Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Diamond Elf - Chapters 12 + 13
Chelindra patiently waited at the site of the main ambush. She was certain that the enemy’s main army would come through here, but she had several other ambushes set up anywhere else parts of the army may go. Their goal was first and foremost to defend their borders, but she knew that they would need some serious good luck to withstand the Emperor’s army for long.
She knew that the Emperor had access to many thousand more soldiers than King Collin did. Eventually, the enemy would wear down her army, and cross the border, but if she could manage to surprise the enemy, ambush and kill them when they weren’t expecting it, they might stand a chance.
She had to wait a whole day longer than she expected them to take, but finally, they arrived. She led her soldiers onto the field, praying that most of them would live. She was tired of winning the battles at the expense of her soldiers’ lives.
Gabriel scrutinized the meat pie in his hand. It smelled and tasted great, but he could not find the appetite to eat it. Even so, he forced himself to take another bite.
He followed a party of soldiers who were taking some laundry to a nearby river to wash it. They had asked him to join them as a lookout, and he had agreed mostly because his tasks were done for the moment, and he wanted to keep his mind off Chelindra. He heard a soldier grumble about how his rations had not filled him as they passed, and handed the complainer his mostly uneaten pie.
The party arrived at their destination, and Gabriel was asked to keep watch from the top of a tree, but since he could not climb, they had him sit on a large protruding rock that gave him a good view of any and all traffic on the river. Of course, it made him a good target too, but no body expected a problem to arise.
He didn’t realize that he was moping, but the soldiers washing the laundry did. They began a steady stream of chatter – raunchy banter and tall tales – that kept him amused. With his mind off his lover, he was able to concentrate on his task.
An hour later, the group had washed half the laundry, and Gabriel noticed that there were three ships making their way up the river.
“Look,” he pointed them out.
“They bear King Collin’s army insignia. They are probably supply ships,” a soldier remarked.
The ships passed them slowly enough that several of the crew were able to trade good-natured insults with the laundry washers. One man sneered at everyone, but no one paid him any mind. He was wearing shackles, and chained to the deck, so everyone knew he must be a prisoner of war.
The dirty, straggly prisoner spotted Gabriel sitting on his rock, and stared at him in a way that made his skin crawl. He didn’t recognize him, but Gabriel felt as if he should know the man.
Some speculated on whether they were going to house the prisoner, but most agreed that they did not have the basic necessities to secure a prisoner. After that, everyone wondered who he was, and why he was given such special treatment.
Two of the ships did stop at their base, but the ship with the prisoner continued on its way, and Gabriel suddenly remembered something that made his skin crawl even more. The very first man who had sodomized him was one of the Emperor’s lovers, the only one who was male. That man had been captured during an attempted siege about two years ago, and was probably the prisoner who had just sailed by.
Gabriel shivered, and closed his eyes. Memories flooded him. He vividly relived every moment of that first time. The man daring him to resist, tapping his own hand with a whip in anticipation. Being forced to suck on his tormentor’s thick member. The man’s laughter as he encouraged Gabriel to cry. Even after he had finished with Gabriel, there had been blood to clean up, and pain that took a few days to fade. The memories probably never would.
Gabriel faced away from the group, and forced himself to remain silent as tears streamed down his cheeks. To all appearances, he was busy keeping watch. In reality, he was reliving nightmares, and falling apart.
Ten minutes later, the tears had stopped, but Gabriel was sure they would start again if he opened his eyes. A runner approached.
“I was sent to find the CCO!” The runner announced.
“Is it urgent?” A guard asked.
“Not terribly,” the runner replied with a shrug. “They just want his help with the new supplies.”
“We’ll be finished here in a few minutes. Tell them he’ll get there as soon as he can,” the guard ordered.
The runner saluted and ran off. Gabriel thought about this. Technically, he was a senior officer, which mean that he outranked everyone in this group, but he was also not a soldier, which meant that he didn’t have the experience to actually command them. Therefore, the guard, who was in charge of the group, was both within and not within his rights to issue commands on Gabriel's behalf. Gabriel wondered how he should handle this.
The guard came up to him, and gently placed a hand on his shoulder. “Are you better now?” He whispered.
Gabriel took a deep breath, and slowly let it out. “How did you know?”
