Castle Roland

First Place Winner

Posted: 6 Oct 16

Innil and Garill

Copyright © 2016 By Jeikor

"Innil! Wait! Slow down!" Garill called out as he struggled to keep up with his eight year old friend.

It didn't matter that Garill was two years older; Innil was the fastest elf under fourteen in the whole village. The fifteen year old twins, Annoro and Annora, could still out race Innil through the forest. But even they were beginning to lose ground to the speedy eight year old.

"Come on, Garill! Push it!" answered Innil laughing with joy as he dodged through the trees. His sapphire eyes darted around as he ran until he spotted the tree he was looking for.

This particular tree leaned slightly away from Innil's approach at full speed. Its rough bark gave perfect traction to Innil's deerskin boots as he ran two steps up the trunk, planted both feet and jumped backwards. As his feet left the tree Innil twisted his body around to face the direction he was headed.

Reaching out with both hands Innil just managed to grasp the branch he intended to catch. Using the momentum from his jump Innil swung up until his feet were pointed at the sky. At that point he released his hands flying above the branch, somersaulted once and landed with his feet where his hands once were.

The branch teetered a little from the force of the landing causing Innil a tense moment before regaining his balance. Unfazed by his near disaster Innil now studied the maze of branches ascending the tree trunk. Having chosen his path Innil starting hopping from limb to limb using no hands except for a couple of times to prevent a tumble to the ground.

When he had reached the double limbs twelve feet higher in the tree Innil stopped and sat on the right side limb with his back to the trunk. There he waited for his red-haired friend, Garill, to catch up. This was their favorite spot in the forest. This was where they made all their plans for the present and for the future and told each other their innermost secrets.

This spot on the tree happened to have two large branches growing out of almost the same place on the trunk. It provided the perfect place for two best friends to sit side by side and talk. Innil and Garill had sat here many times.

While he waited for Garill to get there and struggle up the tree Innil contemplated his young life. The small village he lived in with his uncle had many different elven clans represented but none that looked like him. His jet black hair, sapphire blue eyes and silvery-grey skin caused him to be known by all in the village and noticed immediately by any visitors that came through. He wondered who his parents were and where he had come from. Innil also questioned once again if the uncle he lived with was really a blood relative.

"Whew! I think you're getting even faster, Innil," announced Garill as he paused halfway up the tree.

Startled, Innil bumped his head on the tree trunk; he had been so deep in thought he missed his friend finally arriving at the bottom of the tree. Rubbing the back of his head Innil cracked, "Are you sure you just haven't gotten slower?"

The grins on both boys faces indicated this was a time honored tradition between the two that started just a few days after they first became friends. The two sat there and talked about everything and nothing as only the best of friends can do.

After a long pause in their conversation, Garill turned to face his younger friend and spoke, "Seriously, Innil, I think you are faster. You seem to just get better and better. I bet you could keep up with the twins now."

"Maybe," admitted Innil as he also turned to face Garill. "But you've improved, too."

"Not as much as you."

"Don't fret about it, Garill. You'll find what you're good at soon, I'm sure."

The now ten year old, Innil, took a deep breath as he aimed another arrow at the target one hundred yards away. He had already placed four arrows within the inner circle from this distance. If he placed this one in the center as well he would be in the lead even though he was the youngest contestant.

Three villages had come together for this tournament so there would be enough youngsters under twenty-one for a decent field of competitors. Only four from Innil's village were still in the running; Garill and and a few others failed to make it passed fifty yards. Innil, the twins, Annoro and Annora, and a nineteen year old male made it to the one hundred yard mark.

Innil slowly let out the breath he had been holding and when the last of the air slipped by his lips he released the arrow toward the target. The hush that had settled over the field where the contest was set up was broken by Garill's shrill twelve year old voice's proclamation, "YES!" Innil's arrow hit the inner circle by a hair's width but it hit it and the ten year old was leading.

Garill ran from the spectator's area ahead of everyone else to hug and congratulate his friend. Annora and Annoro also congratulated him although Annoro did so a bit grumpily as he had just missed scoring high enough to continue. Annora and the nineteen year old were still in the contest that now moved to the one hundred fifty yards mark. The young elf also greeted Innil with encouragement and to Innil's surprise so did a twenty year old High elf from one of the other villages who had the lead before Innil's shot.

"I can't believe you made it to the final round," enthused Garill as they waited through the rest period between rounds. "And in your first tournament!"

"Yeah, but I haven't had much practice at this next distance," complained Innil eyeing the targets. "I can barely get the arrow that far sometimes."

"At least you can hit the center," Garill mumbled sadly.

Innil laid his hand comfortingly on Garill's shoulder and espoused, "You will find your strengths. You will! One of them has to be your ability to put up with me."

Garill's head shot up and around with a snap ready to protest when he saw the shit-eating grin on Innil's face. He matched it with one of his own then commented, "Yeah, I should receive godhood for putting up with you if I make it to adult status."

Innil laughed then sighed as the signal for the next round sounded. This round the target would be one hundred fifty yards away. The finalists would shoot one arrow at a time in turns and it was sudden death. Any contestant not matching the best shots was out. The last elf still in was declared the winner.

This round could be as short as one turn or take as many as twenty turns. If, after twenty turns, there was no clear winner the remaining finalists took one shot at the same target; best shot would win.

The verbal sparring with Garill had been just what Innil needed so he could relax and be ready for the final round. The remaining shooters gathered around the officials for the drawing of the shooting order. Annora would be shooting third, the nineteen year old first and Innil was seventh after the twenty year old named Jarnoe that he had met earlier.

Five turns later there were only seven of the ten still eligible to win and all the remaining entries from Innil's village were still competing. After ten turns the nineteen year old was out leaving Annora and Innil from their village, only Jarnoe from his village and two other male elves from the third village.

On the thirteenth turn the last shooter missed hitting the mark that the rest had gotten so was eliminated. That left Annora, Innil, Jarnoe and the other elf from the third village. On the sixteenth turn Annora, Jarnoe and Innil all managed to place their arrows in the inner ring. Knowing he was the last representative from his village proved to be too much for the last shooter's nerves. His shot barely landed in the third of the four rings which comprised the target.

Annora's shot on the next turn just missed the inner ring landing in the second ring and left an opening for the other two contestants. Innil watched with trepidation as Jarnoe calmly notched an arrow, sighted and released it toward the target. It landed unmistakably in the center circle.

