It was said that humans are descendants of the elder race,
the elves of the distant past.
Magic brought the elves to life and blessed them with immortality,
but were the elves really much better than we humans?
Nay, the answer is no.
The supposedly pure elves became tainted with sin,
and the elves became divided as a war broke out.
The elves of the forest became the Wood Elves,
ones who lived off the land and abandoned their magic.
Those who embraced sin became the Dark Elves,
and their magic nearly destroyed the world.
A bloody battle between the High Elves,
who wielded the power of immortality,
and the Dark elves,
who wielded the power rage.
In the end both sides were supposedly destroyed,
and soon the Wood Elves blended with the humans,
at the time a primitive race.
The high elves are supposedly all dead,
but lest we forget they were immortal.
A magical orchard, deep within a great sanctuary,
there lives the key to immortal life.
A tree, naturally grown in the form of pure gold,
sprouted in a lone orchard.
This tree, this miracle of nature, bore fruit.
The fruit, like the tree, was solid gold.
It is said that the secret of the immortality of the elves,
one that no human has ever achieved,
can be granted with but one bite of the Golden Apple.
~ Gaspar Zalerech, 'The Legend of the Elves'
Act 1: The Tale of the Golden Apple
It was a glorious morning in the city of Haven, and princess Dancia awoke to meet it eagerly. The young woman of sixty-nine would be turning seventy with in the next few weeks, a coming of age moment for those of the high elves. The golden-haired Dancia would no longer be considered a child, but an adult, though some of the Haven court would no doubt not be thrilled by the decision. Among the court Dancia was known for not being terribly intelligent, and along with her elder sister Sonia being born after the war with the dark elves, now referred to as the drow as a derogatory slang term.
The blond princess rose from her head and opened the curtains of her tower-based room, revealing the sight of Haven in the morning sun's glow. A great forest surrounded the city, keeping it effectively safe as the forest was believed by humans to be cursed. The buildings were made primarily out of alabaster, the most common form of stone available, and fine oak wood from the forest's trees. Believing that corners were a sign of imperfection (in spite of their naturally long and pointed ears), high elf architecture was very round, as was the clothing. An example of the elven hatred for points was demonstrated on the white silk nightgown Dancia was wearing, whose tips were perfectly curved.
Dancia smiled and looked down at the tiled road below the palace where she could see several locals going about their business. After the war the male elves had all been declared dead, but luckily due to magic no elf would physically age past two hundred. Dancia's mother, Queen Omnia, was thus physically the same age as her oldest daughter, Princess Musia. Dancia's other sisters were Humia at one hundred and fifty nine, Decoria at one hundred and twenty nine and Sonia who was one hundred and one. In the entire city of Haven there were at least two thousand elves but not one of them had mated since the war. Dancia's father, the king, had died in single combat against the drow leader, the pair killing one another.
Songbirds flew by the window and Dancia smiled at them before turning to examine herself in the mirror. Being young, Dancia's hair was a rich blond with just enough red in it as well to have people call it gold. The princess liked her hair styled with curly waves with two long strands in front of her ears and the rest behind it, using a circlet made of ebony to hold it in place, a blue sapphire placed in the center. Her robes were made of fine silk with silver buttons used to hold them clothed over a simple sleeveless black top and cloud-gray skirt. The royal robes featured a high collar as well and sleeves that were extremely long around the wrists, plus a skirt which split on both sides all the way up to the waist yet still lacked sharp corners. Dancia's eyes were a rich and deep blue but lacked the faint glow that elves that had come of age possessed. The glowing eyes, known as the True Sight, was a gift bestowed upon the high elves when they reached adulthood and granted them the ability to see perfectly regardless of how light or dark it was while additionally allowing them to see over great distances and have a greater focus on objects in their peripheral line of sight. Since Dancia was the youngest girl in Haven when she gained her True Sight the townspeople would finally be able to remove all lighting objects as there would be no one left that required them.
A knock at the door made Dancia turn away from the mirror and open the great doors to her room that matched her under-skirt's color and whose handles were made of pure gold. Standing in the stairwell that connected to Dancia's private tower bedroom was her sister Humia. Humia looked a lot like Dancia and even wore similar clothing, though her robes were purple and her underclothes were pink. Humia's hair was also much more red and her eyes were green, her lips even colored to match her eyes. Humia was known for her unique appearance in spite of her traditionally-tailored robes and styled hair as she was one of the few in Haven that wore such rich colors and colored her lips in such a way. "Breakfast time, my dear little sister," smiled Humia, her long-nailed hands extending towards her smiling younger sibling. Grinning back, Dancia took her sister's hands and was led down the great stairwell.
After arriving in the castle's main hall Humia led Dancia to the veranda where Queen Omnia and Princess Musia both sat. Omnia's hair was almost perfectly white save for a tint of blue and reached down to almost her knees in exotic curls, a coronet and golden braids keeping it in place. Being the queen she wore a diamond-studded robe similar to Dancia's that featured a wide collar and ruby-crusted shoulders. Rings covered every one of the queen's fingers, each possessing a gem of a different color. Her eyes were purple and glowed brighter than any other elf's. Musia's robes were green, another unique color that indicated she was the guardian of the palace orchards, and unlike her sisters she wore nothing underneath her robes. Musia's hair was a pale blond, reflecting their mother's own color, and her hair was done similar Dancia's but in a top-knot ponytail and straight, no circlet framing her head. Musia's eyes were a lush blue like Dancia's but glowed. Also unique to Musia was the platinum key she wore around her neck on a diamond chain, the key to the palace orchards. The Queen and Princess were seated at a grand oak table with seats for six though only four had places set for them. The cutlery was solid gold as were the plates, the goblets made of crystal. Roast boar sat on the table along with fresh fruit, amphorae of rich forest wine resting there as well. "Good morning my daughters," greeted Omnia, nodding at her children as they went to their seats.
"Good morning mother and dearest sister," replied Humia and Dancia in unison as they sat.
"Sonia left early this morning to go on her hunt with her friends, so she will not be joining us," declared Omnia after her daughters had taken their seats. No one asked about Decoria, as she almost never had breakfast. Decoria was the vain daughter of Omnia, possessing hair like her mother's only more blue than white and flaming red eyes, signs of great beauty among the high elves. Due to this Decoria insisted on maintaining a fetching appearance and limited herself to two meals a day and at least an hour preparing herself in front of her many mirrors in her own tower. Omnia did not particularly care for Decoria's ways but let her be. With the three present daughters gathered a collection of nine servants began moving about the table, serving the meat, fruit and wine while another dashed off to the kitchen to get more food.
The meal started off in relative silence save for remarks to the servants, Omnia complimenting the cooks while Humia requested more wine. Among the high elf court Humia was not held in high regard, much like Dancia, due to her unusual way of dress and over-indulgence of wine. Many times Humia had been known to be found intoxicated on the streets of Haven, embarrassing the royal family. Dancia's own standing was merely low as she was the last elf in the town to not possess True Sight and was considered very naive due to when she'd been born. Musia however was the first royal in centuries to be given the key to the royal orchards, wherein rests the magical golden tree that gives the elves their immortality. Decoria, in spite of her vanity, is also well respected for her love of beauty and skill as a painter, having decorated the palace with many images of the people of Haven. Sonia's popularity remained mixed, as she was also born after the war was the only royal with brown hair and was considered to be a bit rough due to her love of hunting. It has been suggested however that the Queen's council will soon make Sonia the new Protector of Haven, essentially making her the commander of the town's guards.
"Mother..." Dancia finally said after finishing a bite of bread. "My birthday is approaching, as we all know, but I was hoping I could go through the True Sight ceremony earlier?"
"What has prompted this request?" asked Omnia, perplexed yet showing no emotion as she casually sipped her wine.
"My friends wish to go on a night hunt in a week's time and I will require the True Sight to join them," confessed Dancia, suddenly sinking into her seat slightly.
"My dear daughter, do not try to grow up so quickly just due to something so trivial," chided Omnia, shaking her head. "The ceremony is a sacred right of our people. I cannot allow the rules to be bent just because you wish to play with your friends. You have the rest of eternity to do so following the ceremony, I do not see why you cannot wait until the correct time."
"I am sorry, dearest mother," sighed Dancia, getting a warning look from Musia for how she responded. Omnia was a loving mother but she did not enjoy dissent when it came to the ancient rules.
Breakfast eventually ended and Dancia wandered into town, telling her friends the bad news. The girls were disappointed which made Dancia much more depressed, knowing she'd be unable to join them. Dancia had always admired her sister Sonia going on a hunt would mean the world to her. Saddened, Dancia sat on an empty barrel in one of the town's alleys in between two identical white buildings that were dome-shaped, as were all the buildings of Haven that were not the palace. The town's women, all dressed in simple white and/or brown tunic dresses passed her by, many offering a simple greeting as a sign of respect. All of them possessed hair that was either blond, light brown, white, red or blue, being the dominant high elf hair colors, and their eyes were either green, blue or purple. Decoria was the only elf still alive who possessed the rare red eyes, another reason for her vanity.
