne questioned.

Effie stood and backed away as the red-head at the door let out an excited squeal and bolted over to Rayne.

“Rayne! I’m so glad to see you!” Razi gasped. “Come inside! I want to show you the tree house! It’s amazing!”

At first, Rayne hesitated as Razi pulled her toward the door. The girl’s fingers clamped tighter around Rolf’s hand and she glanced back at the elf lord. Quietly, Rolf smiled.

“It’s all right,” he said, giving the girl’s hand a gentle squeeze. “I will see you again.”

Another split second, then Rayne let go and followed after Razi, Kadin loping excitedly at their heels.

Rolf and Effie watched them go, then the woman turned back to the elf lord.

“Do not worry, Lord Rolf,” Effie said softly in the dialect of the Valley Elves. “I will take care of her, and you are welcome to visit at any time.”

“I appreciate that,” Rolf replied, removing the long bundle Arin had given him from where he had slung it across his back and handing it to Effie. “When the time comes, would you give these to her?”

“What is this?” the half-elf questioned, cautiously accepting the bundle handed to her.

“Her father’s old swords, from the time before he was a Star,” Rolf replied quietly. “He inherited them from his adopted father, an old valley elf who lived in a small village to the south. They are of dwarvish make and should serve Rayne well if ever she chooses the path of the warrior.”

“I see,” Effie nodded. “I will put them away for safe-keeping.”

Rolf nodded in reply, then turned to leave. He paused after only a step, however, and glanced over his shoulder at Effie.

“Thank you, Effie,” he said quietly. “If there is anything you need, anything at all, you have but to ask. I may not be able to raise the children myself given the circumstances, but I will do what I can.”

“I know you will, Lord Rolf,” Effie smiled. “Give Arin greetings from myself and my father.”

“I will,” Rolf responded, smiling slightly in reply. “Good day.”

Effie waved, then turned toward the great tree, and Rolf set his gaze toward the sky. The first hints of sunlight had gathered to the east, but the valley still remained shadowed.

Quietly, Rolf climbed up to the top of the cliff where he had left his horse and turned toward the great oak. The tall, spreading branches glittered in gold sunlight at the top, and already Rolf could feel the warmth of the morning sun on his skin. He hated to leave Rayne behind. Every fatherly instinct he had inside him told him to go back and get her. But that was just an emotion, selfishness on his part. He knew that. And as he set off on horseback for home, he couldn’t help but believe he had done the right thing. And right now, that was all that mattered.

Elwyn’s Daughter

It is very interesting to watch the growth of a young writer, especially when that writer is myself. When I first began self-publishing books, I was finishing roughly 1 book a year. Of course, looking back on it, that may not have been such a great thing, as it meant that my books did not quite get the planning and polishing they needed.

For those of you who have been following my blog for a while, you know about my old series of books, Legend of the Stars (Also known as The Star Trilogy and its sequel, Ancient Vengeance). I wasn’t kidding when I said I still wanted to rewrite and republish them, but I may have been a little overzealous when I said I hoped to have all of them redone by this year. To be honest, the rewriting process has been slow, not just because I’m trying to make the stories and facts make sense (I tended to start up with one idea and end with another in my early books), but also I have poured a great many hours into developing the world as a whole. This includes a brand new elvish language (which is woefully uninspired at the moment, being largely based off of Irish Gaelic), and three alphabets (the progression of the elvish writing system that is mentioned in the original stories). Along with this, however, I have taken to writing short stories based around my books which are meant to fill in details and develop characters so that I can more clearly write about them in the rewrites of my books.

I finally finished the first of these short stories, entitled “Elwyn’s Daughter,” today, so I thought I would go ahead and post it here. The story is based about 10 years before The Four Stars begins, and is told from the point of view of one of the series’ minor characters, Rolf, Lord of the Forest Elves. So while I whittle away at the mess I made of the original stories, here’s a short story to get you familiar with some of the characters and plot information.

——-

wolf pup

Elwyn’s Daughter

She looked so small and frightened, tears flowing like rivers from her big brown eyes.

“Rayne.”

