Editor's Introduction: Every other Sunday, we're publishing "Neverdie", a serialized fantasy novel. This is an original work of fantasy fiction and is not set in an MMORPG world. Today, we bring you chapter four. If you're just getting started, you can go back and catch up:
"Neverdie" (Chapter 4), an original fantasy story by Jon Wood
Sir Ashley Guildarm had only just settled himself down for the night when the torches started to flare up, one by one throughout the town. Only moments ago there had been only a few dim sources of light burning from inside of homes. The small and backward town had settled into the calm routine of night. What was happening now provided an unwelcome interruption to the calm. Torches, carries by townspeople that Ash could not see, sped their way through the streets, moments later to be joined by a flickering fellow, presumably carried by another of the townspeople. It went on like this for some time, until it looked to Ash as through a swarm of lightning bugs danced through the town’s streets, slowly making their way toward the town’s center, the Dragon’s Blood Tavern and the still-standing gallows.
“The girl!” Ash thought, hastily donning his armor. He wished he could have taken the time to do it properly, there was a good chance that a fight stood between himself and his charge, but there wasn’t time for that. Hurridly, he dressed, grabbed his breastplate and sword and dashed into town, leaving his camp, his horse and his bedroll behind.
“You wants that we should tie ‘er up then?” Was the first thing that Rowan heard as her head began to clear. Still unable to move, she could tell by the feeling of the grains of dirt under her cheek that she was no longer in the bar, but rather was outside on the ground.
“Nah,” Another gravelly voice replied, “she ain’t goin nowhere, Salty hit ‘er pretty good he did.”
As her mind slowly came back to itself, Rowan became aware of the many sounds around her. She could hear the din of many voices, both man, woman and child. She could hear the sounds horse hooves on the dusty ground, even the sound of the light wind as it rustled through the trees. Slowly, carefully, she opened her eyes. She could see the legs of the two men who had been talking, finding their backs turned to her, she dared to look around further. While she didn’t want to lose the advantage of their thinking that she was unconscious, she had to figure out if she was indeed where she feared that she was. A quick look to her right confirmed that her thinking had been correct. She lay on the ground, not 50 yards from the gallows that she only now recalled that she had seen on her way into the town. From her vantage point, she could see one man atop the structure, tying a noose why distractedly chatting with another man who was testing the trap door that would drop her to her death. She could also see the large crowd that had gathered around the structure, their torches burning brightly and illuminating the scene.
“What’s going on here?” A disheveled Sir Ashley Guildarm asked the first person that he had seen since running into the village.
“They found themselves an elven spy down to the bar, sir.” The young woman replied, smiling at the handsome Knight. “Might be well if you escorted me to the square.”
“Why the square?” Ash asked, knowing the answer, but somehow needing to hear it from the young, innocent-seeming lips of this young woman.
“We don’t tolerate spies ‘round here..” She said, suddenly serious. “We can’t have no elves sneakin’ ‘round. It just ain’t goodly.”
“Not goodly?” Ash asked urgently, gripping the girl by the shoulders. She squirmed in his sudden grip, and he hoped that he was not hurting her, but he had a point to make. “What makes you think she’s a spy? Has she done anything? Hurt anyone? Or was she simply passing through your town, innocently? Was she stopped because her ears have points? That’s just not goodly.” He spat out the last word, and released his grip on the young woman’s arms. He looked at her long enough to see that she was not hurt, but rather totally surprised, and then dashed toward the center of town.
Rowan, still lying on the ground with her eyes closed, feigning sleep, heard the murmur of the crowd start to dwindle, and then die off immediately. In its place, a single, feminine voice spoke loudly and crisply into the night.
“We have called you all here today to witness that which must be done,” the woman’s voice was melodic, providing a sharp contrast to the words that she was speaking. “We have captured an elf woman, come here to spy upon you and your families, to clear the way for her people’s invasion of lands that we have held for a hundred years!” The voices in the crowd picked up for a moment, as townspeople murmured their approval. “The life that we must take today, we do not take lightly, but rather, we take because if we do not, it will be your husbands and wives who pay the price. It will be your brothers, sisters and children.” As the speaker paused for dramatic effect, Rowan thought frantically, looking for some way out, some way to get away from this place. In this moment, for this instant, she regretted ever having stepped foot outside of Greengem tower. In her heart, Rowan knew that she couldn’t fight her way out of this mass of people. Even if her magic were capable of hurting, or even killing the people who stood between her and her freedom, she wouldn’t do it. She would not prove these people right about her people.
“The elf-woman has been sentenced to be hung by the neck until dead,” the woman continued. Whether she spoke to appease the crowd, or simply to hear the sound of her own self-righteous voice, Rowan couldn’t be sure. “We do this with our own safety in mind, and with the blessing of the Gods of Good…”
“There is one God whose blessing you do not have,” a strong voice interrupted. Even opening her eyes, Rowan couldn’t see who was talking. The voice was male, and unfamiliar to her, but held a tone of authority. “His Holy Grace, Rah, does not tolerate the wholesale slaughter of any of this realm’s goodly creatures and I will assure you that the elves fall into that category.” There was a general murmur of distaste from the crowd, but no one moved to stop the man as he climbed to the top of the gallows to stand beside the woman. He stood at least a foot taller than she did, and his muscled frame made him almost twice as wide. He reminded Rowan of the knights in the old stories that she had often read to Szark’s son Kazereth. Strong and proud, these knights always seemed to save the day, rescuing those in danger, and slaughtering whatever evil stood in their way. Rowan’s spirits were suddenly lifted. She didn’t notice that the man’s brown hair was disheveled and that the only armor that he wore was a breastplate the bore the sun emblem that represented his god. What she saw was a great knight in shining armor, who slew dragons and saved women in distress before breakfast.