"Is something troubling you, my dear princess?" asked a passerby, approaching the princess. Dancia looked up and saw it was a woman of two-hundred with mostly white hair save for a few strands of brown and pale green eyes in a full brown robe. The older woman had the identity of a farmer thus it was not a surprise that Dancia did not know her.
"It is not the place of a princess to make her own troubles that of her people," recited Dancia, recalling one of Musia's lessons.
"But it is the people that must do for the princess what she cannot do alone," retorted the farmer, sitting down across from Dancia. "I am Jalice of the Korin farm. Now please, tell me your plight."
"It is a selfish plight," confessed Dancia, none the less feeling a tear slide down her cheek. "My friends are going on their first night hunt before I will come of age thus I will not be able to join them as I'll lack the True Sight. It has been my desire to share the experience with them as they have been my closest friends, almost like my own sisters."
"Ah yes, the sacred bond we share with one another," nodded Jalice, smiling knowingly. "I am to assume that our wise Queen Omnia, the Lady of Reason, has not permitted you to go through the ceremony before your birthday... You do indeed have a plight, but I do not consider it selfish, and nor should you."
"Thank you for your kind words, but how am I to resolve this?" asked Dancia, smiling at her new friend.
"My dear princess, do you not know about the golden apple?" asked Jalice in surprise, raising her eyebrows when Dancia shook her head. "It is a common tale among the farmers. Your sister, Guardian Musia, holds the key to the orchard. Inside is the golden tree that is our immortality. On it rests a single golden apple. If you take the apple and bring it before the statue of our goddess Verianna in the castle's main hall it will grant you your True Sight regardless of your age."
"Truly?!" exclaimed Dancia, leaping up from the barrel and immediately hugging Jalice in gratitude. "Oh, thank you my dear Jalice, I shall not forget this!" News filling her with hope, Dancia dashed back to the palace.
After passing the silver gates protected by the two warriors that led into the palace Dancia decided to approach Musia about borrowing the key to the orchards. However as she climbed Musia's tower Dancia realized her sister would not give her the key, as she would no doubt side with Omnia's decision. Suddenly deterred, Dancia then heard a sound coming from Musia's room, which was nearly at, that made her realize she still could get the key.
A faint moan came from Musia's room, one Dancia knew as the sounds of love. Musia had a lover, her servant Cali, and the pair would frequently make love in the morning after a meal. Sure enough, when Dancia peaked into the room she saw the shroud had been lowered around Musia's bed, making impossible to see in or out. Musia and Cali's clothing all lay on the floor, and chief among them was the platinum key Dancia was seeking. Carefully and quietly Dancia opened the door as Musia let out more moans of pleasure, her beautiful and skilled servant making sweet love to her. Dancia took her time and managed to get the key without even making Musia and Cali stop. As quietly as she'd entered Dancia left, pleased to have gotten the key but envious of Musia's relationship with her servant.
The royal orchards deep within the castle courtyard, practically hidden by all the pale, leafless trees that decorated the area and the lush green bushes. Guards wearing blue robes constantly patrolled the area so Dancia had to be cautious, avoiding the pairs of soldiers and their silver-tipped spears whenever they came close to spotting her. Dancia's childhood gift of being an exceptional hider came in quite handy as more than one she'd been forced to duck under a bush. Finally she came to the circular ivy-covered walls of the garden and, using the key she'd stolen, opened the black-iron gates.
The orchards were really just a lone grassy knoll with a single tree less than six feet tall in the middle. The tree, however, was solid gold yet its leaves were like those of a normal tree. Dancia had never seen the tree herself as it was forbidden for anyone but the guardian to enter. Grinning ear to ear, Dancia saw the lone golden fruit hanging from a branch, perfectly within reach.
* * *
Musia's promise for Cali to take her to the gardens had to be put on hold when she discovered something was missing as she dressed. Musia had managed to put on her robes and fix her hair but then discovered to her great horror that the key to the garden was missing. Cali, the blond servant girl with purple eyes, sat in her drab white robe shaking her head, unable to find the key. "I am sorry my love, but I do not see it," confessed Cali. Cali wasn't much older than Dancia which was why Omnia had done her best to keep the affair a secret that only the girl and the royal family knew about. Cali was quite beautiful however, possessing curly locks like Omnia's that she tied into a low braided ponytail as was proper for servants.
"Oh no..." Musia then whispered, the color draining from her face. "Dancia, that fool! She must of taken it! She's the only one that could sneak in here and take it so quietly!"
"Does she know about the tree's magic?" asked Cali, going as white as her lover.
"No, and that's what makes this even worse!" screamed Musia, dashing out of her room, praying she wasn't too late.
* * *
Apple in hand, Dancia smiled and walked towards the gate. As she stepped beyond the black gate she saw to her left her sister Musia running towards her, clearly angry. "My sister, I'm sorry!" cried out Dancia, none the less smiling in spite of her serious infraction on high elf law.
"Don't take another-!" screamed Musia, but it was too late. Dancia stepped forward, fully exiting the orchard. Immediately Musia stopped, standing in the middle of her running gesture, her eyes wide in alarm and her mouth still open. Dancia remained smiling at her sister, waving with her left while the apple was in her right. Overhead blue birds hung in the air, and around the corner two white-haired guards with braided servant hair stood in mid-step. Indeed, this same effect had washed over all of Haven. When Dancia had carried the golden apple out of the royal orchard, its magic had been activated and, to ensure the spell of immortality would not suddenly fail, every being affected by the tree's magic had been frozen in time.
Act 2: The Ancient War Renewed
“Your highness I must say you have become quite the hunter since our last outing, I fear you may surpass my skill in due time.” Spekia complimented as the procession made its way down the forest path. Princess Sonia dressed in a dark brown cloak with velvet lining over a sleeveless black top and leather trousers. A polished marble bow hung off her back along with a leather quiver of arrows. The five other high elves in her company were dressed similarly, not particularly royal garments but more appropriate for horseback riding and hunting. The princess rode a magnificent white stallion; every royal stallion was white with blue eyes. Her two handmaidens who trailed her rode brown stallions as with the two royal guards that brought up the rear. The guards had donned on similar cloaks to their princess for practical purposes, since they were hunting. Spekia the hunt’s guide rode a black stallion with black eyes that was reserved for head guards only.
“Princess Sonia is the greatest hunter in of all of Haven that is why she will soon be the Protector of our great city.” Helixa, one of Sonia’s handmaidens boasted with pride. Helixa was a slender elf with straight blond hair tied in a servants braid her eyes bright green eyes were often sparkling more so than normal when she talked about her best friend and mistress.
“Do not speak so hastily Helixa, the high court must rule on the matter before any such appointment could be made.” Spekia informed with a warning tone. Spekia was the oldest of the group and was considered the best warrior in the city. The flame haired elf was just a few dozen years junior to Queen Omnia. Spekia had been considered for the position of City Protector that was most likely going to Princess Sonia now but the warrior refused to hold such a post. She did not speak of her time or part in the war, what others knew of her was from stories. Spekia often remained silent when these stories were being told and never denied or agree with them. She was a quiet elf considering her heroic status. However to those closes to her, mainly the royal family they knew like any other veteran she still carried the horrors of war around with her. “I do agree that Princess Sonia does have a very good chance to be appointed.” Spekia added looking over at the younger elf grinning, her blue eyes sparkling, a striking contrast to her fiery hair that was neatly braided into a coiled bun.
“Beg your pardon, but I am to understand that you all feel that Mistress Sonia is prepared for such a task? Mistress, you are one of the best hunters in Haven but I fear you lack the experience to lead our army and to head our defenses.” mused Nefaria, who looked identical to Helixa save for her dark purple eyes, the three thick braids that her hair was woven that off the back of her head.
“Do not speak with such distaste to our Mistress!” Helixa warned glaring at her counter part.
“That is enough you two.” Sonia calmly spoke with a grin looking back at her two handmaidens who she had known all of her life. She had grown up with Helixa and considered her like her own sister. Nefaria had been around when Sonia was growing up but the two were never really close till she became her handmaiden when Sonia had come to age. “Please Helixa do not call me mistress we are intimate enough for you to call me Sonia. This I have told you many times. Nefaria, I do feel that I am prepared to be protector of our great city but you are correct any doubt will be examined closely by the high court so do not be worried my appointment is not set in stone.”
Both maidens bowed and spoke in unison, “Yes mistress.”
“Sorry, Sonia…” Helixa added quietly. Sonia smiled to herself knowing that her friend will be calling her mistress once again when they returned to the palace.
Spekia chuckle and looked back at Nefaria, “Is there another that you feel should hold the post of Protector. I surely will not.” The veteran soldier and hunter asked. The handmaiden thought for a second and was silent seeing that her mistress was the most qualified. “Think before you speak my child and have more faith in your mistress.” She added grinning to herself and turning around.
“I am sorry mistress…” Nefaria said quietly making a face at Helixa who smiled at her brightly.
“That is quite alright Nefaria everyone is entitled to speak their minds…” Sonia began to say but stopped in her tracks the others did the same too not knowing what was going on. The guards as of standard procedure rode out to the flanks and stood watch.