“You are not the only one who has to deal with sudden unpleasant memories. Mine involve watching my wife die. I can recognize the signs of trying to suffer in silence.”
Gabriel nodded, it made too much sense not to be true.
“Sharing the burden can make it easier to bear,” The guard offered in sympathy.
“I was a slave… I had to allow men to use my body… I think that prisoner was one of them,” Gabriel admitted. Both men were trying hard to speak quietly, but the washers had gone silent as they packed up the clean wet laundry. As a result, they all heard Gabriel, and stared at him in silent shock. They knew women slaves often had to accommodate their master’s lust, but they had no idea that male slaves had to as well. They quietly turned their heads away, and finished their work.
The guard in charge looked their way, and noticed they were ready to go. He held a hand out to help Gabriel up, and then ordered everyone to march back to base. The soldiers returned to their previous lighthearted banter in an effort to banish Gabriel's painful memories. It worked, and Gabriel silently thanked them.
Chelindra’s ambush was a success, and there were only minimal losses. She waited to hear word from the other ambush units.
As she waited, she helped tend to the wounded until Randy dragged her away to get some rest and something to eat. They settled into Chelindra’s small backup tent, which was only big enough for a cot and a small table with two chairs. He massaged the tension from her shoulders as she ate.
“It’s not going to work, you know,” she informed him. He stiffened. “I’m not going to lust after you just because you touch me tenderly.”
“I…” Randy stammered. “I hadn’t meant… It wasn’t my intention to.”
“I’m sorry,” Chelindra apologized. “That was wrong of me. It’s just that you’ve been so moody lately…”
Randy removed his hands from her, and sat next to her. “I can’t help it, when I picture his hands on you, I just want to kill someone!”
“Lucky we are fighting a war then,” Chelindra remarked.
Chelindra sighed, and informed him seriously, “Just as you can not help how you feel, I can not help loving him so strongly that my heart aches every moment that we are apart. When I think of his hands on me, I just want to abandon my duties, and rush back to him.”
“I figured,” Randy admitted. “In all the years I have known you, I’ve never once seen you express any emotion but confidence. I’ve never heard you make any sounds but those required to make your point. You never lose your calm or cry out, not even in the midst of battle. That’s what I love the most about you, but he…” Randy bit his tongue.
“Yes, I know,” Chelindra grinned.
“Just who is your father anyway? I know he’s not an Armintan noble, I would have known you growing up if he was.” Randy had been trying to figure this out for days.
Chelindra shrugged. “My father’s dead.”
“Good, then he’s not around to dictate who you marry,” Randy blurted, then flushed. “I didn’t mean that the way it sounded.
“I know. In truth I am the daughter of –“ Chelindra saw Randy stare at something in alarm, and turned to look at it. It was a shimmering portal through which her brother stepped.
“Chehiro!” Chelindra rushed to him. Her husband stepped through the portal as one of the King’s bodyguards. “Is something wrong? It’s barely been two weeks since I last saw you.”
“Chelindra… our sister has died.”
“Oh Chandra,” Chelindra replied with a bit more emotion than elves normally showed, but for the circumstance, it was warranted.
“Your Highness,” Aeryc gave Chelindra a brief bow. “It is my hope that you make time to stay for a few days when you come to attend the funereal.”
“A few days?” Chelindra asked. “I… This is not a good time to stay away for a few days. My ambush was successful, but only at driving the enemy away for today. They may well return tomorrow or the next day.”
“Is it so much to ask to spend time with my wife?” Aeryc pressed.
Chelindra sighed. “No, and if I weren’t so busy, I’d agree.”
“So you say,” Aeryc shrugged.
“I also wish you to spend a few days, Chelindra,” Chehiro added. “I have many things I would like to discuss with you.”
“I am not just making excuses!” Chelindra stated in near frustration. “If I do not defend the border now, all the progress I have made will be lost!”
“I understand that, but this is important Chelindra.”
“You’re Majesty,” the other Elven bodyguard interrupted. “I keeping hearing noises I do not like. Perhaps we should return to the Elven Realm.”
Chelindra cocked her head to the side; she heard the noises too. “Yes, go! It’s not safe here. I’ll come as soon as I can.”