It was up to Innil to match his shot or allow Jarnoe to be declared the winner in the seventeenth turn. Innil slowed his breathing down in an attempt to calm his nerves. He was able to draw an arrow and place it in the bow without shaking. Innil closed his eyes controlling his breathing before raising the bow to aim at the seemingly tiny target.

After a minute he had to lower the bow and wipe the sweat from his eyes. Another calming breath and he raised the bow again and took aim. Feeling the tension leave his body along with his breath Innil released his arrow willing it to fly true.

The hushed atmosphere was once again shattered by Garill's shrill exultation for his best friend. The volume was such this time that he nearly was banished from the spectators' area. Innil gave a weak grin of relief in Garill's direction.

On her way out Annora wrapped her arm around Innil's shoulders and whispered, "You've got this. Relax and go for it!"

"Thanks, Annora!" Innil whispered back. "That really helps!"

Annora then turned to face Innil and spoke forcefully, "I mean it, Innil. The whole village is routing for you!"

After she walked on Innil said quietly to himself, "Except for my uncle. He couldn't be bothered to come." Innil sighed heavily then prepared himself for the eighteenth turn.

Jarnoe and Innil matched each other's shots in the following two turns bringing them to the twentieth and final turn. Both of the young elves were feeling the pressure.

The twenty year old, Jarnoe, stepped to the line pushing his long, wavy, sun-gold hair back behind his tall, pointed ears. Slipping his bow from his back Jarnoe notched an arrow carefully and raised the bow to sight down the long meadow to the target. Everyone could see the tension drop from his frame then the arrow sped towards its destination. It buried itself in the inner circle closer to the middle than to the second ring.

There was loud gasps and excited murmuring over such a fine shot in the final turn. The crowd quietened again as the final two contestants changed places. As he passed Jarnoe laid a hand on Innil's shoulder and said, "Good shooting to you, young one."

Innil smiled and preened at being treated as an equal by a High elf that was twice his age. It only minimally helped his nervousness over the upcoming shot. This was the final turn so he had to at least match Jarnoe's shot exactly for a chance to win.

It took Innil several minutes and tries to get calm enough to load and raise his bow to aim his final shot. Innil closed his eyes for a moment then opened them to sight down the long range. Letting his breath out slowly the raven-haired young elf let loose the bowstring sending his arrow streaking toward the faraway target.

Not a sound was made as the crowd waited for the missile to hit and learn the outcome of the contest. It seemed to take forever for that final shot to land. A sympathetic groan arose from those assembled to watch and Innil dropped to his knees heartbroken. His arrow had landed squarely on the border between the inner and second rings which would have been good enough to advance to the next turn had there been another.

Garill and the twins started forward to console Innil when they were waved off by Jarnoe. He walked over to where the boy had slumped to the ground after losing and lifted Innil to his feet. Jarnoe knelt putting his face on a level with the younger elf then tilted his head up so they were face to face.

"You have nothing to ashamed about, little brother," Jarnoe spoke gently. "That was some outstanding shooting today for anyone. The fact that you are so young just makes it that much more amazing."

"Why did you call me, little brother?" Innil asked confused. "You're a High elf."

The older elf laughed gently, "Silvery skin, jet black hair, sparkling blue eyes and I bet you're fast too. Don't you know what that means?"

"Yeah," spat Innil angrily. "I'm a freak!" With that he jerked away from Jarnoe and started to leave.

Quick as a flash, Jarnoe grabbed Innil, lifted and pulled him close in a hug. "No, little brother. It means you are a Moon elf. You are a High elf also. That is why I call you, little brother."

When first nabbed Innil stiffened but being hugged and hearing the bigger elf call him little brother again caused Innil to relax. Hearing that he was a Moon elf which was one of the High elf tribes caused Innil to melt into the larger elf's strong embrace and tears of relief streamed down his face.

Jarnoe motioned for Innil's friends to come join them as he set the young Moon elf on his feet. They hurried over consoling and congratulating him at the same time but Innil was still interested in what his new friend had just told him.

"If we're both High elves, why don't we look more alike?" queried Innil thoughtfully.

"Because, my young friend, you are a Moon elf and I, with my golden yellow hair, fair skin and green eyes, am a Sun elf," Jarnoe answered chuckling.

"So, we're both High elves but opposites?" puzzled Innil trying to understand.

"Yes and no," replied the Sun elf. "Both Sun elves and Moon elves are tribes of High elves and have many things in common such as speed, agility and strength. But are also opposites in some things. Don't you feel stronger, more alive at night, especially when the moon is out?"

Innil nodded his face starting to show his understanding of many things he had wondered about.

"I thought so," continued the older Sun elf. "I feel that when I'm in the sun. Had this contest been held at night it very well may have been you who won. The moon giving you just a little extra strength."

"Is that why you won?"

"Not really," answered Jarnoe. "I actually get my best boost at dawn and early morning."

"Why all these questions about being a Moon elf?" asked Annora.

"Yeah," chimed in Annoro. "Hasn't your uncle already explained this stuff?"

"No! He hasn't said anything to me," yelled Innil getting angry. "You knew! Why didn't you tell me? Garill?"

"Sorry, Nil. We thought you knew," explained Annoro. "We never dreamed your uncle would withhold this from you."

"I . . I . . d-didn't know, Innil. I promise," cried Garill.

Innil could tell his best friend wasn't lying so he wrapped Garill in a huge hug. Garill returned the hug for a couple of minutes then they dried their faces.

"Come on, little brother," urged Jarnoe putting his hand on Innil's back to guide him. "Bet you didn't know the runner-up in a twenty turn contest gets a prize too."

Twelve year old Innil and fourteen year old Garill were both excited and apprehensive as they stowed their practice weapons in the armory. Their short sword practice had been interrupted by a summons from the head magic user, a wizard, of their village. This meant they were finally to be tested for magical abilities.

It should have been done already but Wizard Ala'egdral was ancient and his magic was beginning to fail. He rarely if ever taught magic anymore; it was usually delegated to one of the lesser mages. The boys wondered who their teacher would be if they proved to have the ability to manipulate magical energy.