“What is wrong my princess?” Nefaria asked guiding her horse next to Sonia and speaking in whisper.
Spekia was already looking ahead, “There is something the matter, and it is far too silent.” The hunter observed looking towards the city.
“Something is wrong. Spekia take the guards and ride to south entrance of the city I’ll continue on with Nefaria and Helixa.” Sonia ordered motioning to the two blue haired guards to join Spekia.
“Perhaps we should have Spekia and guards check out the city first…” Nefaria suggested nervously.
“No time child, others may need our assistance.” Spekia quickly said and looked over at Sonia. “Be careful my princess.”
“You as well Spekia.” Sonia replied with a nod and as Spekia returned the nod and headed off with the two guards following her.
When the trio had reached the city they were in shock of what they saw before their eyes. Everyone in the city was frozen and unmoving. Haven was a magnificent city with tall rounded buildings set upon grassy plots that were surrounded in cobble stoned road ways, a striking contrast of a civilized society surrounded by a green forest. As the hunters rode through the city they looked on in horror as their fellow elves were all unmoving as if were statues. The blank looks on their faces showed that whatever that had happened to them happened very suddenly and without any warning. Sonia and her two handmaidens had to move several solidified citizens to safety as they were frozen near cooking fires or horse driven carriages, which were frozen but Sonia felt the need to move citizens away just be safe. They found that the frozen elves were fully movable as if they were the toys of children. By the time Sonia and her party reached the city center they were still in shock of what had happened around them.
“Princess what has happened?” Helixa asked in a hushed voice as she looked around at the eerie sights around her.
“Surely this is some drow magic it must surely be!” Nefaria exclaimed circling her horse and looking at her fellow elves around her.
“The dark elves do not exist it cannot be them.” Helixa assured in a panic toned that made her voice higher than normal.
“Who else could it be!? Look around you!” Nefaria remarked and gestured angrily at the elves around them. “This is black magic, beyond any that a high elf could accomplish!”
“That’s enough of that.” Spekia ordered calmly as her and the two guards trotted up to the trio. “Princess?” She asked as she approached Sonia.
Sonia looked at Spekia blankly and then back at her handmaidens. She was quiet looking around her taking in the silent and stillness of the once bustling city. “I…” The princess began to say but stopped and looked around her.
“We must head to the palace.” Spekia suggested
Sonia nodded and looked at the veteran hunter and her eyes shot wide. “Mother!” Quickly remembering her family the princess took off quickly with the five other elves trailing.
When they reached the palace gates they were welcomed by two blond, green-eyed guards standing at attention in their blue robes. Both guards looked on blankly and did not move as the party raced past them. Once within the palace gates the hunting party was surrounded by more of their fellow elves, similar to the outside world they were frozen as well. Sonia dismounted her horse quickly and races up the marble steps leading to the grand hall of the palace. Helixa and Nefaria followed suit.
Spekia dismounted and turned to the guards, “Ride the grounds and look for anyone that is not possessed by this.” She ordered. The two guards nodded and headed off, still on horseback. Spekia quickly headed up the steps.
The grand hall was the largest room in the palace. It was a high ceiling room with large solid gold support columns running on either side. The floor was polished white marble tiles that reflected the room’s immense space. Two green haired guards held large oak doors opened as a single blond-haired commoner was frozen in mid-stride between the two double doors. Sonia quickly but carefully slipped between the blond elf and doors careful not to knock down the unmoving. She spotted her mother seated in her gold lined purple velvet throne at the end of the hall. Two of her sisters were also present flanking her mother’s throne. “Mother! Humia! Decoria!” Sonia screamed out running to the end of the hall. There was a group of elves dressed in colorful robes standing in front of the throne, they were members of the high court.
Queen Omnia sat gracefully with both hands resting on her lap and she looked on smiling warmly at the crowed before her throne. Her purple eyes which were the brightest of all of Haven were blank and lacked life. Humia stood to her mother’s left, the red-haired princess had her eyes closed and was slightly leaning forward with her hands held behind her back. Decoria stood on the right, the red eyed princess was dressed in light blue robes lined with fur. Her white hair hung loose and fell almost to her feet. She stood smiling with her arms gestured in front of her as if welcoming the crowd before them.
“NO! What has happened!? Tell me!” Sonia yelled out, her voice echoing. “Who has done this to Haven!?” She demanded angrily. Helixa and Nefaria were at lost for words as they did not know the answer and did not dare to speak when Princess Sonia was angered. Both handmaidens quickly dropped to their knees and bowed not knowing what else to do.
Spekia walked between the frozen members of the high court who were all around her age and who she knew since childhood. The veteran waved her hand in front of each of elves and thought of what could have done this. It was surely magic but who cast such a spell?
“Mother…” Sonia whispered as she ran the back of her hand down at Omnia’s cheek. The queen remained staring blankly and silent. She looked over at her two older sisters , closed her eyes and looked away. “Why?” She then asked now calm.
Helixa and Nefaria both looked and each other but neither still knew the answer and did not want to speak of false facts. They were about to say something but was cut off by Spekia.
“Someone has removed the apple.” The veteran elf said grimly looking at Sonia who caught on right away. They were all taught what would happened if the golden apple was ever removed from the royal garden. “Musia.” Sonia gasped.
* * *
Princess Musia was completely naked, her body locked in running pose. There was an urgent expression on her face. Princess Dancia stood just outside the garden waving in the direction of her sister. Two guards stood nearby, a look of alarm painted on their faces. “Something has happened.” Sonia grumbled as she walked towards her naked sister. “Cover her up!” She ordered. Nefaria quickly took off a robe of a nearby guard and did as she was told. It was a great shame for a high elf to be exposed in public, a pride amongst their people that had helped make them 'high,' as well as other aspects such as the True Sight.
“It’s Princess Dancia at the garden.” Spekia observed. “She must of have removed the apple.”
“Stupid, stupid, stupid girl,” Sonia muttered walking towards Dancia. She suddenly stopped as figure emerged from behind her younger sister. With a single light push the figure knocked Dancia down. The young princess fell to the ground stiffly, holding her pose. The figure was clearly a dark elf, long brown hair framing black skin and with evil white eyes that lacked the glow of True Sight. She was dressed in Musia’s green robe which fit her nicely, one of Omnia's golden necklaces around her neck.
“Stupid she is.” The dark elf replied, looking down at Dancia’s stiff form and stepping over the fallen princess.
“You drow! What have you done?” Sonia demanded as she continued to walk forward, towards the dark elf.
“I am Jalice, avenger of the dark elves. It is time for retribution for what you have done to my kind!”
“Jalice, you drow scum…” Sonia spoke through clenched teeth. Just as she was about to charge the intruder a strong hand quickly pulled her back. The princess spun around quickly to see who dared stopped her. It was Spekia.
Before Sonia could ask, “Princess do not be too hasty, I fear this drow has harnessed the power of the apple.” Spekia explained, gesturing towards the two newly frozen guards that were with the hunting party. Both elves were frozen on horseback as were their stallions, around the opposite bend of the garden. “We must go princess,” Spekia whispered, pulling the Sonia back as Jalice smiled evilly and walked slowly towards them.
Helixa and Nefaria joined Spekia and Sonia the four elves eying the dark elf who they now noticed she was hiding something behind her back. “We will not escape.” Nefaria whispered in panic looking at Jalice.
“You will.” Spekia said confidently looking at the three younger elves. “I will slow her down, you two get Princess Sonia away from this place.”
“I will not leave…” Sonia began to say just as Nefaria and Helixa hands locked around her arms. Both handmaidens easily over powered their princess. “Unhand me, that is an order!” Sonia shouted. Both handmaidens bit their lower lips and shook their heads in refusal. They had taken an oath to serve their princess and protect her at any cost even herself.
Jalice raised the golden apple in the air and began chanting in the ancient language. Spekia quickly turned to three elves. Sonia was struggling to get free while the two others looked on at Jalice with fear. “Princess listen to me you are our last hope, for you family and for all of Haven you must seek out a human warrior named Zalerech only he can help you free us.”
“Free us? No, Spekia. I will not leave you!” Sonia screamed out as Jalice’s chanting began to quicken and the apple began to glow.
“Get her away from here!” Spekia ordered with a hint of fear in her voice. Fear not for herself but for Sonia, Haven’s only hope. “Princess forgive me.” Spekia said as she muttered a quick chant and touched Sonia's forehead. The princess immediately went limp in her handmaidens’ arms. “Leave now!” Nefaria and Helixa nodded quickly and lifted Sonia up from under arms and legs and took off running.
With the princess safe and gone Spekia turned back around and charged Jalice. She only reached halfway when everything slipped into darkness, a golden pulse of light flying out from the apple and striking her.
Act 3: The Last Veteran
"I never thought I'd leave the forest," muttered Nefaria, looking around with uneasiness. Over two days had passed since Sonia and her handmaidens had fled Haven, one day being slow going as Sonia was asleep on her saddle. Ideally it would take travelers a week just to reach Haven if they knew where it was, the main reason why no human had visited it since the high elves had secluded themselves. However, secret passages that the princess and handmaidens knew about make the task much easier, plus they knew all the tricks to the forest in terms of plant-life and creatures. Now the three elves, with the hoods of their cloaks up, were wandering though a village a short distance from the forest.
