The Unknown Betrayal - 2 Dec 07


BY: Matthew E Greenwood

Thanks to Joshua and Becca Duncan for all their ideas and help in creating this piece writing!

If you have been reading The Unknown Betrayal and want to get to the new stuff It is colored in blue!

7-2-2006 2-06-03 AM_0005 The Unknown Betrayal

No sooner had I lost my mother than I became a slave. My long years of captivity kept my hopes of freedom low and worthless to me. How could I escape when all my brothers who had tried had tried failed time and time again? The gate was as like a demon, which could watch all day and all night, knowing before-hand if you would attempt. The very last man who had tried had been caught before he had the chance to even make a dash for his freedom. Day after day the guards made sure we knew that no one could escape. They brought vicious dogs, which would much rather have you dead than alive, to show you just how seemingly stupid it would be to try to escape. However, we all wanted to escape, dead or alive. That was when my closest friend, James, offered me an opportunity I could not resist. His great-grandfather, who had had no money to free James thirteen years ago was going to break him out. As foolish as it sounded to us, we were ready to try to escape. Work here was bone breaking, shoveling dirt and sand from one spot to the next. Our backs were lined with scars from the ends of the guards’ whips.

That night marked both our lives. It was the night we would either escape or face certain death.

“Matthias,” My closest friend, James, whispered. “It is almost sunset.”

I looked up into the bright red clouds. “Yeah, where did you say he was going to break us out from again?” I asked.

He seemed to be disappointed that we were still trapped and did not answer. I followed his gaze to where he watched, longingly.

“Stop staring!” I whispered more intently, anxious. “If you stare the wall will know!”

Sighing, James returned to looking down at the ground. “Sorry Matthias, you might be right. I’m getting second thoughts,” he said, sitting cross-legged.

I joined him, very close to the roaring fire. The fire was the only thing keeping us alive through the night during the winter. Around the fire were shacks that kept the snow off the ground, when it did snow. Every once in awhile the fire would crackle and James would look up in excitement, only to grow more anxious. Then something occurred that hadn’t in a very long time. The forest started to sing out with incredible force. I looked at James, wondering if this was his great-grandfather at work, but he looked back in confusion. Perhaps, I thought, he didn’t notice the forest.

Then, swift as a lion chasing its prey, came a crack from the wall. A huge section was blown to pieces. Guards sprang into action, holding up their long swords that gleamed in the remaining sunlight. Two horses paraded from the wall straight for our fire. James smiled for perhaps the first time since I had met him so long ago, and stood up. His great-grandfather brought the horse to his side and helped him up onto it. James looked at me, but chose to say nothing. They both galloped away, without me. Tears ran down my cheeks; it was then that I decided to make my final escape. As if invisible, I ran past the guards who now held back the escaping prisoners. I looked towards the town, and saw a brigade of men coming my way on their steeds. The town was no longer a safe route.

Turning to my only escape route, I plummeted headlong into the forest. Though the trees were dense I seemed to be able to pass through them with incredible ease. I ran until my legs gave way to the strain. It was then that I lost my footing and dropped like a rock to the ground, my head smashing into a fallen tree. A burning sensation coursed throughout my neck, and then the blackness engulfed me.

Much later, it seemed, did I waken. My head throbbed with pain and felt moist as if I had been sweating. My muscles ached as I turned my body around to face the clear blue sky of the morning. I wiped the sweat away with my hand, and then noticed that it was not sweat but blood that I had wiped away. The burning increased and a deep desire to sleep washed over me. I remained awake, but barley able to hold my head up. The forest seemed oddly quiet now, as if listening to my every breath. Animals would stop and stare at me before they passed on, all leaving me in the same direction. When the sun had risen fully, and my frost-bitten skin had started to warm again, I followed where the animals had walked off to, my every desire hoping for some water to satisfy my thirst.

I followed the deer tracks through the forest, which lead me straight to a large river. My body trembled and shook as I got on my hands and knees, bending as low as I could to drink. The forest seemed to grow in sound, chirping birds flew near me. A wolf in the distance howled, as if the moon had been full. I looked in the water, and two fish, larger than full loaves of bread seemed to be staring up at me. I had no time to think before I jumped in after them, hoping with all my heart that I would catch one. I was no match, though, for the frigid water. As my upper torso mixed with the water, a quick spike of cold knocked the wind out of me. My body writhed with the sudden coldness and I locked up. In fear and with the urge to survive I opened my eyes and bolted upwards but was not tall enough to reach the top of the water. Something in my body told me to flap my arms like a bird, and run like I was on tiptoe. Miraculously I seemed to be able to break the surface of the water and breathe. However, another pure shock of icy water stunned my legs and I was swept under by the current.