Innil went on and on about who might teach them and what kind of magic user they might be if at all. Garill was even more quiet than usual; he didn't wonder about if, he already knew he was a magic user. His auto-spells were showing themselves sporadically but luckily not in front of his friends. His fire spell could be devastating as he found out the first time it appeared. Thankfully his family's fireplace had been able to withstand the sudden bonfire that he had conjured.

Arriving at Ala'egdral's hut they knocked politely and waited to be let in. After a minute the door opened slowly and silently, the two elves looked at each other with saucer sized eyes just a bit creeped out. By mutual consent they stepped through the open door together.

When their eyes had adjusted to the dimness inside the small hut both boys mouths dropped nearly to the floor. Ala'egdral had a visitor who practically glowed from the amount of magical energy he emitted.

"Welcome, Garill! Welcome, Innil!" the wizard greeted them formally. "This is my friend, Shaman R'esdrimné. I can see you recognize his magical strength. Congratulations! First test passed!"

Innil and Garill turned to look at each other both confused and pleased. They didn't understand what was happening but were glad to find they did have magical potential. What would the other tests be and how many did they have to pass to receive training?

It didn't take long for them to discover what the next test would be. A small table with two small, rounded stones on it was set before them. The Shaman directed them on what was required for this test.

"Place yourself in front of one of these stones," he directed in a pleasant sounding baritone voice. "With your mind attempt to make the stone move. Focus only upon your own stone. Start."

Garill immediately stepped to the table and began concentrating on the nearest stone. Within a few seconds it began to vibrate violently.

Innil moved slowly to his spot, closed his eyes, took a deep breath, opened his eyes again and focused on the small stone. A minute later his too began shaking as if in an earthquake. By this time Garill's stone was gently rocking back and forth in place.

Not long after that, the pebble Garill was using started rolling from edge to edge on the little table. About two minutes later Innil managed to make his rock wobble to and fro then got it to roll a few inches each way. Glancing at Garill out of the corner of his eye Innil was shocked to see the small stone floating around in a circle. It startled him so greatly that he accidentally sent his small rock rocketing through the far wall of the hut.

The resounding crack as it punched a hole clean through caused everyone in the room to jump and turn toward the sound. Garill lost his focus and dropped the stone back to the table. Ala'egdral and R'esdrimné quickly had spells readied; the wizard's hands each held a fireball ready to be thrown and the shaman had erected a shield.

"Sorry," said Innil in a small voice. "I was surprised that Garill had his floating. I'm not sure how that happened." He was pointing at a two inch diameter hole in the wizard's hut wall.

Garill was trying mostly unsuccessfully to smother his giggles behind his hand. When the shaman started chuckling Garill lost it completely. The only ones not laughing were Innil and Ala'egdral. The young elf had a sheepish look on his face and tried to look small.

The wizard just stared at the hole shaking his head then muttered, "I guess it'll be a little breezier in here until I get that fixed."

His laughing finished Shaman R'esdrimné got back to business, "Yes, well. Let's commence with the rest of the tests now, please."

"Certainly, my friend," agreed Ala'egdral promptly.

"Good! Now, each of you hold a hand out palm up. Now attempt to create a ball of light," commanded the shaman.

Remembering what Jarnoe had told him about being a Moon elf Innil thought of the moon as he attempted to fashion a ball of light in his palm. To his delight it did not take him long to make a four inch ball of silvery-white light appear. He looked to the older magical elves for approval.

"Interesting," was the shaman's only comment.

The room suddenly brightened considerably as Garill created a one foot diameter ball of yellowy-orange light with small tendrils of fire flickering out.

"Ah . . . yes," spoke the shaman mysteriously.

Ala'egdral's contribution was to the point, "Tests two and three passed. Now, for the final test."

Garill and Innil exchanged quick glances at one another wondering what else they would be asked to do.

That was answered as R'esdrimné said, "You do not have to do anything except stand there for this test. I will shower you with magical force to reveal with what area of magic you have been gifted. I will start with you, Innil."

Waiting with apprehension Innil wondered what it would feel like. Would it hurt, tickle, prickle or nothing?

It didn't take long to find out. The shaman chanted and flung his hands up as if throwing something into the air underhanded. Innil could see the magical force raining down on him but felt nothing at first. Then a strange sensation started at his left shoulder (not a pain, nor a tickle and not really a prickle either) and wrapped around his body going down to his knees.

When he looked down there was a ribbon of silver fire following the sensation down and around his body. As he watched it started coming back up from his knees creating crisscrosses until it stopped where it had begun. The silver fire undulated around and up and down his body like a large snake causing his whole body to glow with a soft silver light.

Shaman R'esdrimné shut off the shower and the ribbon shrank to a small rope of silver fire still running around Innil's body.

"Hmmm . . . That's good. He can maintain it," the shaman seemed to be speaking to himself then he turned to Ala'egdral. "Who were his parents again?"

The wizard answered uncomfortably, "Let's finish the test for Garill and then we can discuss it."

"Fine," the shaman replied curtly. He proceeded to do the same to Garill that he had just done to the younger elf.

Garill soon had a ribbon of flames in yellow, red and orange running the same route over his body as Innil's silver one had on him. However, when it had connected again at his shoulder Garill's ribbon began to enlarge until it was as big around as a tree trunk.

It didn't stop there. Soon Garill was nearly obscured by the undulating flames and still they grew. R'esdrimné quickly halted the raining magical force but the flames continued to grow threatening to consume everything and everyone in the small hut.

"Can you try to control it?" yelled the shaman over the roar of the flames. "Try to shrink it!"

Garill focused as hard as he could on gaining control over flames wrapped about his young frame. Beads of sweat soon broke out on his forehead and neck but the fire stopped growing. Just as they thought the danger was over the flames started to pulse and grow again.

Rivulets of sweat ran down Garill's face as he attempted to reign in the flames surrounding him. Finally, he closed his eyes and concentrated his whole being on wrestling the fire into submission. Just before he managed to get them under control Innil's silver rope disappeared along with the strange sensations he had felt.

All four heaved a sigh of relief now that the struggle had ended in success. Looking at the two boys both elder magic users spoke at once.

"Congratulations, young man, on your hard fought victory," praised Ala'egdral.

"You seem to have lost your magical force," said R'esdrimné looking at Innil. "Too bad. I thought you would have done better than that."