The village was very different for the high elves, especially since the trio had spent most of their lives in the forest. Sonia only knew what to do through customs Spekia and a few others had taught her, just in case the elves ever had to leave Haven, or so they'd told her. Spekia's foresight was almost chilling to Sonia now. The houses were square with sharp edges, most of them made of wood or piled stone. Some had straw roofs while the rest were wood, the former a greater puzzlement to the elves. The villagers mostly wore dirty clothing, as if appearance wasn't an issue, and most of them were human thus lacked True Sight or pointed ears. There were some elves, known as the wood elves, but they had few visible differences from the humans save for their ears, the average one being somewhat taller than an average human and higher eyebrows. Many of the locals also possessed brown or black hair, few traces of red or blond visible and no white at all, only gray. Some glanced at the white stallion rider and her entourage but most didn't seem to care, going about their business.
"What's that smell?" whispered Helixa, looking around nervously as one bald man with a chest covered in linked chains glared at them, smiling an unsettling smile that showed several missing teeth, something unheard of among the elves.
"Farm animals and their droppings," replied Nefaria, trying to hide her own disgust. "This is an outpost of sorts, not a full city. Disorganization is commonplace."
"Stop talking like that, you're just drawing more attention to ourselves," hissed Sonia. "We just need to find a stable and then get some information on where to find this man." The horses continued on the dirt path, unkempt grass on either side around several houses. As with Haven most of the shops were simple stalls with a lone merchant and a couple of crates or barrels of goods, a simple sign out front that showed a picture rather than words. Sonia figured the image was because many people couldn't read, something else Spekia had mentioned in her lessons.
Eventually Sonia spotted a stable and dropped off the group's horses. The villagers collected coins, the elves learned, but managed to instead offer a minor jewel from Sonia's collection to pay the fee. With their animals dealt with the trio got directions to a good source of information. Soon the three found themselves in what they were told was called a bar, which featured a long wooden counter with stools on one side and an overweight bald man with a mustache on the other. "He's a handsome one," whispered Helixa, getting a grin from Nefaria as they approached.
"Well, this is rare, three elves too shy to show their faces," noted the bartender, stroking his dark mustache thoughtfully as he leaned against the counter, a strange smile on his face. "You don't get out often? Pointy ears are fine around here. No need to be shy, me lassies."
"Thank you sir," offered Sonia, reluctantly lowering her hood to reveal her fine features, her handmaidens doing the same. A local woman in a flowing red and green dress with a white flower in her hair that was circulating tables in the establishment stopped and stared, her jaw having dropped.
"Ah, tis a shame you ladies probably aren't looking for work, you'd make me a pretty mint," sighed the barman, shaking his head and proceeding to pick his teeth. None of the elves had ever seen a man before and found him captivating, mostly since baldness, facial hair and a large belly were complete oddities to them. "What can I do for you then? Drinks, food, information? I don't have beds, I'm strictly a day service man."
"Information, if you would be so kind," explained Sonia, offering a small bow. "We are seeking someone named Zalerech whom we believe may be able to help us."
"Zalerech did you say?!" laughed the bartender, drawing a glance from the woman who'd been bustling about. Sonia was sure if anyone else were in the bar they'd of been looking too, but it was only ten in the morning. "Oh my heart, tis been a long time since I last heard that name."
"You know him?!" Nefaria said excitedly.
"Aye, though he just goes by Zal these days," revealed the bartender. "Since you called him by his old name, I'd wager you ladies have something important to be taking to him about. Since it might be urgent and you're all so lovely... I'll tell you for free. He lives in a cherry house on the edge of town, its a farm that had a lot of lettuce growing there now. He's the strangest man... you'd have to know him five minutes to know he was a soldier, but he's a bloody farmer now! He could scare a thousand men with a glance but he's busy raising vegetables! Just go down the road outside towards the sun, you'll find his place before long."
"Thank you, good sir," offered Sonia, bowing again along with her associates and leaving him with another jewel from the royal collection. It may of seemed like a lot, but Sonia had hundreds of them at home, thousands if you counted all of the ones the royal family owned together. With their directions in mind, the trio set out again, drawing stares from the people outside as they did.
Just as the bartender said, the three high elves had only walked for ten minutes before they found one of the last houses in the village which was a dark-colored house with a straw roof. A massive fence was on the left-hand side of the L-shaped house, inside of it rows of lettuce and cabbage. A pair of scarecrows, devices familiar to even the high elves, dotted the crop, both wearing what looked like old suits of armor. Standing in the field with a watering can was a tall man in a white sleeveless shirt that none the less had a collar as well as moss green pants, buckled boots and a belt covered in gardening tools. The man's hair was the first red blond they'd seen, carefully split in the middle and comes down both sides, a ponytail at the back. "Good sir, would by any chance be known as Zalerech?" called out Helixa, getting a glance from Nefaria and Sonia.
"The man said he went by Zal," hissed Nefaria, but Helixa merely shrugged.
"And I wasn't looking to just approach him like this," added Sonia.
"High elves, huh?" noted the man, interrupting the bickering. The farmer had turned to face them, revealing a worn face and pale eyes that seemed to lack any real color, though Sonia realized one was blue and the other was green. In spite of his appearance Zalerech physically didn't look much older than Sonia, the three realized. His skin was tanned from being in the sun but his body was fairly plain, not having much noticeable muscle but not much fat either. "I never thought I would see women like you again," sighed the farmer, walking towards the fence and, with surprising grace, jumping over. "What made you three leave the forest to seek out a guy like me?"
"Spekia told me to seek you out," declared Sonia, now standing only a few feet from Zal. "We need your help, something terrible has happened. I am Sonia, princess of Haven, and these are my handmaidens Helixa and Nefaria."
"Careful, being outside to talk about serious matters isn't smart in the human world," warned Zal with a smile. "Come on, let’s go inside to discuss things." The man turned and headed for his house. Shrugging, the three elves seemed to decide there was no better alternative and followed.
The inside of Zal's house was dank, the walls smelling of oil and the floor covered in animal fur. The room Zal had led them into had a fireplace made of square-shaped stones, unheard of in Haven due to their crude simplicity which was not the elven way. A collection of wooden chairs circled the fireplace. "Have a seat, I insist," offered Zal. "Oh, let me take your cloaks." Seeing no reason to refuse the hospitality, the elves handed Zalerech their outer wear, revealing the simple clothing they wore underneath as they moved to sit. The trio had also removed their bows, Zalerech taking those too. "I'll be right back," the man declared, taking the objects into another room, the doorway near the fireplace.
"He seems nice, and it does sound like he knows Spekia," observed Nefaria, sitting to the left of the fireplace, Sonia in the middle and Helixa on the right, another empty chair to Nefaria's left.
"Yes, but something puzzles me," agreed Sonia, shaking her head. "Spekia told me no human has set foot in Haven for dozens of years and that no elf has left the forest in that time either. How do he and Spekia know each other?"
"Dozens of years is nothing, even if he is mortal," pointed out Helixa.
"No, humans can only live a few dozen years, and if Spekia knew him from back then he'd have to be at least eighty, which would make a human gray-haired!" declared Sonia.
"That was probably just-" began Helixa before suddenly stopping, looking straight at the princess, he mouth wide-open with her right arm raised, palm facing up. Sonia and Nefaria looked at the handmaiden for a moment and then realized, much to their horror, she'd become frozen like the people of Haven.
"By the Queen!" exclaimed Nefaria, standing and grabbing Sonia's arm. "Flee mistress, it is a trap!" Color draining from her face, Sonia decided to take Nefaria's advice and bolted for the house door, dimly aware that she'd had to slide her arm out from her handmaiden's grasp. Just as Sonia grasped the door handle her vision faded and her mind became paralyzed, her consciousness drifting away as if she'd fallen asleep.
* * *
"As naive as ever," snorted Zalerech, walking into his sitting room, his hands glowing with golden light. Sonia's hands were on the metal latch that kept his door closed, fear on her face, the glow of her eyes dulled with her left leg bent back, no doubt to allow for the swinging motion of the door when she opened it, if she'd made it that far. Helixa sat in a talking pose while Nefaria stood with both of her arms holding air in a tight grip, her teeth clenched and her eyes wide as she looked at Helixa. "Been a while since I've seen such lovely women," whispered Zalerech, touching Sonia's cheek and moving stray hairs away from her face. "Omnia's daughter, right? You've grown up. I bet she loves being queen..." Taking in a deep breath, inhaling the faith forest musk that covered Sonia's body, Zalerech then moved to wrap his arms around her hands and carefully remove them from the door. Following this Zal dragged Sonia by the waist into a long hallway before turning into his bedroom.
Zal's bedroom was simple: there was a carved dresser, a simple piece of reflective glass that worked as a mirror on the wall and a bed with a furry blanket and two pillows. Zalerech dragged Sonia towards the bed and pushed her over, leaving her on her back in the same pose as when he'd frozen her, though granted her hands were spread wider. That done Zalerech went to his dresser and produced a sword, hefting it before facing Sonia. With the blade held towards the high elf princess, Zalerech muttered a quick chant and Sonia's arms suddenly fell flat against the bed and her face moved, going from determined eyes and a wide mouth to sitting up in alarm. "If you try to run I'll cut you down," warned Zalerech. "Now why the hell did Omnia let her daughter leave the forest? Did she decide to finally do away with me?"
