I’ll never forget that day we first met. I’m sure to you it was an unremarkable day, but it changed my destiny. No, rather, you changed my destiny. To understand why, you must know what I survived beforehand. After the elven massacre of my town, I endured the hardest weeks of my life.
I spent that first night in the library curled around my favorite book, A History of the Valley. It’s familiarity comforted me while death strode outside. Elves weaved in an out of its pages. Critical in the founding of the Valley, they upheld an unspoken alliance to guard it from their mountain castles against invaders. In recent centuries, they had withdrawn from sight, hiding in the mountains. Funny, since they didn’t look highly on dwarven values.
Whether their relationship with us deteriorated by Lord Chaxon’s hand or theirs, I grew to hate them that night. All the good they had ever done for me, unknown or not, flushed out from my mind. The unnatural screaming and groaning outside justified my new-found hate.
I found sleep that night in a pool of my tears. I dreamed of my father and I working out in the fields until a force of elves descended from the mountains. The townsfolk’s screams haunted me once again, crying for me to save them as the elves burned everything. My own father reached out for me, but I was powerless. Two mounted, armored elves stabbed him with their lances, reveling in my screams of fury.
I awoke with a start, cursing the elves. Hurrying outside, the sun lit up an empty town. Nothing burned, yet nothing stirred. I traveled from house to house walking through remnants of interrupted lives. Nothing had been pillaged save the people. Every living animal and person had been emptied out. I cried out for my father, but he never came. I was alone.
The mountains hid their elven castles from me. Without the darkness of night to reveal the lights, I couldn’t make out anything from the grays and whites of the tall slopes. A solemn pang of fear weighted me down. The elves were sure to return.
Taking no time to mourn those I had lost, I set myself to work fortifying the library. My studies of the histories of major battles helped me create a crude series of small battlements and archer platforms. Ransacking a few houses, I had enough food stocks to supply me for weeks, plus the next harvest soon approached. I could easily have made it another year or more.
As the weeks went by, I spent my days perusing towers of books on the arcane magics. They were my only hope of achieving retribution for my father. The elves stripped my life from me, I thought it fair to repay them. The library stored tomes on just about every school of magic. I sought ways of killing my enemies as brutally as they had killed my father. Nothing quite satisfied me.
While patrolling my makeshift castle, I passed the cellar door-the only section that remained unexplored. I always stayed away because of my boyish fears. This time, I conquered the dark with a fistful of candles. Without much searching at all, I found a hidden door that lead into a small room layered with dust. An expended candle burnt down to a nub sat at the edge of a desk littered with parchments.
The walls were deep shelves filled with books bound all in black. The dust was so thick upon them, I couldn’t make out any of their names. I pulled a few over to the desk and began reading. At first, they were written in an unknown script, but the longer I sat there, the more I seemed to understand the words. One name recurred throughout them all–Nerull. I smiled, having found the path to unleash death upon the elves.
I lived in that private library over the next few weeks, filling my head with its tomes of death. I would have wasted away in all of that knowledge, had I not been captured. On that fateful day that you may very well remember, Ilanna, I had come back up to the main hall in the library and heard elven voices outside. Peeking down from my battlements, I saw a handful of elven riders.
Eager to apply my studies, I conjured up a host of undead rats with my limited powers. Short sword in hand, I burst outside and attacked the riders like a fool. My army of rats covered them, chinking their armor with decaying teeth. The elves just laughed at me and brushed my army off them. In moments, my army turned back into dust at my feet.
Rage swelled in my throat. I screamed out another curse and cast more spells from my memory. Dark clouds blotted out the sun as two of the elves fell from their horses. They screamed while ripping off their armor. I laughed at seeing their flesh turn black and fall from their bones. The other riders descended upon me before I could open my mouth again. I crumpled to the ground, unconscious.
I awoke in chains with pain running throughout my body. My cell felt moderately sized, but that could have been my childish perspective. A lone beam of sunlight entered through a tiny window a little bigger than my head. I had to jump up, grab the ledge, and pull myself up to look out.
The Valley spread out as far as I could see to either side. It wasn’t as green as I always imagined. Instead, it looked to be a patchwork of varying shades of brown. Then it hit me. I had made it up to a castle in the mountains! Not even my chains held back my excitement.
Through my window, I could make out the outer parts of the castle that held me prisoner. I’ve never felt such exhilaration as I did there, in a cell, hanging from a ledge, and viewing an elven castle from the inside. But even that wasn’t the best sight I found.
I noticed a walkway a level down from where I was. A group of female elves wearing flowing gowns of yellow and deep blue walked across it. I’m sure you remember that day now, Ilanna, because your violet eyes sparked their own conversations with those around you. My own heart stopped from your sheer beauty. The sun caught your hair perfectly and ignited its golden flair. I almost could have forgiven your House in that moment for what they did to me.
I held on as tightly as I could to that ledge, desiring to watch you forever. Your gaze drifted in my direction and we locked eyes. I’m sure you remember as well as I. Our destinies converged in that moment, giving birth to our eternal love.
Tolin Naihim – Death’s Neglected Son