"I think that's my fault," spoke up Garill. "I needed more energy to control the flames and I could sense plenty right next to me. So, I used it. I'm sorry, Innil."

"It's okay, Garill. I'm glad it helped you," said Innil with difficulty as he tried to hold back tears. The shaman's words had hurt.

"Good job!" R'esdrimné spoke to Garill then turned to Innil. "Hopefully you will be able to renew your force. If you do, I can teach you both. Although, I think you are more warrior than mage."

With a wave of his hand he dismissed the two exhausted boys and turned to his wizard friend. "We need to discuss that Moon elf's parentage now. You said his mother had been a resident of this village, correct? What of his father?"

Ala'egdral started answering but Innil didn't hear any more as he raced out of the hut tears flowing freely down his silver cheeks. Garill took off after his best friend even though he knew he couldn't keep up. The fourteen year old knew where he would stop. The tree where they always went to talk or to think.

The red haired Garill jogged into the forest at an easy pace giving Innil time to get there, get settled and calm down to where he would be ready to talk. When Garill arrived Innil was not sitting in their usual spot. Not a good sign. The more upset he was the higher in the tree Innil climbed and Garill finally found him almost three-fourths the way up.

Sighing Garill began the long climb to be with his friend; climbing was harder for Garill. When he reached Innil he was breathing hard and ready to sit and rest. The two friends just sat together for several minutes while Garill regained his breath.

"I'm really sorry, Innil," apologized Garill. "I didn't mean to be better at magic or to take yours away. I'll tell them I don't want to learn magic. You can."

"No!" shouted Innil in protest. "You finally found something you're really good at!"

"I-I thought you were mad because I did better at the tests," Garill stuttered out.

"No, silly," Innil giggled then got serious. "I am very happy for you. That was not what upset me. That . . That old shaman . . talking about me and who my parents were right in front of me as if I wasn't there." Innil paused then went on, "I still don't know anything about my father and this guy comes in demanding to be told. I couldn't take it."

Garill reached over and hugged his friend who melted into the embrace. The two sat like that for about five minutes before Innil straightened up and smiled at the most important person in the world to him.

"You have some crazy strong magic," said Innil with a touch of awe. "What was that?"

"I don't know," answered Garill. "We ran out before they could tell us."

The two best friends giggled and laughed over it now.

"What about you?" asked Garill serious once again. "Will it come back? I liked how it was the same color as you."

"Well, if he hadn't been so dismissive I could have told him it would return," Innil replied a bit miffed. "I could feel it leave but the ability was still there. When the moon comes out I will be back to full strength."

"Good!" declared Garill. "I would hate myself if I had taken your magic from you."

"You didn't so quit worrying," commanded Innil. "The shaman was right about one thing: I am more warrior. I would never be happy as a full magic user. I will see what my options are for learning magic but still being a fighter."

"Speaking of our options, I guess we should head back and see what they say, "Garill said descending through the tree.

Innil waited until his friend was halfway down the tree before he started dropping from limb to limb. In next to no time he had caught up to and passed Garill grinning mischievously. When his feet hit the ground Innil took off running yelling back, "Come on, slow poke!"

The laboring elf grunted in exasperation as he saw his friend speed off. Continuing to make his careful way down the tree trunk Garill almost missed seeing Innil grab the trunk of a small tree and swing himself around. He was now running back to where Garill had just made it to the ground.

Arriving back at the bottom of the tree Innil whisked Garill of his feet in a hard, tight bear hug. "I would not leave my best friend behind," he declared setting Garill back on his feet and taking a hand in his. "Walk with me, please."

Garill could think of nothing that could be better as he smiled his agreement and they set off through the forest towards the wizard's tiny hut. On the way Garill couldn't help looking over at his silver skinned friend amazed that he would do anything this slowly.

Hardly any words were spoken as they made their way back; simply enjoying one another's company. They were still hand in hand as they approached Ala'egdral standing in the doorway of his hut. A huge smile lit his face as he noticed the boys' arrival.

"I guess I was right in hoping your upset was over that tactless shaman's obsession over who your dad was and not young Garill's magical talent," commented the wizard when they stood in front of him.

"Yes, sir. He acted like I wasn't even there or that my feelings didn't matter," explained Innil. "I am happy Garill has finally found what he's good at. It's bothered him for a long time. He's always felt he was weaker and slow but that isn't true at all. Now he's got something he can be best in. It's great!"

"What we came back for was to learn the results of our last test," interjected Garill before Innil could embarrass him more with his compliments.

"Alright, who should I start with?" started Ala'egdral before he was interrupted as both boys shouted.

"Garill!" "Innil!" Each shouting the other's name.

"Okay, okay!" chuckled the wizard holding up his hands to stop them from continuing to shout. "Since he is the oldest I will start with Garill."

Innil turned to Garill with a triumphant grin on his face so Garill did the only mature thing he could. He stuck out his tongue at Innil.

"Garill. We discussed your ability quite a bit and have finally concluded that we have not seen this talent in over two hundred years. You are a wild sorcerer. Even more unusual is that you are a Wildfire Sorcerer. That is really rare! R'esdrimné can't wait to get to teach you."

"What about Innil?" asked Garill immediately.

Ala'egdral smiled again at how these two stuck up for one another. "He is a bit of a surprise too. The reason the shaman got so caught up on who you came from, Innil, is because you presented the magic of a full-blooded Moon elf. Everyone knows your mother was a woodland elf so that shouldn't be possible. R'esdrimné thinks your father had to have been from the Moon elf nobility."

"Wow!" exclaimed Garill.

"It won't really matter if he can't regain his energy though," cautioned the wizard.

"I will. Tonight when the moon comes up I will be at full strength again," said Innil calmly.

"Good!" came slightly familiar voice from behind them. They turned to find the shaman striding up.

"I need to apologize for ignoring your feelings, Innil. Your ability and then Garill's shocked me. I am sorry. I didn't know the circumstances involved," R'esdrimné spoke more gently than he had earlier. "I am hoping both of you will accept me as your teacher."

Garill's head very nearly came off his shoulders with the strength of his nodding as Innil spoke, "As you can see Garill is all for it but I have a question before I answer. You were right about me being a warrior and I need to know what options I have to combine magic and martial arts."

"There are a few choices," began the shaman. "I am glad to see you put some thought into your answer. You can be a swordsman with magical enhancements, a minor magic user with martial skills but the third choice is the one I think would be best for you."