Rolf knelt down on one knee and held his arms out to the crying child in front of him. Immediately Rayne released the hand of the villager who had brought her there and ran to the elf lord, throwing her little arms around his neck and sobbing bitterly against his shoulder. Rolf wrapped his arms around the girl’s tiny frame, and he could feel her shivering despite the warm morning air.

“So what exactly happened? I’m afraid the messenger you sent wasn’t very clear,” Rolf asked the villager as he stood to his feet, holding Rayne tightly in his arms.

“They’re gone,” the woman replied, looking sadly at the crying girl in the elf lord’s arms. “Lance, Elwyn, Cael, Delwynn…even their wives. The houses all look like war zones, and no one is left. There are rumors that the Gauls are responsible for their disappearances. There was a small group of Gaul warriors at the edge of the Kassrdy Desert, but they broke camp and disappeared about a week ago, around the same time as the four Stars disappeared. I’ve heard people say that Lance and Elwyn were acting oddly not long before it happened.”

Rolf frowned, then closed his eyes with a mournful sigh and laid his cheek against the top of Rayne’s head. If the Gauls had killed the four heroes, and if they were the ones behind the disappearance of the wives as well, it could be assumed that the children were not safe either.

“What of the other children? You said it looked like the homes had been attacked. Where were the children when this occurred? I know of Rayne. Are the others safe?”

“The other children were not in the homes when the attacks occurred, as far as I know,” the villager responded with a shake of her head. “Cael’s son and Delwynn’s daughter have already been taken in by Effie of Great Oak Valley. I have not heard anything about Lance’s son since his mother disappeared, and Rayne…we found her this morning. She may be the only one who knows what happened to her mother, but she wouldn’t speak to any of us.”

“I see,” Rolf sighed. “Very well. I’ll look into it. Thank you for bringing her to me.”

The villager bowed, then turned and walked back down the road. The elf lord watched her go, then glanced down at the small child in his arms. Her sobs had died down considerably, though Rolf’s neck was damp with the tears she had already cried.

Banné Rayne,” the elf lord soothed in elvish as he turned to carry the child into his large mansion home. “Little Rayne, do not worry. I am here. Friend Rolf is here.”

He could feel Rayne tighten her grip around his neck.

“Would you like something to eat?”

The girl shook her head.

“Are you thirsty?”

Again she shook her head.

Another sigh escaped Rolf’s lips as he balanced the girl in his arms and reached for the door that led into his home. He wanted desperately to go looking for his missing friends. He wanted to know what had happened, and he wanted to be there when they were found. But right now? Right now, he had something else he needed to do. He needed to see to it that Rayne was comforted and safe. He owed Elwyn that much. Actually, he owed him far more.

***

Atha?” came a familiar voice as Rolf shifted position on a cushioned bench in the main sitting room of the mansion. The elf lord glanced up to see his daughter, Arin, as she stepped into the room, her sharp blue eyes resting curiously on the little girl who had, by this point, fallen asleep in Rolf’s arms.

“Father, is this Rayne? What has happened?”

“Arin, I need you to take a message to Olivek. I want him to organize a search party. They should start at Elwyn’s home.”

“A search party?” Arin inquired, tensing nervously. “Atha, what is happening?”

“They are gone,” the elf lord replied, turning his gaze toward the grey morning that lay just outside his sitting room window. “All of them, save the children. Through luck or something greater, the children remain. But Elwyn and the others…they are gone.”

“Gone?” Arin inquired, coming to stand in front of her father. “Gone where?”

“If I knew that, I would not need a search party. And the longer we wait, the harder it will be to find them.”

“You are right,” his daughter sighed, turning to leave the room. “I will dress for travel and leave shortly. Is there any other message I should take to Olivek when I go?”

“Only this,” Rolf replied. “It may have been Ceallach.”

Arin’s face paled at her father’s words. She knew of whom he spoke, and what the mention of that name implied. And then with a nod, the elf girl darted off, down the hall and out of sight.

Rayne stirred a moment later, stretching briefly before curling back up against Rolf’s chest. The elf lord glanced down at the girl in his arms. She was small, very small, in fact, for an 8-year-old. She must have taken after father, Rolf thought, for her mother had been…no, was…a tall, heavy-boned woman with a fiery temper. “Mother Bear,” the other heroes had jokingly called her. Elwyn was quieter, though he had a temper, too. Rolf had seen it once or twice before. Yes, Rayne had always reminded Rolf of Elwyn, though he didn’t know if she always would. After all, it was said that girls, elvin and human both, took after their mothers as they grew.