“The funeral is in two days. If you have not come by then –“
“If I haven’t come it means that I am tied up in battle! We are being attacked as we speak, you must go!” No way in hell did Chelindra want to inherit the throne due to him dying in an attack on her.
“Sire!” The bodyguard insisted. It was obvious by now that an attack was underway, and that most of Chelindra’s ambush unit was busy fighting it off. The Elven King and his bodyguards stepped back into their portal.
Chelindra turned to find Randy staring at the portal. “We have an attack to defend against!”“Right,” Randy shook off his shock at seeing a trio of Elves appear and disappear out of nowhere. Together, they ran to command their soldiers.
“It’s about time you rescued me.”
“My apologies, none of our spies could uncover your location until you were spotted aboard that ship.” The rescuer pointed to the burning wreck of a supply ship.
“No matter,” the filth-laden ex-prisoner stated. “I have found someone that the Emperor will be very interested in recovering. I need you and your men to help me capture him.”
The rescuer was an ambitious man working his way up in the Emperor’s army, and the thought of the reward the Emperor would bestow on him for not only rescuing the Emperor’s favorite lover, but also aiding in the capture of someone important to him… Well, the thought was dizzying.
“Anything you need.”
“I know you haven’t eaten anything at all today!”
Gabriel stared at the female attendant who had decided to be his guardian in Chelindra’s absence. She was annoying, but she was right. He sighed. “What’s your name again?”
“Candace,” she stated, pushing his plate a tiny bit closer to him.
“Thank you, Candace, for bringing me food,” Gabriel said. He forced himself to eat a few bites.
“It’s been four days, and I don’t think you’ve eaten more than a dozen bites of food. At this rate you will fall ill and collapse. You need to maintain your strength,” Candace insisted.
“Don’t worry so much, I’ve often had to go a few days without food,” Gabriel waved her concern aside.
“I know… I was a slave once too. I know how thoughtless and cruel masters can be,” she admitted.
Gabriel suddenly found his appetite; apparently talking helped. He ate a few more bites. “How long was the longest you went without food?”
“A week; you?”
“The same,” Gabriel replied.
“Did you ever get locked in a closet as punishment?” Candace asked.
“Yes… What were you punished for?”
“I was made a slave at age 9, and I was very willful. For the first three years, my master would beat me and lock me in a closet as punishment anytime I disobeyed. I stubbornly insisted that no matter how much pain he inflicted on me I was never going to stop, and then I experienced my first monthly. After that he raped me rather than lock me up, and I stopped disobeying. Of course, he didn’t stop raping me, but I didn’t dare risk bringing that upon myself. I took to hiding whenever possible,” Candace confided.
“I’m not surprised. My master never beat me, and thankfully he didn’t rape me, but he did allow others to do so,” Gabriel confessed.
“How old were you the first time?” Candace wondered.
“I don’t know… 13? 14?” Gabriel shrugged, and was surprised to find his plate was empty.
“Thank the Gods for Chelindra!” Candace praised, and Gabriel knew that she meant that Chelindra had rescued her too. He nodded in agreement.
“As much as I am glad to see you clean your plate, I have to go now. I should not have stayed so long as it is. I hope you will consider me a friend that you can come to whenever you need to talk, especially about your past as a slave.”
Gabriel nodded. “Thank you, Candace.”
Candace stood to leave, and fell. At first, Gabriel thought she had simply tripped, but when she didn’t move or make any noise, he looked at her more closely. She had a small thick dart protruding from the back of her neck, and her eyes were wide open but unfocused.
Gabriel was torn between trying to help her, and looking around to see what had likely killed her. He suddenly knew that he was in grave danger. He felt a sting, and pulled a tiny dart out of his own neck. It was miniscule compared to the one in Candace’s neck, and he felt the world spin as it went dark.
“You are certain he is not dead?” The Emperor’s lover asked.
“Absolutely,” his cohort responded.
“Good, you can kill the woman.”
“That would be a waste of a perfectly good woman, and my men haven’t had any release in far too long.”
“I don’t care what you do with her as long as she doesn’t impede our escape.”
“Are you hurt?” Chelindra asked Randy as she helped him up.
“I don’t think so; I think I was simply hit over the head.”
“Thank the Gods!” Chelindra sighed in relief.