"Okay, what is that choice because while I am good with a sword I am better with bow and arrows. It is my favorite weapon," Innil let the elder elf know. "And don't worry about Garill. He has been waiting for years to find what his best ability would be. Now that he has found it he doesn't need a lot of thought to know he wants to learn as much as he can."

"That is good to know about Garill. As for that third choice I think it is definitely the way you should go," said R'esdrimné with feeling. "It is not easy but I think you would make an excellent Eldritch Knight. It is the most common path for a Moon elf from a noble line."

"You really think my father was a noble? What makes you think that?" asked Innil intensely.

"I do but the why doesn't really matter, At least not until you reach one hundred and are eligible to be on a council. I will start you both tomorrow. Why don't you two go enjoy the rest of your day," the shaman dismissed them with a wave and a chuckle.

The boys were excited about beginning their magic classes. Garill had a session every day and sometimes more than one a day. Innil only went once a day three times a week. Both were quick learners and began to advance in strength, knowledge and control of magic.

Fifteen year old, Innil gathered his squad around him for a brief planning meeting. Although at seventeen, Garill was the oldest under twenty-one elf in the village it usually fell to Innil to be the leader in the war competitions. Garill thought and the elders agreed that a full magic user should not be a war leader since they were usually support personnel.

Annoro and Annora were now over twenty-one so no longer able to join them. Now, in addition to Innil and Garill, there were two twelve year olds and an eleven year old. They were all boys now; Annora had been the last girl to take any warrior training.

Garill shook his head while listening to Innil's plan which once again consisted of using the three younger members as some kind of bait. Then Innil would attack the other squad with Garill's superior magic as a backup.

The plan usually worked since the squads from the other villages rarely had a magic user as strong as Innil much less one in Garill's class. Even though he would be considered an apprentice until his twenty-first birthday Garill was as proficient as any journeyman and stronger than a good number of the local masters.

Two years of daily lessons from Shaman R'esdrimné had seen amazing growth from Garill. For the past year the shaman had not lived in their village but gave Garill and Innil tasks to accomplish under the watchful eye of Wizard Ala'egdral.

Ala'egdral's strength and control had improved over the two years that the shaman had lived in the small village. Most people attributed it to the constant influx and use of magical energies as two new apprentices were being taught. Garill and Innil thought it was having the younger elf staying in his hut where they knew there was only one bed.

The young elves didn't have a problem with the fact that the two older mages most likely were in a relationship. They had grown to be inseparable except for differing lessons and most nights. It was one of the reasons Innil's plans worked so well; the two knew each other and how they operated intimately.

The closeness created another advantage for their war squad. As they learned in their lessons it was usually incredibly difficult to pull magical energy from a trained magic user. However, any time Garill needed extra strength it seemed he could instantly pull it from Innil without any resistance. When they asked R'esdrimné and Ala'egdral about it they said it was probably due to their closeness and trust in one another.

After the planning session was finished Innil sent the other three on their assignment and waited for their signal. Fifteen minutes later the signal still hadn't come and the two older elf boys were getting a little concerned. Another five minutes passed and eleven year old Bryn came running to where the two teens waited. He was out of breath and stumbled to a stop.

Garill reached out, caught the younger elf before he could fall and held onto him until his breathing settled to normal. The youngster straightened himself when he could breathe again and answered the questions he could see in Innil's and Garill's eyes.

"We are okay but the other squad hasn't attacked yet," said Bryn taking a deep breath before finishing. "We even scouted around and still have seen no sign of them."

Innil and Garill exchanged worried looks; the opposing squad should have come right through where he had set the three boys. Now they could be anywhere.

"Let's round up Ara and Vallin and try to find where the enemy squad went," commanded Innil loosening his bow and short sword.

Garill and then Bryn fell in behind Innil as they jogged back to their hiding place. When they were sure it wasn't a trick Ara and Vallin stepped out to greet their squad leader. Innil questioned them getting the same story Bryn had brought to him. Vallin did add a speculation or two about where they went but Innil wouldn't put any stock into it until he found evidence to support it.

Together in one group they followed the expected path about a third of the way to the other squad's village. Here, Innil called a stop and decided to split the group. He sent Garill to the right and slightly ahead of the main group which would be the three younger elves. He would go to the left and up into the trees where he could see his squad. If the other group planned an ambush they wouldn't all be caught in it.

Traveling this way Innil's squad made it all the way to the opposing squad's base hut for the war games which set outside of the village. No one was there either. They searched the area around the hut until Bryn yelled, "I found something!"

Hurrying over Innil spotted signs of the village's squad. They had left by a different route than the one Innil and Garill had expected them to take. Staying together this time, Innil and his squad set off at a fast paced walk. They wanted to catch up quick but still needed to be able to follow the tracks.

Garill also tracked them by the magical signature of their best magic user with which he was familiar from the times they had trained together. He could tell they were getting closer when suddenly the magic signature disappeared.

The near silent gasp was still enough to let Innil know Garill had noticed something was off. He slowed the group down slightly and searched the woods more carefully. Ara was the first to find one of the squad members laid out on the ground unmoving.

Carefully but quickly Innil's group found and checked all of the other team's members except one. All were alive but unconscious. The one they didn't find was the magic user Garill had been tracking before his signature vanished.

Innil sent Vallin back to the village to get help and assigned Ara and Bryn guard duty. He and Garill noticed more tracks and set out to follow them. After about thirty yards they found the missing magic user also alive and unconscious. He had also been drained of his magical energy but Garill assured Innil he would regain it tomorrow morning at sunrise.

Luckily, he was a year younger than Innil and of a slight build so the two carried him back to where the rest were laid out with the two elves standing guard.

Innil and Garill hurried back to where they found the youngster and started following the tracks again. After an hour they came upon a strange group consisting of two humans, one dwarf, one half-orc, one goblin and two other creatures they didn't recognise. The two strange creatures were humanoid with two arms and legs but their heads had two medium-sized horns in front and several smaller horn-like shapes covering the rest of their heads in place of hair.

The friends watched this group set up camp including stringing a chain between two metal posts driven into the ground. The elf boys looked at each other wondering what the chain was for since they did not have any horses or other animals for riding or packing supplies on.

They had just started a whispered conversation about what they should do when the younger three elves crawled up from behind.