My eyes opened. I thought this was it. I saw a gleaming light and I knew I must be inches from meeting my maker in heaven. This would be paradise at last! However, the light seemed to pass under me. My heart wrenched in fear. If I missed the light would I be banished to hell? With whatever strength I had left, I did everything in my power to go back to the light. I wanted heaven, eternal paradise! The current, I thought, was Satan pushing me back, wanting my soul to eat and burn in his body. My head spun and my chest began to spasm, I wanted to breathe in, but water surrounded my mouth. Just as I wanted to give up, I was within reaching distance of the light! With every ounce of strength left in my body I reached out and grabbed the light, closing my eyes.

A terrible realization came to me as I noticed it was only a stone. My lungs felt unbearably heavy, as if a large man had sat on my chest. I had no strength left to do anything. I wanted to see the sky for the very last time, to watch how beautifully the clouds had formed. Feeling foolish, I clenched onto the stone that I thought would save my life. My vision blurred and my head burned even worse now. I felt, as my body gave way to my command, branches that held me down in the water. A memory popped into my head of my mother’s smile, then darkness.

The memory of my mother seemed to stick into my thoughts. She moved, but only slightly back and forth. I remember looking up at her and I felt happy. Her finger looked huge and nuzzled my stomach. I giggled and felt my arms and legs moving up and down, side to side. But then, the door smashed open, revealing a large figure who I had not remembered before. They spoke, but their words were unrecognizable. I burst out into tears and screamed uncontrollably. My view changed to over her shoulder. I still cried, but felt a couple of soft pats on my back. Feeling comfortable I stopped. She started to sing a very familiar song, one that made me want to sleep. My vision, as clear as it was, slowly faded inwards, until all I saw or heard was her song.

I slowly came too. A warm feeling had come over my body. Cracks and pops resounded in the near area.

“Matthias! I thought… well… I thought you might be dead!” a familiar voice said.

I raised my head from the soft pillow that had been comforting my head. A large piece of cloth had been tied around my head. Opening my burning eyes I looked at James, who was fully dressed in the finest clothes.

“When I heard you had escaped I came looking for you in the forest. My conscience, guilty, I did not stop searching for you, even after nightfall. I am so sorry, brother, for leaving you behind!” James cried aloud.

I coughed, trying to speak. My throat was sore and felt as if it had been sanded on with the toughest sandpaper.

“Do not talk, I had to pump the water out of your lungs. You had swallowed quite a bit of it! Let it heal, and dry out.” James said, his tone unchanged.

My vision was very blurry, in fact I could barley pick out James from the trees. I sat back again, resting my head that felt numb, and yawned.

“Matthias, I need to report to my grandfather, will you be alright?” James asked quickly.

I tried to piece words together, but without a doubt I knew that he was already mounting his horse.

“I’ll be back tomorrow, I promise!” James said, and I heard a swat resonate from his position. The horses’ hooves kicked the ground and I felt the rhythm die down as he paraded off into the unknown. I sat there, thinking not only of my pain but also of the one memory that had stuck in my head. My mother had been very beautiful; I didn’t know why she had been killed. I knew nothing of my father, not even a spec of my memory showed him in it. I thought perhaps he had been enlisted in the army and had no time to see me.

Then it occurred to me. I was still clenching the stone that I had found at the very bottom of the river. The stone that deceived me into believing I was going to heaven. My eyelids spread open and I once again raised my neck. The fire seemed to be a haze of red that dashed up and down. Angrily I threw the stone into the fire, or best I could. I heard a couple taps as it bounced around on the various pieces of wood that had been set up to create the blazing fire. Again the picture of my mother appeared, this time stronger and clearer than ever. As she held me up on her shoulder and patted my back, I heard again the song she had sang. Silently I mumbled it to myself. My throat was in no condition to sing at her level, or at any level to be specific. The words came out as if they were an ordinary simple sentence. As I finished, the forest exploded with sound.

From the biggest predator to the smallest pray, all the creatures in the forest sang in rhythm a melody unlike any other. The melody was soft and smooth, a melody that seemed to make all else fade away. The fire, as blurry as it was, danced to the rhythm. Inside the fire, shone a brighter light than any other. The fire was sizzling, as if someone had put water on it, yet the flames stood high and tall. Then, as the melody increased, so did the flames. The flames started to create a humanistic figure, a female. The forest drowned out my thoughts entirely as the sound got more intense to the point where I could feel my skin vibrating. It was as if every animal was standing around me, shouting whatever sound it was making straight into my ears. The image of this female grew stronger and stronger until the image and the fire flashed and died, and the forest itself died in sound. A buzzing sound stuck in my head, irritating me. I noticed just then that the figure had stayed put. The figure moved, frightening me. I tried to stand up but my body was drained as if I had just run for my life. I breathed quickly, fearing the worst. A hand touched my head, and a soothing relaxation came over me. I was not able to think, speak, or control any of my body. I just stared endlessly up into the sky.