Atha?”

Rolf shook himself out of his thoughts and glanced up at the sound of Arin’s voice. She was now dressed in a traveling tunic and breeches, her long, jet black hair pulled back into a simple ponytail and held in place by an ornate metal clasp. Yes, she looked more like her mother every day, too.

“Yes, dear one.”

“I am headed out. Shall I go to King Dorrian, as well?”

Rolf paused to think about the question briefly, then nodded.

“I am sure he knows what happened,” the elf lord said, “but it would not hurt if he were to send out some search parties of his own, if he has not already done so. I also need to discuss the matter of the children with him.”

Quietly, Arin nodded, then turned and hurried out the door. Rolf watched her go, then leaned back in his seat. If anyone could get the message to Olivek and Dorrian in time, it would be her.

Rayne coughed slightly, then sat up in Rolf’s lap, tiny hands rubbing at swollen eyes.

“Do you feel better?” the elf lord inquired, brushing a stray tear off the little girl’s cheeks.

The child didn’t reply, but only looked back at him through mournful brown eyes.

Banné Rayne,” he said, again speaking in elvish, as he cupped the child’s face in his hands. “Little Rayne, I need to know. What happend to your thaira? What happened to your mother? Can you tell me?”

A fresh stream of tears pooled at the corners of Rayne’s eyes as she shook her head.

“Mama and me were playing hide-and-seek before I had to go to sleep,” the girl sobbed. “She told me I couldn’t hide outside, but I did. Then some strangers came. I stayed hiding and heard mama scream, but I was scared. I went inside after the strangers left, but mama was gone.”

“I see,” Rolf mused, wiping at the child’s tears. “So you didn’t see what happened.”

Rayne began to cry harder at this.

“I’m s-sorry,” she cried, burying her face in Rolf’s shirt. “I was a bad g-girl. I didn’t do what mama said and-”

At this, Rolf wrapped his arms tightly around the girl, pressing his forehead to the top of her head.

“No, Rayne,” he said, this time in trade tongue where she could clearly understand him. “No, you are a good girl. This is not your fault.”

He pushed her away just enough that he could lift her chin and make her look at him.

“This is not your fault,” he repeated. “Do you understand me?”

The child looked doubtful.

“Rayne, you are safe because you went outside. Your mother would have told you to go outside and hide if she had known those strangers were coming. You are a good girl, and this bad thing that happened is not your fault.”

He could see a flicker of relief in those tear-glazed eyes, but this also set her off on another round of crying.

Pulling the child close, Rolf stood to his feet, carrying her down the hall toward a door located at the far end. He had learned long ago that sometimes children couldn’t be comforted with words. Once upon a very long time ago, he had had two children to comfort. Now, once again, he had a child to comfort despite his own grief. But at least this time, he had a better idea of how to handle it.

Rayne was still crying by the time Rolf reached the end of the hall, and gently he pushed the door open. A friendly yip was the first thing to greet him, and the elf lord had to stop just shy of the open door as 6 little bundles of fur swarmed around his feet.

Instantly, Rayne’s sobs died down as she sat up and glanced down at the puppies who yipped and jumped in greeting, licking at the girl’s feet despite the shoes they were clad in. At the opposite side of the room, two wolves, one large and jet black, the other small and fair as quicksilver, lay side by side on a cushion. Both creatures perked up when Rolf entered, and the quicksilver she-wolf, Arinya, woofed lightly at the pups who swarmed at the elf lord’s feet. The wolf pups backed off at this, but they still stood with tails wagging as they looked up into the faces of the elf and child.

“Would you like to see Randolf and Arinya’s puppies?” Rolf asked in elvish.

Rayne nodded, her brown eyes trained on one particular puppy with a coat like quicksilver and an unusually distinct white elvin dagger marking on its forehead.

One corner of Rolf’s mouth twitched up in a smile as he set Rayne down on the floor, and he chuckled when, almost as if on cue, the puppies swarmed on top of the girl. Rayne let out a surprised squeal, then giggled slightly as the wolf pups painted warm, wet kisses across her tear-stained cheeks.