"Why are you here?" questioned Innil whispering. "What about the other village's group?"

"They're being taken care of by their families," returned Ara in not quite a whisper.

"S-s-h-h-h," hissed the other two younger elves with more enthusiasm than the situation required.

Since everyone's attention was on the arrival of the three younger elves and the ensuing conversation they didn't notice the dwarf's head perk up and turn with an ear toward the distracted group. Once he had listened a couple of minutes the dwarf got the attention of one of the strange creatures who also turned to listen to the young elves.

Bryn looked away from the forming argument to the strange group whose tracks they had followed. His eyes grew to twice their size and with a high-pitched yelp he drop to the ground dragging Ara and Vallin with him. Innil and Garill turned their attention back to the group to find a medium sized fireball almost upon them.

Garill ignited his own flames and absorbed the fireball into his own swirling ring of fire. At the same time Innil quick as a wink had his bow in his hand and let loose an arrow at the dwarf who had another fireball ready to sling their direction.

When the arrow reached two thirds of the way to its target the shorter of the two horned creatures waved his hand to the side. The arrow changed direction midflight harmlessly striking a tree to the side of the group. Garill and Innil glanced quickly at one another as they realized they faced at least two adult magic users plus the other five members of the group.

"Bryn, run back to the village for help! Go!" Innil started issuing orders as he and Garill separated. "Ara, Vallin, back up! Use arrows, knives or any other projectile weapons you have on the other five. No close fighting; if they get close get out of here. Leave the mages to me and Garill."

The three followed Innil's orders just as if it was part of their games. Ara and Vallin drew their bows and spread apart to make harder targets for their opponents. Bryn sped back the way they had come to get help.

The taller of the horned ones barked some kind of order in a harsh, guttural language and the goblin raced around Innil's team trying to catch Bryn. Vallin fired an arrow at the speeding goblin but missed well wide of his target. No more thought was given to the pair as the two humans and the half-orc moved away from the magical battle about to begin.

As the two horned creatures stepped away the dwarf sent his second fireball directly at Innil knowing Garill outclassed his fire magic. Innil watched the flames draw nearer without moving. Moments before the ball would have struck the Moon elf's silver fire rope erupted deflecting the fireball away.

Ara and Vallin were almost caught flat-footed by two darts and an arrow as they were stunned by Innil's use of magic. He rarely used any in their war games with the other villages relying instead on Garill. The two twelve year olds managed to slip behind trees just in time; Vallin barely missed being skewered by the arrow. They exchanged shots with the three intruders with no casualties on either side.

Bryn raced as fast as he could to get help but since he was only eleven the goblin began to gain ground on him. The young elf didn't really worry about it much; he had a trick up his sleeve. Bryn had always idolized Innil and wanted to be just like him. So he convinced the fifteen year old elf to teach him how to race through the treetops like Innil did.

The goblin started gaining on him faster and Bryn was beginning to fret that he wouldn't make it. Suddenly, he spied the tree he had picked out if it was needed and swerved toward it. That move gained him a yard or two on the approaching goblin which was just enough for him to reach the tree.

It had a low branch just the right size for Bryn to use as a springboard. The goblin grabbed for Bryn's shirt just as he leapt onto the branch then sprang into the tree. The goblin was a good climber and came after the elf but Bryn sped from limb to limb as if born there thanks to Innil's tutelage. Soon, he had left the luckless goblin behind.

Innil sent silverfire missiles toward the heavy-set dwarf who blocked them with a magical shield. Since the fireball was unsuccessful the dwarf who relied heavily on fire spells evoked a fire bolt sending it flying towards Innil. Knowing none of his friends were behind him Innil simply dodged the bolt while flinging three small fireballs in rapid succession.

Meanwhile, the horned ones had simply gone for broke and tried to wrest Garill's magical force from him like they had done to the other village's magic user. Each time they tried, Garill's flaming ring would flare up breaking their hold. As the battle continued each side had less and less magical energy to expend.

The dwarf got cocky and only used his shield on his hands to swat the fireballs away. Unfortunately for him he was not fast enough and the third caught him on his right shoulder catching his clothes on fire. While the dwarf batted out the flames Innil moved and tossed one of the many knives he kept handy on a low trajectory. Just as the dwarf realized a projectile was headed his direction the knife sank into his calf right above the ankle causing him to howl with pain.

The dwarf mage was furious as he rose from removing the knife and tossing it aside. He began a chant raising his hands high and completed a complicated gesture before dropping his hands down. Innil could hear the spell before it appeared coming down on him. The dwarf had just been testing Innil's limits for now a high-level fire storm was about to drop on his head.

The two twelve year olds were oblivious to everything else that was happening while they essentially played peek-a-boo with the humans and the half-orc. Occasionally one of the five would fire an arrow or dart at the other side to no avail.

Innil was about to spring back out of the way when he noticed that the far edge of the fire storm would strike right where Ara and Vallin hid from their opponents. The two younger elves had no protection from the sheet of fire headed their way. In an instant Innil changed directions racing against the coming storm to reach his friends. He got there with barely enough time to grab them and hurl them and himself beyond the reach of the devastating fire descending to the ground.

While they were safe from the magical attack all three boys were now exposed to the half-orc and human fighters. Innil had his back to the three enemies and they all aimed for it. Vallin yelled a warning but before Innil could choose a course of action that would save himself without putting his two friends in danger his magic kicked in again. He was surrounded by silver flames that disintegrated the projectiles when they reached it.

The fifteen year old elf rose, pulled the his twelve year old friends to their feet and ordered, "Run! Get out of here and back to the village! Watch out for the goblin that was chasing Bryn; he's probably given up and headed back by now."

Innil then turned towards the ones who shot at him and drew his short sword to engage in some hand to hand. Before he reached where they stood all three suddenly slumped to the ground. He stopped puzzled then felt the familiar drain on his magical energy from Garill.

Now Innil's attention turned to the dwarf but he was having his own trouble. The dwarf mage was still conscious sitting on a fallen log and breathing hard. He was no threat for now.

Looking over to the only ones still locked in battle, Innil sheathed his sword and drew his bow once again. He notched an arrow, aimed and fired at the shorter horned creature who was struggling against Garill. The taller one stepped between his partner and the flying arrow taking it in his shoulder without a sound. Then he snapped off the protruding part of the bolt and tossed it aside keeping his attention on Innil.