"There was no need for this," pleaded Sonia, carefully shifting away from Zalerech, his sword and his glowing hands. "Spekia sent me to find you because she thought you would be the one that could help us save them."
"Save them from what?" chided Zalerech, unwavering. "Choose your next words carefully, I'm no fool. I know firsthand the lies your kind has spun."
"The golden apple was removed from the garden!" exclaimed Sonia, fearing for her life, tears starting to run down her cheeks. At the princess's words and the sight of her tears Zalerech hesitated and stepped back, lowering his weapon.
"If the apple was removed how did you get here?" asked Zalerech, perplexed.
"We were outside of Haven when it happened," explained Sonia, breathing less heavily now. "A drow tricked my sister into removing it. Everyone is frozen, including my mother and my sisters! I wanted to fight her, but Spekia told me to escape and find you!"
"Damned old Spekia, I told her I never wanted to see another high elf as long as I lived..." sighed Zalerech, using his left hand to rub his brow. "You might as well get up now. I can't imagine why Omnia would send such a scared little girl to try and trick me into coming back so she could do something to me. I, uh, apologize for my behavior, its just all these years have made me paranoid."
"I... suppose I understand," lied Sonia, cautiously taking Zalerech's hand as he helped her up. "I am curious however how you've lived so long."
"Ah, and that proves you're no trickster," chuckled Zal, dropping his sword. "You see, like you, I am immortal, doomed to live forever until the magic of the apple fades forever."
"But, how can this be?!" gasped Sonia, confused.
"Perhaps we should go revive your friends, everyone should probably hear my tale at once," suggested Zalerech, leading the princess out of his room. "I am sorry about my behavior, I mean that."
"You were merely being cautious," offered Sonia, her tears having dried by this point though her heart was still pounding. "Your magic did take me by surprise. I've never seen a spell like it."
"Only those in tune with the golden tree of time possess this power," explained Zalerech, walking towards Nefaria and carefully repositioning her so she was sitting once again. Deciding to join her handmaidens, Sonia moved to sit where she'd been before while Zalerech took the empty chair. Muttering a few words, the glow from his hands faded and Nefaria suddenly fell forwards.
"- a false story... what?!" continued Helixa before exclaiming in surprise.
"Do not fear, I shall explain everything," insisted Zalerech, raising his hands. "Your princess has told me of your plight. Before I ask more about it, I suppose I should explain myself..."
"That would be helpful," grumbled Nefaria, getting up and returning to her seat.
"Well then, where do I start?" sighed Zal, running his hands through his hair. "Back during the war between the elves, I was a friend of the high elves. I knew Queen Omnia when she was merely a royal cousin as well as Spekia when she was just a soldier. I myself was just a foolish human that had been recruited to help make weapons, looking to earn some money. Then, however, I met the queen and, as the war concluded, I ended up falling in love."
"Wait, I know this story!" exclaimed Helixa. "The traitor, the old queen who's name was deemed never to be given again to an elf, fell in love with a lesser man and pledged herself to him. Their love, corrupt and fowl, nearly destroyed the golden tree and if not for the wisdom of Queen Omnia who intervened."
"Helixa!" hissed Sonia in warning, noticing Zalerech staring with mixed emotions in his eyes.
"Right, that's the version they adopted, did they?" groaned Zalerech, shaking his head. "No, back then no one had a problem with humans and elves being joined. The problem, as it was, was that I would age and die while she would live on forever. In desperation, she harnessed the power of the tree and made a second apple grow, which I then ate, granting me my magic and immortality."
"A second apple?!" exclaimed Nefaria. "No tale ever mentions that!"
"Well, it didn't exist for very long," admitted Zalerech, rubbing his belly. "The problem is it is never digested, so I can never enjoy a hearty meal for fear of severe stomach problems. That's why I primarily raise lettuce. But back to my past... after Omnia and the rest of the court learned what had happened she was banished forever. I will compliment your mother however, Sonia, she didn't do a thing to me. I left of my own accord. I guess in the excitement of becoming the new queen, Omnia just didn't care about a human who could potentially seek revenge on her people..."
"Wait, then how can we know the spell placed on Haven wasn't done by you?!" demanded Helixa, leaping to her feet and staring accusingly at Zalerech.
"Because we saw the drow scum do it," Nefaria reminded her counterpart.
"Nice choice in handmaidens there princess, always pick people dumber than you," sighed Zal, rubbing his brow.
"Still, this means you can use your magic to save everyone!" exclaimed Sonia, realizing now why Spekia had sent them to the man.
"I'm afraid not, my dear princess, as my magic cannot reverse that of the golden apple, merely protect me from it," declared Zalerech. "The high elves are fully dependent on the golden apple and, by extent, the tree. When the apple was removed from the tree the high elves were frozen to protect them as any that aren't frozen are no longer immortal. That includes all of you and, ideally, myself, but I'm unique."
"We're no longer immortal?!" exclaimed Sonia, Helixa and Nefaria in unison and shock.
"Well, only until we return the apple," pointed out Zalerech. "The good news is I can help you find the one that took it and ensure we get it back."
Act 4: Ancient Wounds
They had traveled for three days and three night but they were at last finally close. Helixa had been worried throughout the journey partly because of the lack of their immortality but she remained confident as she trusted her mistress and best friend. Nefaria often rode behind the others keeping an eye on the princess and Helixa, she did not trust Zal one bit and she was not going to let anything happen to her mistress. Zal had donned on a dark hooded cloak over his farming garments, the cloak was light weight yet it protected him from the elements, it was surely an elven invention. The human rode a black stallion also a creature from Haven. The others did not pick up on these little details as Sonia had right away. The princess rode close to the human remaining ever so vigilant and aware of any dangerous traps that may be sprung. Yet she felt a feeling of trust and security around the old warrior a feeling that she had only felt when she was child in her mother’s arms.
“We will be departing the trails soon and will have to dismount and travel the rest of the way on foot.” Zal said from under his hood as he rode on. The journey had been quiet for the most part the elves stuck together and the human remain by himself often staring off and thinking silently. There was only one moment during the trip that was considered any type of excitement. They had woken up on the second day and found Nefaria sharing Zal’s sleeping blanket. The elf was had been completely naked and was shocked as the rest of her party. Helixa had lectured her endlessly as the day went on and Nefaria insisted it was the work of the human. Zal of course denied the whole matter and blamed it on elven society on how a society of all women lusted for a male and young Nefaria gave into temptation. This caused tempers to be rise which only settled with the insistence of Sonia on letting the matter go as there were more trying matters at stake.
“Where is this place you are taking us to?” Sonia asked riding her horse along side the human. Helixa and Nefaria closed their distances behind the couple as well keeping just shy of ear shot.
“I have told you it is the place where we will find this drow you seek.” Zal simply answered his face still hidden by his hood.
“Does this place have a name?” Sonia asked.
“It is called the Tower of Vakiday.” Zal simply answered riding a head as Sonia stopped and looked on silently.
“Princess what is the matter?” Helixa quickly asked worriedly reaching her mistresses side.
“What has that dirty human said you mistress?” Nefaria demanded more so than asked frowning at Zal who had left the trail.
“We are going to the Tower of Vakiday.” Sonia replied grimly. Nefaria and Helixa both gasped as they began riding again. The Tower of Vakiday was once the home of King Vakiday the ruler of the dark elves. The tower itself stood in the center of the City of Toro now known as the ruins of Toro as the dark elves fought to their deaths and lost to the brave warriors of Haven many hundreds of years ago. The tower was where it was said that Vakiday and Haven’s King fought to the death, both rulers dying by the hand of the other.
“Surely we mustn’t step foot on that cursed land mistress.” Helixa pleaded.
“We should just allow the human to enter that drow city and retrieve us the apple.” Nefaria suggested sharply.
“We must do this for Haven the plight is not on Zal’s shoulders but on ours. The high elves of Haven depend on us.” Sonia said seriously looking at her two handmaidens who were closer to her than her own sisters. Both elves nodded agreeing.
They rode out to the edge of forest where the trees ended and opened up to the main entrance of the city. What was left of Toro was merely stone rumble and twisted frames of what were once homes and shops. Weeds and other shrubs grew where stone passage ways once ran. The Tower of Vakiday was the only standing structure that loomed over the ruins, a broken parent looking over fallen children. The Tower itself was dark and depleted and shows numerous signs of damage done through war and time. It stood on wide base that would reduce in size as it went up, the top the tower being considerably smaller than base and the other floors.
“This city once was as proud and as beautiful as Haven.” Zal said as she tied his stallion up to a nearby tree the others following suit after Sonia had done the same. “War is a very ugly side of human kind it more so for you high elves.
“I would disagree, humans are far worst.” Nefaria quickly said, “We elves are much more civilized then you humans will ever be!”