“Down. Down, sillies,” Rayne giggled, pushing the puppies off her. Then she looked up at Rolf.

“Can they talk yet?” she asked.

“In elvish, they can,” the elf lord nodded. “They haven’t learned human speech yet.”

Rayne blinked back at him, then looked down at the puppies who watched her expectantly. Though she had spent all 8 years of her life in Alfedan, Rolf knew that Rayne likely was not incredibly familiar with elvish. Her mother certainly hadn’t been. Rayne could understand elvish, but she probably didn’t speak much of it. Well, perhaps learning to communicate with the elvish wolf pups would help get her mind off of other, more distressing things.

Rolf was just thinking this when Rayne bent down, propping her face up with her elbows on the floor.

Jia duit,” she said, her eyes nearly mesmerized as she looked at the quicksilver wolf pup.

The puppies yipped excitedly at her words.

“She can speak elf-tongue!” one pup, a dark grey male, exclaimed.

“She can! She can!” the others agreed, bounding in circles around her. “Hello, friend!”

“Say! Say!” one of the females, whose coat was black as her father’s, said as she sat down next to Rayne’s right knee. “Why are your ears not pointy? Master Rolf and Lady Arin’s ears are pointy.”

“I am not elf,” Rayne giggled, sitting up and patting the pup on the head. “I am comeahn. I am human. Humans do not have pointy ears.”

“Human?” asked the little female pup with a dark, reddish-brown coat, the only one of the littler who didn’t have a grey or black coat. “What is a human? You do not look that different from Master Rolf and Lady Arin.”

“Humans are humans. We look mostly the same as elves, but not all the same.”

“I think it must be like our coats,” the male pup with a black coat said. “We look the same, but we are different colors.”

“Oh! I understand!” the last pup, a male whose coat was halfway between quicksilver and dark grey, piped up. “So human means round ears.”

“Yes! Yes, that must be it!” the black-coated female yipped. “Come, round-ears! Play with us!”

The other pups yipped their agreement, then bounded off after random trinkets scattered about the room that they could play with. Only the little male with a coat like quicksilver stayed beside the girl. He watched his siblings run off, then turned and looked at Rayne.

“Why were you crying?” he asked.

Rolf could see Rayne’s face become pinched, and he stiffened. He wondered, too, how the pup knew what crying was.

“Young one, will you go find Little Rayne a toy to play with?” Rolf asked, kneeling down and stroking the pup’s back.

The little creature looked at him quizzically, then turned back to Rayne. The girl bowed her head as warm, wet droplets spotted the hands that lay fisted in her lap.

“I…I lost my mother and father,” she cried softly. “I do not know where they are.”

Rolf sighed. He had hoped to get her mind off that fact.

For a moment, the silver pup watched the tears fall from the girl’s eyes. Then he stepped forward, his forepaws on Rayne’s leg, and licked a tear that rolled down her cheek.

“If they are lost, then we will have to find them,” he said, looking up at her and wagging his tail. “But can we play first?”

Rayne blinked back at the pup for a moment, then a smile came to her face.

“Yes,” she nodded, wiping away the rest of her tears with one hand and petting the wolf pup with the other. “Yes, we can. Then we will find my atha and thaira. I like that. What is your name, puppy?”

“I do not have one yet,” the pup replied. “My future master must give me a name.”

At this, Rayne looked up at Rolf. Perhaps she thought him to be the pup’s future master, but a smile came to Rolf’s lips as he thought about it. He had a better idea.

“Well, then,” he said in elvish, placing one hand on Rayne’s shoulder, “I suppose you will have to give him one.”

The little girl’s mouth dropped open in surprise and the pup yipped excitedly.

“Will Little Rayne be my real master, Master Rolf?” the pup asked.

Rolf could see the hopefulness dancing in Rayne’s eyes, and softly he smiled.

“I believe Little Rayne would like that, yes?”

The girl nodded her head vigorously, a wide grin spreading across her face.

“Then it shall be so,” Rolf nodded, standing to his feet again. “What will you name your talking wolf, Rayne, daughter of Elwyn?”