Unsure of what to do next Innil paused then turned when he heard Garill scream in pain. He was just in time to see Garill's flames extinguished and Garill fell to the ground out cold.

"NO!" screamed Innil as he started to speed toward his fallen best friend.

The shorter creature who was no longer occupied by Garill made a pushing motion with his hand and sent Innil flying back. Then he spoke a few words in the direction of his group and they all struggled to their feet preparing to leave. The tall one went to where Garill lay on the ground, hoisted the elf onto his shoulder and followed the others through the trees.

Innil struggled to his feet exhausted and tried to follow after them but kept stumbling. He finally collapsed to his knees in tears unable to keep going. That's where he was found by Garill's father, his uncle and Ala'egdral led by Bryn. Ara supporting a limping Vallin brought up the rear. The two had run into the goblin and during their fight Vallin was bitten by the goblin before Ara ran him through with his sword.

"They took him," sobbed Innil as his best friend's dad pulled him to his feet and wrapped him in his arms.

Ala'egdral and Innil's uncle followed the trail for about seventy-five yards where it disappeared and there were no clues where they went. They returned stating there was nothing they could do with no trail to follow.

Everyone started back to the village with Garill's dad and the wizard supporting Innil, Ara and Bryn supported Vallin and Innil's uncle walked on in silence soon leaving the others behind.

From this day on Innil spent almost all his nights either at Ala'egdral's hut or with Garill's family.

Innil caressed the shoulder and arm of the boy laying in bed with him then slid his hand down the young elf's strong back.

"Mmmm, that feels good, Innil," said sixteen, only a month from being seventeen, year old Bryn to his soon to be twenty-one year old friend. "I wish you would change your mind about making love to me."

"I know, Bryn," sighed Innil. "But as long as I feel Garill is alive I belong to him. I don't want to start something with you knowing I'm not staying."

"This is it, then?" questioned Bryn with resignation. "You're leaving after your coming-of-age celebration, aren't you?"

"No, silly," Innil answered emotions almost getting the best of him. "The celebration will last most of the day and well into the night. I will leave the day after so we have one more night for me to hold you."

"Then what am I going to do?" Bryn wanted to know.

"Take your place as the new leader of the underage squad," was Innil's reply.

"Will you ever come back?"

"I don't know, Bryn. I have to try to find Garill. Now hush and enjoy before we have to get up for the day." Then Innil went back to caressing the handsome, fit young elf who sighed and melted into his friend's embrace.

A couple of hours later Innil awoke alone with a chorus of "Get up sleepyhead! You got a party to go to!" from outside his bedroom. He pulled on his britches and staggered out to see the group gathered around. There was of course Ara and Vallin, Bryn who had snuck out to join the wake-up committee, Annora and Annoro who still lived in the village and to Innil's surprise and delight Jarnoe had come in for his celebration.

Innil didn't usually sleep this late but it was tradition for the celebrant to wait for his friends to come wake him. He was thankful for the guys and gal that showed up but he was still hit with a touch of sadness that Garill wasn't here to celebrate with him. He put on a happy face, dressed fully and went with his friends to start the festivities.

Innil forgot his troubles for a day and enjoyed the time spent with his friends and then with the entire village starting in the afternoon. By nightfall everyone was in fine spirits and a few had too many spirits already. Following tradition Innil's uncle did present him with a new set of good quality traveling clothes. His weapon's master provided a new brace of throwing knives and his young friends went together to produce a travel bag to carry provisions.

Jarnoe slipped him a small bag of coins and the twins had made a new quiver and filled it with arrows. The best gift was given to him by Ala'egdral but most of it had been made by Garill before he was kidnapped. A wooden flute carved by Garill himself and decorated with rings of flames. Ala'egdral had finished it by adding the silver to the carved flames representing Innil's Moon elf heritage and his magic.

Finally, well into the night the party wound down and all but a few revelers had gone to their beds. Innil made his way to his own bed to find that Bryn had gotten there first and was fast asleep. Innil smiled fondly at the young elf as he undressed and slipped in behind spooning Bryn with an arm over his abs. The younger elf scooted closer and sighed contentedly in his sleep. Innil kissed the back of Bryn's head and soon joined him in slumber.

After a pleasant night's rest Innil rose early, donned his new clothes and gathered all his gifts. He hugged Bryn goodbye then slipped out of the quiet village to search for his best friend, Garill. He started in the direction of the last place he saw his friend and stopped where the trail had ended. He knew it well in spite of the six years since Garill was taken for he had visited it often during those years. Kneeling to meditate for about half an hour Innil hoped for a signal of where to start but all he managed was a certainty that Garill was still alive and out there somewhere.

Rising Innil set off in the direction he was facing and never looked back. He spent many years traveling throughout the land. During his traveling Innil sometimes would join caravans as part of the guard detail increasing his skills at fighting and practicing his magic. Other times he crossed the land alone helping small encampments and isolated families dwelling in the area whenever they were beset by bandits and enemy races.

As he traveled further and further from his home village Innil began to hear tales similar to what happened to his own area. When the stories including descriptions of an elf using fire magic Innil followed where the stories led hoping to catch up with the band of attackers. He continued to chase the stories for many years sometimes coming closer and sometimes missing the group completely.

Seventy-five years after leaving his village to chase after his abducted best friend Innil was consistently getting closer and closer to tracking down the rogue band. He had once gotten close enough to spot the retreating backs of the group but couldn't follow them without leaving badly injured half-elf boys to their fate. As bad as he wanted to find Garill he couldn't leave without ensuring the boys got the care they needed though. Two months later he was lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

This time he was with the magic user the group targeted and thwarted their initial attack allowing the boy's family to escape to the nearby walled town with him. Innil chased after the group when they retreated and managed to corner three of them: two half-orcs and a dwarf. When they realized they wouldn't be able to shake the relentless elf they turned to fight.

The two half-orcs raised already loaded crossbows and fired quickly hoping to rattle the approaching elf. No such luck! Innil had been in many scuffles and battles during his roaming and instantly knew one of the shots was way wide. This allowed him to worry only about one bolt as he kept running toward his adversaries drawing his bow. By the time the more accurate shot passed about a foot from him Innil had fired twice at the half-orcs. Both shots were on target with one being a fatal shot through the luckless being's throat. The other shot went through the bicep of the arm holding the crossbow causing it to drop heavily to the ground.