Zal jerks off his hood and looks at Nefaria sternly, “It is you elves who did this. It is your kind that laid ruin to this place. It is your kind that destroyed the lives of the elves who once lived here. Dark elves or not they were your kind no different from you. Do not speak to me about being civilized!”
Nefaria looks away frowning at the ruined city. The human was right. The elves had nearly killed each during the war; it was the worst war the world had even seen. There were no males left in Haven because of the war.
“You did more than make weapons did you?” Sonia then asked hearing the pain in Zal’s voice. Spekia was drunk one night after a successful hunt and she spoke about the war in the same tone of voice. “You were a soldier in Haven’s army too were you not?”
“It was life times ago, a time in my life that I will forever regret. Never have I fought a war so violent and uncivilized than the war of your kind. For what your kind did to the dark elves I am proud that I am Human!” Zal declared coldly eying Nefaria. Silent surrounded the party and the only things that could be heard were the creatures of the forest.
“Let’s continue shall we?” Sonia said breaking the silent. “War is a terrible thing we must learn from the past so it will never happen again. What is done in the past must stay in the past.” She added as she began walking towards the tower. Helixa fell in to step behind her followed by Nefaria and Zal who both remained silent and looking in opposite directions.
The path was narrow and filled with weeds, shrubs and fallen stones but it lead clearly to the Tower. Horses would have had trouble in the journey. Traveling by foot also gave the three elves and human an advantage, with their cloaks they blended into the ruins and from the tower could not be seen. The walk was silent, with everyone looking around for any signs of life or hidden dangers. There were none of either; the city had died long ago.
Zal hummed a tune unknowingly as he walked. The tune was an old lullaby that Sonia and Dancia were very familiar with when they were growing up oddly enough her older sisters grew up to a different lullaby. “That tune, I remember it well from my childhood.” Sonia said ending Zal’s humming. “Please don’t stop, it brings me back to times that were good and free.”
Zal grinned and nodded and hummed a little bit more before asking, “What is it that you remember of your father, princess?”
“Well not much I’m afraid he died in the war before I and Dancia were born. But from my sisters and my mother I am told that he was wise elf he was silent and spoke little but his actions as a ruler were of a truly great king.”
“Your father was a fine general and good friend as well. He was quick to defend his land and family.” Zal said without looking at Sonia.
“How did you know my father?”
“I made his weapons and fought at is side. He wished he could have seen your sister Decoria before he left for war.” Zal simply replied increasing his pace and walking ahead of the others. He couldn’t stay close to Sonia any longer, her saw more in her than just a princess. She had turned out well he thought. “We’re almost there we must hurry unlike you elves I cannot see at night.” He added as he walked on.
Sonia paused a bit a looked at the human as he walked. “What is wrong my mistress?” Helixa asked.
“Nothing Zal is right we must hurry.” Sonia replied. Her father had never seen Decoria? How could that be? It then came to her, the lullaby and the age of her older sister and her the time of father’s death. There was something more to Zal’s tale.
* * *
When they reached the base of the tower two things surprised them, the enormous size of it, the tower was the size of a small mountain much larger than the palace at Haven. The other thing that surprised them were Haven’s guards which were lined up and standing rigidly at attention. All of the guards were naked saved for a spear thrust into each of their hands. They stood in a line arching inward at the entrance of the tower. Their face blank with lips slightly parted and colorful eyes looking aimlessly ahead. Their long colorful hair hung freely. Sonia did not recognize them out of their traditional blue robes and only could identify a few familiar faces. She scanned the line as well as the others. “That’s all the guards…” Nefaria muttered silently after quickly counting.
“Spekia!” Sonia cried out seeing her mentor at the end of the line. The veteran soldier turned hunter was a naked as the other guards. Her long red hair out of the coiled bun she usually wore it in hung freely down to her ankles. Her blue eyes stared blankly ahead and her lips bore an uncharacteristic smile. In her right hand she held a golden shield while in her left was a sword.
“My Spekia has not changed one bit.” Zal said smiling and looking the former fellow soldier up and down.
“Do not look at her that way!” Sonia cried out as she started undoing her cloak to cover up her mentor.
Zal stopped her, “We don’t have time for that, what are you going to do about the others? They are frozen as it is so there is no shame upon them.”
Sonia fumed, “Do not look at her.” She ordered and walked on past her mentor the handmaidens followed giving Zal dirty looks. The human warrior simply shrugged and looked at the red haired elf once more before following the others.
Inside of the tower the party encountered more Haven elves. The ground floor had a thriving garden a work of magic as there was no what the sun’s light nor water could enter the base of the tower. Through out the garden were Haven elves posed in a variety of poses all whom were as naked as the Haven guards who stood outside, some poses were simple while others were more dramatic with facial features molded on to the faces. Zal had thought the sight was artistic and considered himself in a sort of paradise his companions felt differently however. Sonia rushed the party forward feeling shame for all the elves of Haven that were exposed to Zal the outsider.
As they moved up the stairway that ran along the outer wall of the tower it was clear to Sonia there was no hiding the shame as the long stairway was lined with the elves of Haven all naked and showing all to their would be rescuers. Reaching the other floors of the tower it became apparent that the drow Jalice had brought all of Haven to the deserted tower. There were chambers full of naked elves it was a twisted and evil gallery of sorts. Sonia felt as if she was walking through a hunter’s tavern that had hunted her kind down and posed their bodies as trophies. “This is madness…” Sonia muttered. Helixa and Nefaria were speechless seeing the elves of Haven in a way that they have never seen them before; the image was ever lasting and would stay with them forever like an old scar. Zal controlled his excitement seeing the shame and horror in his companions faces, the sight of the naked elves was to say the least tantalizing. In human standards high elves had perfect bodies that very few if any human woman would ever obtain in her whole life time.
They finally reached the top of the tower; two large old oak double doors separated them from the stairway and the throne room of the tower. Two naked frozen elves stood at attention at either side of the doors. One elf possessed bright blue hair with green eyes while the other blond with purple eyes. They were naked save for a bronze helmet and leather belts fasten around their slender hips with sword and sheath. The blue haired elf was a member of the high court while the blond was a servant girl name Cali, “That drow…” Sonia grumbled between her grinding teeth. Her anger was beginning to boil over. She began to reach for the door before she was stopped by Zal.
“Calm yourself princess. You must think before you act. The situation is delicate.” Zal spoke softly yet parental like. “There are two ways in, I suggest we split up and surprise the drow.”
“Very well, Nefaria go with Zal and I shall go through these doors with Helixa.” Sonia ordered but then caught the looks of Nefaria and Zal and knew the arrangement was not going to work. “Helixa go with Zal and Nefaria you are with me.”
Zal and Nefaria nodded agreeing with the arrangement. “Count to one hundred, princess before you enter so we could enter the chamber at the same time.” Zal said.
Sonia nodded and looked over at her best friend, “Be careful Helixa.” Her friend smiled warmly.
“You as well Sonia,” Helixa replied.
“Princess do not worry your kind shall be free soon enough, I promise you.” Zal said grinning. “Shall we go?” He then added turning to Helixa who nodded. The elf and human then headed back down the stairs, the other entrance was a servant route that led from the kitchen below to the chamber. Sonia looked at the couple as they left, she suddenly felt a wave familiarity sweep over her reminding her of her childhood. The feeling puzzled her but opened her eyes to a new yet familiar light.
* * *
After going down the stairs and through several chambers occupied by naked elves of Haven Zal and Helixa found themselves in the old kitchen of the tower, which did not look like a kitchen no longer nor was it functional. Towards the back of the useless room was small door that led up a flight of stairs. “The throne room is right up those stairs Helixa,” Zal pointed out.
Helixa crept cautiously up the old stair case which seemed to climb steeply up. “We must hurry then…” She began say as she suddenly stopped in mid-sentence. Her body frozen as she leaned forward slightly looking up the flight of stairs.
“Perhaps a taste or two before I bring you up to Queen Jalice,” Zal said smiling as he walked up the unmoving elf with his hands glowing gold. “Your friend was quite enjoyable that night in the forest I am sure you are far better.” He whispered in Helixa’s unhearing pointed ears as he grabbed her from around the waist and dragged her to a nearby table. He then hoisted her body onto the table and arranged her body so that he could easily remove her clothing. “High elves are so pleasurable that has not changed through the years.” Zal said huskily as he began to undo Helixa’s cloak.
* * *
It took Nefaria and Sonia all their strength to push open the double doors. They expected to see Zal and Helixa racing up the other end of the chamber once they were in; however that was not the case. The chamber was filled with more Haven elves, all naked and posed in scandalous poses. The hall was a circular room with a high ceiling and two large stone support columns at either end. The passage way that led up to the throne was littered with Haven elves. Jalice sat on the aged bronze throne looking at the two elves an evil smile on her dark lips. The dark elf was clad in a dark purple robe with dark lining and a wide collar. Her black hair sat freely past her shoulders and down her back. “Welcome to Toro princess.” Jalice bellowed almost with joy. “I hope you like what I have done, true it is not Haven well actually it is kind of like Haven now is it?”