For a moment, the child sat with her hands in her lap, looking at the wolf pup thoughtfully. Then her eyes brightened and she said in trade speech, “Kadin. I will name him Kadin, since that means ‘best friend’ in elf-tongue. Right? That’s what it means?”

Rolf smiled slightly. The word meant “companion,” but it was a term Elwyn had always used with affection when speaking of those he was closest to, especially when speaking of the other 3 heroes who had been his best friends since childhood.

“Yes, that is a good translation of it,” Rolf nodded.

“All right,” Rayne smiled, leaning down toward the pup. Then in elvish, she said, “Little elf wolf, I name you Kadin. Will you be my best friend?”

The puppy yipped happily in reply.

“Yes! Yes!” he barked, bouncing back and fourth before bouncing right into Rayne’s arms. “And when I get big, I will protect you like my atha protects Master Rolf! I will be the strongest warrior wolf of all time!”

“Good!” Rayne giggled in reply. “Well then, warrior wolf Kadin, let us play!”

And with another yip and a laugh, the pair took off after the other 5 wolf pups. Quietly, Randolf, the big black he-wolf and father of the 6 pups, stood from where he lay next to his mate and came to stand at Rolf’s side.

“Would you like me to look for him, my lord?” the black wolf asked softly. “For the human girl’s father…your kadin?”

Rolf smiled sadly, then turned toward the door.

“I would appreciate that,” the elf lord nodded as Randolf followed him down the hall. “Though it may be too late, if it is Ceallach who orchestrated all of this.”

“All the same, you wish me to try.”

“For Elwyn’s daughter, yes.”

“For Elwyn’s daughter.” Randolf almost chuckled as he trotted ahead. His tone implied that he might have rolled his eyes if he could. “And for you.”

Rolf paused in the middle of the hall and watched as his long-time companion left to do his bidding. The elf lord closed his eyes as a solitary tear trailed down his face. Yes. And for him.

Writing Prompt: Ruler of the World

So my friend, Sarah, and I have started doing writing prompts to keep our writing skills honed. Today’s writing prompt was the following:

You rule the world and you’ve been given the power to change one law of nature. What do you change?

We gave ourselves a time limit of 20 minutes. Wasn’t sure what to do at first, but it turned out pretty fun. So, here it is. Also, if you would like to read Sarah’s interpretation of this prompt, you can find it here.

——-

Sun glittered off the decorative pool in the courtyard below, but I had long ago given up trying to hear the sound of the pool’s many fountains above the din of the crowd gathered around it. I fidgeted slightly with my costume as I peeked around the corner of the door that led to the balcony, then drew in a deep breath, trying to still my nerves. It didn’t work. Whose funny idea was it to make me ruler of the world? Me, the same girl who used to hide behind pianos at church socials. Ok, so I wasn’t that bad now, but still. Ruling the world had never been on my bucket list. Still, though, the job had come with its perks, and it was one of those perks that had brought the huge crowd to my castle palace in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. Of all the crazy things I had been given when I was made ruler of the world, this perk would definitely go in the Guinness Book of World Records for achieving an entirely new level of crazy. I had been given the power to change one law of nature. Yes, that’s right. Forget physics, and science, and all those white-haired men who had poured their hearts and souls into the theories I think I might have learned once upon a time in some class that I no longer remembered. Yes, I was about to change nature itself.

The giant clock on the tower above my palace chimed noon and the crowd outside quieted down. Now or never.

I stepped out onto the balcony and plastered as convincing of a smile as I could muster onto my face, waving as the crowd roared to life, making every concerted effort to bust my ear drums. I waited until I thought their voices must have become sufficiently sore before I motioned for silence.

“People of the world!” I shouted, hoping that the people in the back forty of the courtyard could at least tell that I was speaking English, if not understand what I was saying. “Today, I use the greatest gift that I have been given. No longer will you have to worry about falling from cliffs or dying from plane crashes. From this day forward, gravity will be at your command!”

More ear-piercing cheers. These people sure had good lungs.

I waved my hand and felt the energy flow out of me as nature bent to my will. Then, tapping one foot on the floor of the balcony on which I stood, I willed myself to fly. Instantly I soared skyward, coming to pause roughly a hundred feet above my cheering subjects. Yes. Now this was a gift.

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