Still running Innil put away his bow and flung a knife at the injured half-orc catching him the gut for a slow, agonizing death. That left the dwarf. Innil got a momentary shock as he realized it was the same one he had faced eighty-one years ago.

The dwarf mage smirked as he too recognized his opponent as the young elf he had almost bested. He would soon learn this wasn't the same young elf he faced last time.

Without pausing Innil sent a trio of silverfire missiles followed by a large silver-colored fireball. He then pulled his sword free of its scabbard approaching at full speed. The dwarf easily dispatched the magic spells thrown at him but failed to pay attention to his quick footed opponent.

By the time he turned his attention from the flames coming at him the mage found his enemy on top of him. He had no time to prepare a spell before Innil swept behind him drawing his sword across the dwarf's legs just above the knees. The move left the dwarf mage on the ground crippled and out of the action.

Innil never slowed down as he placed the sword away and chased after the main group again. As he approached the leader sent four back to intercept Innil this time. Instead of waiting for them or trying to take them on Innil leapt for the first branch within reach and ascended into the trees.

The four brigands shrugged their shoulders and returned to the main group after being unable to find the elf through the leaves. Traveling from tree to tree Innil was not only able to keep up without being challenged but soon was at the front of the group.

When the travelers came to a spot where Innil knew they would have to keep on a straight line, he sped ahead of them and dropped to the ground. Avoiding the two horned creatures and the red-headed elf at the fore of the group Innil fired two quick arrows at the seven other members. One arrow hit a human through the heart after the orc in front of him dodged dropping him on the spot. The other arrow just nicked a goblin in the thigh causing it to limp slightly.

The shorter horned one brought the company to a halt then barked orders to the group including the elf in front. The elf moved several feet in front of the company and flared with red-orange flames circling his body. It had to be Garill thought Innil as his own magic came to life ringing him in silver fire.

The opposing elf paused momentarily at the sight of the silver flames then continued with his spell causing a torrent of flames to pour towards Innil. The silver ring expanded to a solid wall of rotating fire with Innil in the center and shunted the red-orange flames aside.

During the interval as the fire-wielding elf chose his next course of action Innil flung about eight small fireballs across the rest of the group avoiding the one he was sure used to be his best friend. He spent energy recklessly knowing it would be dark soon and the moon would refresh him.

Garill, for Innil was correct, ignored the fireballs since none were directed at him and focused on his next spell. The horned ones deflected those that came near them but left the rest of the group to fend for themselves. Most only received minor damage from glancing blows but the hobbled goblin couldn't move fast enough and took a direct hit to the chest.

That left six fighters plus the three magic users. Innil's chances were improving but not by enough. His best hope was to reach Garill and breaking the hold the strange creatures had on him.

Taking a chance Innil lowered his magical flow and spoke a single word, "Garill?"

Again the elf sorcerer hesitated and for longer this time. The horned being barked out an order and the elf gave a start then finished his spell. A fire bolt jolted from his hands toward Innil who dodged without invoking his magic. Then took a step closer locking eyes with the ginger elf facing him.

As if in a trance Garill took a single step toward Innil halting as another single word was spoken with yearning and sadness.


More barked orders issued from the strange creature that had taken Garill away from everyone he knew and slowly over the years had convinced him that they didn't want him. His body shuddered as Garill struggled between needing to obey and wanting to be with his friend.

It dawned on Garill at that moment that the elf across from him was his one time best friend Innil. His masters were wrong! He was still wanted; at least by one person. He took another tentative step away from the group.

The short horned one angrily shouted at Garill in his guttural language and pointed at Garill. At the same time the taller one barked orders at the group and the three healthiest separated from them advancing on Innil.

All at once Innil saw Garill drop to a knee in pain and the three bandits attacking and screamed out in fury and defiance. Three silverfire missiles went streaking toward the three growing in size as they went. Try as they might to escape, the missiles followed their every move as Innil foolishly put everything he had into ensuring the missiles struck their targets.

There were short lived screams as the missiles struck and devoured the hapless creatures. There were now only three fighters left and they had no intentions of facing the crazed elf as they ran for their lives.

Having heard Innil's primal yell Garill flared his flames around him breaking contact with the creature trying to control him. The horned ones redoubled their efforts and Garill faltered until he heard three words whispered close behind him.

"I missed you," Innil said in a whisper that was more breath than voice.

Irritated at Innil's perseverance the horned creature tried to knock him away as he had many years ago. Before Innil had gone even a foot Garill reached out for Innil's magic which now was nearly only string-sized. It was enough for him to draw Innil into his protective wall of flames.

Totally enraged now, the horned being dew all the magical force he could and began chanting to the demon he was pledged to asking for more. He planned to end this now and sent everything he had at the two elves. Garill's flames brightened and thickened but Garill knew he couldn't hold out against the more experienced warlock.

"I'm sorry we'll perish so soon after reuniting," whispered Garill to his best friend. "Thank you for finding me."

"Just hold on a little longer," Innil whispered back. "All is not lost yet."

Garill wondered how his friend could be optimistic under the circumstances. At that moment, when Garill felt he couldn't last another second the sun dropped below the horizon followed by the full moon filling the sky. Then, Garill felt an unbelievable amount of power flowing from the most important person in his life.

Of course! Innil's magical energy was always replenished with the moonrise. Confidant now that together he and Innil could face anything Garill pulled Innil's magic to him. Instead of absorbing it to increase his own power as he did when they were young, he combined them. Now the flames surrounding the elf friends alternated red and silver.

Innil took Garill's left hand in his right hand and as one they caused the flames to thicken then pushed them out. The flames spread out away from the two elves in an enlarging circle. The horned ones desperately tried to fend off the encroaching flames but could do nothing against it. Finally, they fled from the area.

The two turned to stare into one another's eyes before Innil pulled Garill into a tight embrace. After a few minutes Garill broke the hug, searched the sapphire orbs across from him then tenderly took Innil's face in his hands and pulled him into a passionate kiss. Finishing the kiss they wrapped their arms around the other's waist and walked toward the nearby town.

Deep, deep in the forest no one heard the screams as the two creatures were punished for their failure to complete the demon's plans.

The End