Sonia could just make out her sisters Humia and Musia flanking the throne like the others both princesses were nude. They stood with their naked breasts thrust forward and arms at their sides. Their eyes were opened wide and their lips curved in wide exaggerating smiles. Sonia’s baby sister Dancia was not only naked like her older sisters but on all fours in front of the throne. Dancia stared straight ahead at Sonia and Nefaria, her wide blue eyes wide with a piece of rotted fruit stuck into her open mouth. Jalice rested her feet on Dancia’s bare back side. “You piece of filth!” Sonia yelled out in anger as she began to move forward. As she put her foot down she felt something under it causing her to step back and look down. Jalice let out a wild animal like laugh as Sonia looked down in horror. Lying on the floor naked and dirty was Decoria. Her elder sister’s beautiful hair was in tangles and mess, her body spotted and smeared with dirt and mud as if she been dragged through a farm. She was sprawled out with arms and legs wide. Her face bore as sleepy expression with lips parted. “Decoria!” Sonia cried out as she quickly removed her cloak and covered her sister up. “You shall pay for this!” She then screamed out as she charged ahead while at the same time gracefully moving around frozen elves. Nefaria took the right side where she found an opening and ran towards the throne.
Using Dancia as a trampoline, Jalice back flipped over the back of the throne and took off running up a secret flight of stairs right behind the throne. Nefaria was hot on her heels. “We must wait for Helixa and Zal!” Sonia called out but it was already too late her handmaiden had already disappeared up the stairs. Having no choice but to follow Sonia darted up the stairs. At the top of the stairs was another circular room, which was the tip of the tower. The room looked to be a bedroom, a rather scarce one. The only furniture in the room was a large bed with bear skin blanket covering it and a cushioned arm chair off to the side. The ground looked to be masked in several layers of deer hide overlapping one another in order to cover the floor. The wall was covered in dark drapes suspended from the ceiling hiding the true diameter of the room. “Where did she go?” Sonia asked panting looking around the empty room.
“I believe she’s behind the drapes mistress.” Nefaria whispered cautiously eying the room. “I fear this is a trap.”
Sonia was about to speak when her mother slipped between an opening in the drapes. The queen of Haven was as naked as her subjects. Her elaborate hair due even made her seem more so than others. Sonia at first did not even recognize her mother with her royal robe and jewels. Her mother stared at her emptily with purple eyes, “Mother!” Sonia cried out looking in terror at her mother’s naked body standing erect like as if a rod. As she moved towards her mother’s suspended body a gold bolt shot out from behind the drapes stopping her stiff in her tracks another followed striking Nefaria before the handmaiden could act.
Both elves stood poised for action but were as still as the rest of the royal family and the residents of Haven. Sonia was in mid-step and reaching out for her mother, a look of mix anger and worry on her face. Nefaria had a look of shock on face and was reaching out for her mistress. Jalice emerges from behind the drapes and laughs at the sight of the two high elves. She tucks the apple back into her robes and nudges the queen, Omnia fall flat on her face, her body maintaining its rigid form. Stepping over the fallen naked queen Jalice cups Sonia’s chin, “What are you going to now you drow?” She snickers. Sonia remains silent and staring vacantly. Looking down at the princess’s clothing the dark elf smiles evilly.
* * *
Nefaria’s body tumbles down the steps leading up the bedroom. The high elf lands at the bottom holding her pose. Jalice trots down after her giggling. She then picks up the frozen high elf, wrapping her arms around the younger elf’s waist. Jalice drags her out from behind the throne. A familiar voice stops her prompting her to drop Nefaria.
“Queen Jalice how are we today?” Zal greets. The human warrior is sitting on the throne with his feet propped on a very naked Helixa who was now posed on all fours.
Jalice whips around in surprise, “Gaspar!” she exclaims leaning over and hugging the human. Zal hugs her back with little affection. “My lost love what brings you to Toro?” The dark elf is so excited seeing her former lover, that she does not notice the foot rest of her throne has been replaced.
“A trio of high elves,” Zal answered simply. “I suppose you have dealt with them.” He then said looking over and seeing Nefaria’s clothed but suspended form.
“No thanks to you lover, I presume you lured them to me?” Jalice asked sleeking around the throne like a snake into Zal’s lap wrapping her arms around the back of his neck.
“You presumed right, my queen.” Zal replies as the couple kiss passionately. “Shall we resume where we left off?”
“I have been waiting dozens of years to hear you speak those words. Where have you been all this time?”
Zal easily cradles Jalice in his arms as he carries her up the stairs to the bedroom. “After you were banished by your cousin I was sent away and was forced to join the army of my people as I no longer had protection from the high elves.” Zal explains hoping the story was believable, compared to the elves humans were pretty inexperienced when it came to war therefore no wars were fought and an army was never needed. It was a known fact among humans, elves however naturally thought humans were violent and war hungry.
“If I was to know about your hardships I would have sought you out my love and protected you.” Jalice declared leaning against Zal’s chest as they entered the bed chamber. They are welcomed by the sight of mother and daughter, Omnia and Sonia respectively seated on the bed. Sonia was now just as naked as her mother; the browned haired elf still bore the same facial expression that was frozen on her by the apple. Both high elves sat with their hands resting on their naked thighs.
“Oh we are not alone.” Zal observed with a raised eyebrow, keeping his emotions controlled at the sight of Sonia naked.
Jalice laughed and leaped out of Zal’s arms. “Oh do not worry, my dear, they do not see or hear us.” The dark elf moved over the bed and grabbed Omnia by the shoulders and pulled the queen off the bed. “You see she is nothing merely but a hollow shell.” She then grabbed Sonia by the hair and jerked the princess roughly off the bed, “Her drow daughter as well!” Jalice declared victoriously throwing herself back into Zal’s arms. “Gasper, you are so tense.” She than observed touching Zal’s flexed arms, she noticed his knuckles were balled up and he relaxed seeing that she saw.
“It is nothing my queen…just the sight of the Omnia angers me and their eyes watching us.” Zal replied masking his anger of seeing Sonia roughly handled.
“If that is all, lover, I can take care of it!” Jalice replied happily and moved over to the frozen mother and daughter, kneeling down the dark elf shuts their eyes. “Is that better?” She asked returning to Zal’s arms.
“Much.” He simply answered taking the elf in his and kissing her passionately. He then ripped open her robe and she quickly slid it off her slender body rendering herself naked. She then tosses the robe along with apple within in it on to the nearby arm chair as Zal roughly kisses her. Jalice wraps her naked legs around Zal’s body as she works on his shirt while kissing him as the same time. He runs his hands through her hair as they move to the bed. He sucks on her scent taking in the lost love now found tasting her body as he had done so long ago. She moans with joy as they fall on to the bed, he wrestles his trousers down.
“OH GASPAR!” Jalice scrams out.
* * *
For two days they make love and sleep as long lost lovers do. Their relationship back then was one absent of love and lacked nothing deeper than the passion of love making. The time a part had only fed their desire to make love once again. Their love really did not go any further than that. “Oh, Gasper, are you ready?” Jalice cooed as she rolled on top of Zal’s naked chest and smiled seductively.
“Before we go on I have a confession.” Zal said sitting up and holding the dark elf in his arms. She began to nibble at his neck and kiss him. He pulls away stopping her.
“My love, I do not care about ill deeds there is no need for such confessions such pointless talk.” Jalice pointed out as she continued to try to nibble and kiss the human.
“Please my queen.” Zal pleads and pulls away from the seductress. Jalice mounts him and crosses her arms under her round breasts tipped with dark nipples.
“Very well lover, speak.”
“After you were banished and I was asked to leave Haven. I felt lost and angered and fell into a deep sadness that is indescribable. Visions of the war were still in my eyes, I was not well to be on my own. To my surprise Queen Omnia sought me out some days later. She confessed to me that she had feelings for me, having watched us from afar, though now I believe the feelings to be false as she was feeling lost because of her husband’s death. She invited me back to Haven and I was her lover, for a time. We made two lovely daughters together.” Zal explained. He could see that the expression on Jalice face had changed from smug and arrogance to one of anger and rage. He knew she was not feeling anger about the fact that he had cheated on her but more at the fact that his children were her enemies. “Sonia and Dancia are my children.”
“You swine!” Jalice hissed as she raised her fist out to strike him. Her outstretch fist never reached him though as her hand was frozen inches from his face. Her body frozen in a twisting motion with the other fist pulled back as the opposite neared his face.
“You must understand Jalice, for those who threaten my daughters I shall bare no mercy and they are my sworn enemies.” Zal said calmly his hands glowing gold as he moved the unhearing and frozen dark elf off of his body. “I am truly sorry Jalice for we can no longer be lovers.” He whispered into her ear as he laid her body out straight arranging her stiff limbs and molding her facial features to a more relaxed expression.
Climbing out of the bed Zal picked up hauled Omnia from the floor and laid her down beside her dark skinned cousin and arranged her body in the same fashion. He then retrieved his eldest daughter’s clothing scattered throughout the room and quickly re-dressed her. “I shall return ladies.” Zal grinned at the two naked queen elves as he lifted his daughter’s stiff form from the waist.