“So much for ambushing the enemy! They hit us twice as hard, and I’ll bet they are halfway to our main camp by now,” Randy sighed in hopeless defeat.
“No, I made sure of that,” Chelindra ground out menacingly.
“How many of our men survived?” Randy asked.
“Surprisingly, most of them. I think the enemy was hoping to knock us all out and move on to our main camp. Perhaps they considered us too small and pathetic a unit to bother with,” Chelindra offered her opinion. “Though they did take their time about it.”
“I think they simply wanted to get a unit in front of us so that they could take the main camp while a following unit dealt with us… Or perhaps this was a distraction to occupy us as a larger unit circles around us,” Randy theorized.
“That still doesn’t explain their sudden change of tactics,” Chelindra mused. “In any case, I think it would be best if you led our men back to the main camp. I need to…”
Randy took her by the arm and dragged her to the relative privacy of her small back up tent. “I wasn’t just imagining it? There really was a trio of elves here… yesterday?” Randy accurately guessed at how long ago the attack had begun.
“Yes, there really was,” Chelindra confirmed.
“I remember something about a sister dying and one of them called you his wife.” Randy’s expression turned dark as he uttered the last word.
“Yes, my brother and husband were both here to tell me that my sister has died. I need to attend her funeral, but while I am gone, I will have the ability to study the enemy’s position and possible tactics.”
“So that’s how you – wait! Does that mean that Gabriel was with you – “ Randy shook his head, pushing his jealousy to the back of his mind. “So… you are an elf?”
“Yes; my father was the previous King, and now my brother is the King of the Elven Realm… I am his sole heir…” Chelindra informed her longtime trusted Second in Command. She forced some of her hair behind her ear for a moment.
“I see… that’s why you said couldn’t marry anyone – except you are married – “ he sighed in frustration.
“It’s also why I didn’t encourage you when I first suspected that you had feelings of a romantic nature towards me. I knew that I would need to marry the Elf chosen for me. My husband is fated to take an active role in the Elven government, and was chosen very carefully,” Chelindra explained more than was necessary.
Randy nodded in understanding. He was actually the heir to a Duke himself, and if Chelindra wasn’t the greatest General Arminta had ever seen, there’s no way his family would allow him to marry someone like her, since she was a commoner as far as they were concerned. He was supposed to marry a suitable bride, and only his duty as Second in Command had given him an excuse to delay starting a family.
“I have to go,” Chelindra stated. “Tell the men that I am out scouting, as it will be half true anyway.”
Randy nodded, thinking about letting his mother finally find him a bride when he returned from this tour of duty.
“Please leave,” Chelindra commended gently. She didn’t want him to see her create the magical doorway. He nodded reluctantly, and turned to leave then stopped.
“One last time,” he decided aloud, turned, gathered her in his arms, and gave her a kiss that should have made her knees go weak. In truth, when she thought of this as a kiss between friends it was rather nice, but nothing like Gabriel’s kisses.
He let her go, wondering what she would have done had he kissed her years ago rather than waiting for her to show interest in him. She may have allowed him to be her lover, but he would never know now. He held her for a moment, putting her and all of his feelings for her into a mental compartment to store in the back of his mind. Once that was accomplished, he left.
Chelindra was saddened to see her dear friend suffer because of her, but she could not do anything for him. Instead, she focused on creating an opening to the Elven Realm.
She had her innate Elven gifts, of course, but she also inherited a good deal of magic from her Sorceress mother. She had never had anyone to teach her to use the human magic, and as a result even her Elven magic was hard to control and unpredictable. She avoided using any magic whenever possible because she didn’t want to think of what could happen if she did.
She pictured the magical doorways she had seen her brother create recently, and tried to create an identical one. The last and only doorway had been rather wild and fiery. Closing her eyes, she willed a doorway into existence, feeling her hair blow wildly in a sudden magical wind. When she was sure the door was ready, she opened her eyes to look at it.
“Grr…” she growled softly in annoyance. Sure enough, her doorway looked as if it were an ovular wall of fire. She could see Chandra’s body on the other side, so she knew she had willed the door to take her to her sister, even so, it took her a moment to gather the motivation to go through it.
A deep breath, three steps, and she was through the door.