He then carried her down two floors into the kitchen below the chambers. Dancia stood at attention now dressed in Helixa’s clothing. Zal placed his Sonia next to her sister and posed her in the same fashion. Looking at both daughters he felt a lump in his throat, it had been so long and his children had grown so much and they were so beautiful. He felt extreme pride looking at his two daughters. He had not recognized Sonia when they first met but after she recognized the lullaby he used to hum to her it was very obvious as the memories all call back. “There is still some unfinished business my lovely daughters, I will explain everything soon.” Zal said kissing both Sonia and Dancia on the forehead. As lovely as were Omnia’s other daughters, Musia, Humia and Decoria, only Sonia and Dancia were his own blood so he had the most love for them.
Back upstairs he unfroze Helixa quick enough to re-freeze her with apple and then he picked up Nefaria. He had developed a crush on the young handmaiden as he found her fiery personality and quick mouth very arousing. Once he was in the bed chamber he took pleasure in stripping down the violet eyed handmaiden. He then added her to the bed placing her between Omnia and Jalice. Rubbing his palms together he eyed the striking contrast of skin tones between the three elves before mounting the bed.
* * *
Sonia blinked and gasped in shock. She quickly looked around seeing only Zal and Dancia around her. “The drow! Where is she!” she demanded.
Zal grinned and handed her the golden apple. “The deed is done princess.”
“How?” Sonia asked happily clutching the apple in her hands.
“That is not for you to worry about. I promised you that your kind would soon be free and so be it. It is now up to you to return to the apple to it’s rightful spot and all shall be back to normal.”
“How about the drow?” Sonia then asked looking around as if expecting the dark elf to pop out.
“You shall no longer worry about her, I have frozen her with my power and she could only be freed by me. Further more she is tucked away where no one will find her.” Zal explained. “I must now part ways but before I leave I must tell you something.” He added taking a deep breath.
“What is it father?” Sonia asked smiling her eyes tearing up.
“You knew my child?” Zal asked surprised his eyes watering.
Sonia nodded, “It was the lullaby and when you touched me before we entered the chamber. I felt something and it was like all the memories came back. Why did you leave mother as well as Dancia and I?”
“I had to my child. For if I chose to stay you and your sister will you lose your birthright as proper heirs to the crown. I could not live with myself if that were to happen so it was only right for me to leave.”
“Mother did not stop you?”
Zal chuckled, “I am afraid your mother and I do not share that kind of love, my only real love was of you and your sister that was what kept me in Haven till your mother threaten me with your crowns. It was for your best interest that I leave. I can see now that it was the right path.”
Sonia had the most respect for her mother but now after hearing this all that changed. “Please stay.” She then asked reaching out and holding his hand.
“I must leave. You will no longer be a princess if I stay.” Zal said holding his daughter hand. “I must go.”
“I do not want to be a princess.” Sonia blurts out.
Zal grins, “Your sister as well?” They both look over at Dancia standing at attention still frozen. “Sonia you are over one hundred years old you must think not only for yourself but for others as well. Now enough of this, I do not want to dwell on this matter any longer, I have to part and you have work to be done.”
“Father please…” Sonia pleaded still holding her father’s hand.
“Sonia, I must. You have to get that apple back to the garden to save Haven. You must do that now.” Sonia looked down at the apple and then back up at her father. Zal could see what she was thinking. “Do not think that way! No child of mine will be that selfish! Go save your kind.” Zal ordered letting go of his daughter’s hand painfully and turning away.
“This is not over father.”
“Goodbye my daughter I love you and your sister.” Zal said with his back still turned and with that he left the chamber. Sonia stood her ground; she could not go after him not with the city depending on her.
Act 5: Nothing Stronger Than Blood
Everything had been restored to normal just in time for Dancia’s True Sight ceremony. The high court had recovered fast bringing everything to order. Omnia had agreed with the court to seek punishment for her youngest after the ceremony was over. She had not decided what to do yet as her older sisters and her friends already looked down on the girl for what she did. Omnia feared that Dancia’s reputation was forever ruined. As for Sonia she was proclaimed as the protector of Haven for her heroic acts. She was a hero, though she did not act that way. Sonia had been quiet and withdrawn from everything ever since the incident. She acted different. She was darker and rude even. Omnia felt she may have been possessed in her fight with the dark elf who was now forever gone according to Sonia.
“Where is Dancia? The guest will be here soon.” Omnia asked as she toured the grand hall that as colorfully decorated for the occasion.
“I have not seen the little trouble maker since this morning.” Decoria replied as she fixed her bluish white hair. Her handmaidens surrounding her and adjusting her robe vibrant robe. “Maybe she’s hiding somewhere again.”
“Why must we go through with this, she must pay for her trouble before any such award such as True Sight be awarded to her.” Humia grumbled taking a sip of some wine. She had been drinking since morning and her bitterness for her baby sister had completely surfaced over taking the love she felt deep down for the younger elf.
“It is tradition my dear daughter and we must not break it even if Dancia has shamed us.” Omnia replied not really defending her daughter but stating a fact.
“The guards have not seen her either, the garden is secured.” Musia then replied, “She better not ruin this day it is very important to our family and the city.”
"I think I know where she is," announced Sonia, finally speaking. The room fell silent seeing that the protector had spoken for the first time and many days. She looked back into the room as if eying strangers however.
“My dear Sonia are you well?” Omnia asked walking up to her daughter and reaching out to touch her.
Sonia moved away from her touch, “I will go retrieve her mother.” She then said in a servant’s tone and bowed respectively to her mother and sisters. Nefaria and Helixa who seemed to be closer to Sonia since the incident, neither would ever leave her side did the same. She then quietly turned and left with her handmaiden in tow.
“My, someone is rude.” Decoria said snobbishly, watching her sister leave.
“She’s part human, what do you expect!” Humia shot and drank up the rest of her wine.
Omnia, clearly hurt at her daughter’s behavior looked down at the floor. She knew the bond of mother and daughter between her and Sonia no longer existed. She was beginning to regret telling her daughters the truth about Sonia and Dancia’s father. It was a huge weight from her shoulders but the cost was two daughters.
A short distance away from Haven Dancia was wandering down the forest path by herself, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the ceremony she'd been dreaming of for so long was on that very day. The princess wore her fine ceremonial robes and all but didn't seem troubled in the least, skipping down the path. Sonia saw this as she approached her sister on horseback, Helixa and Nefaria on their own steeds. "Dearest sister, I do not think this is the path to the ceremony," called out Sonia, causing her sibling to stop and look at her.
"No, but it is the path to the life I would rather live," declared Dancia defiantly, stamping her foot. "Why should I stay in Haven?! Mother just wants to punish me for something that wasn't my fault!"
"It is true, you were deceived and no one had ever told you the power of the apple," agreed Sonia, coming up beside her sister. "But running away from your friends and kin, is that truly what you wish?"
"Mother never looks at us the same as she does with Humia, Decoria and Musia," fumed Dancia, crossing her arms. "She sees their father in them and is proud. All our lives she's looked at us like we were lesser children. I'd always thought it was because we were younger, but I'm certain it is because of our father."
"Dancia..." began Sonia, her voice sad.
"Mother doesn't love us, Sonia!" screamed Dancia, her eyes filling with tears. "Why should we stay?! Father loves us, doesn't he?!"
"Dancia!" cried Sonia, leaping from her horse and embracing her sister, tears flowing freely. Helixa and Nefaria dismounted as well, both shedding tears together with their mistress.
"I want to go live with father, my sister," whispered Dancia as Sonia held her close. "Everyone in Haven thinks I'm just a foolish princess. My friends speak ill of me behind my back and my mother looks at me as a failure and a mistake and that I cannot bear that."
"Dancia..." whispered back Sonia, equally quiet. "I will take you to him, and face mother's anger in your stead."
"Mistress, that may not be wise," spoke up Helixa, huddling close to the princesses. "Your mother has already said that Dancia's punishment will fit the crime and any title she may inherit will be forfeit, quite possibly for eternity. You yourself will lose your sought title of Protector if you do this."
"Then why come back?" pointed out Nefaria with a smile. Sonia looked at the handmaiden for a moment and saw a glimmer in her eyes.
"Wise words Nefaria, I do not know why I did not think of such a thing," sighed Sonia, her face enough to make even the strongest of men cry. "We shall go to father together, my dear sister."
"All of us," added Helixa and Nefaria in unison.
And so it was that the two princesses of Haven,
those that shared the blood of human,
gave up their life of royalty and riches,
all for the sake of the love of their father.
The farm the princesses found themselves on was not one of legend,
nay, even though the farm would last for eternity it would not be remembered.
The lone farmer who lived only to suffer great pains in his heart,
did find himself with two daughters to dull his ache.
The royal pair become humble farmers and the dreams of local men,
while the loyal servants remained to show their bonds of friendship.
The handmaidens did become friends rather than servants,
though one in particular did become something more.
History may judge the father for his love for a younger woman,
but no one in the house complained of the union.
Indeed the princesses, now paupers, were happy,
while the eternal wrath of the queen remained powerless.
~ Gaspar Zalerech, 'The Lost Princesses'