The hand was removed, and a female voice broke the silence.

“Rest, friend,” she said, softly. “You are safe now.”

I tried to stay awake, but as the time progressed my eyelids began to bare the weight of the day’s trials. Slowly I fell asleep, knowing full well that whatever had appeared out of the fire was right at my side.

As I started to awaken, a deep fear sprang to life within my heart. I had witnessed a girl appear out of the fire, fire that would burn your skin if you dared to touch it. I acted as if I were asleep, but peered around through a crack in my eyelids. As my eyes fell upon the rekindled fire, I saw the woman’s back. She had tattered clothing that had resembled a very fine, very tight, green dress. Her strait dirty blond hair stretched to the middle of her back. My heart dulled a little and a wave of courage overwhelmed me. Opening my eyes, I sat upright to view her and the fire.

“Hello?” I said boldly.

She spun around surprised with a look of horror. “W-where am I?” She said, her dashing green eyes glaring at me.

“In the forest, I don’t know which one…” I sighed.

She wore a look of complete confusion, her eyes darted from me to the wildlife which seemed to be more quiet than ever.

“Are you a warrior?” she asked, her eyes wandering to my arms.

“No…” I paused, “I was to be a slave for all my life.”

She looked slightly appalled. “Slave?” she asked, “We… We fought for freedom, we won that battle! Why have we slaves?” Her voice cracked.

The forest grew louder, and a look of terror griped her face.

“Who did you serve?” she asked, her every breath more intense.

“No one really knows his name besides the higher chain of command. Most of us are told what to do and they do not accept questions.” I paused to think of anything I knew of this king whom had enslaved me. Then it came to me. “He is a very fat man who has riches beyond any man’s wildest dreams! He is the keeper of the most sacred and valuable stones, Elf Stones.”

Her eyes closed and her knees bent. Her body came rushing down to the ground, tears built up in her eyes until they came tumbling down. Her hands gently wiped away her tears and for a brief moment there was only the sound of the fire dashing about inside the circle of rocks.

“How…?” She asked aloud.

Several minutes passed before she regained her composure herself and sat back. Her soft face wore a completely devastated look, as if she had just lost a close friend. Confusion struck me; there had been slaves now for a couple thousand years. How could she have fought against slavery? As I peered into her beautiful face, I noticed that her ears were longer than usual. Her body, though skinny, looked very strong.

The fire… how had she appeared in the fire? Then I remembered, I had chucked the stone into the fire! Was this some kind of enchantment? She must have noticed my confusion because she smiled at me. Her teeth were as brightly white as the snow that layered some of the forest ground. The smile intrigued me.

She stood again. “Who are you?” she asked, walking closer to me.

“I’m Matthias,” I paused for a few seconds as she got closer to me, “Who are you?”

“My name is Maria.” She said a few feet from my side.

I was tempted to stand up, but laid there on the soft pillow. She bent down on her knee and placed her hand upon my chest.

“I’m going to try to mend your wounds, this might hurt a little,” she said, her eyes glowing slightly.

She squinted and her green eyes glowed fiercer. That was when I noticed a trickle of pain in my chest. A couple seconds later the pain had grown immensely, but my body would not allow me to move. The glow of her eyes seemed to travel down her neck, to her arm, and finally down through my chest. As soon as the glow strengthened the pain stopped, though I could feel my bones popping back into place, and my skin stretching over my gashes.

The glow dimmed quickly. Her eyes relaxed and looked at mine. “That will be good enough until we can find someone who can really heal you. I am without much training,” Maria said, lifting her hand from my chest.

My body felt renewed in certain areas but in others I was still hurting, just not as much. I could not stop staring into Maria’s green eyes. I could not for a moment grasp what had just occurred. What was she and where was she from? She looked from my face to the ground, as if she had made a poor decision.

Quickly I smiled, “Thank you.”

She stood, holding a hand out for me. “Do you know where the nearest town is?” she asked as she heaved me up to my feet.

“Well, kind of. If we get to the river all we need to do is travel north until we find the footpath and travel east. They will be looking for me though. If I go back…” I paused, feeling disappointed. “If I go back, they will kill me.”

She smiled as the forest started to chirp. “The forest thinks differently.”

I looked at her, and simply nodded my head. I took nearby gravel and snow to put out the fire. After I had done so, a chill ran over my body. I was cold! I looked at her, though, and noticed she had no protection either. I looked around at the surroundings and saw the pillow that I had been propped on.

Tearing a hole through the top I handed it to Maria who laughed. “I am not cold, in fact I am quite used to this weather. You need it,” she said, and would not accept it even after I tried to force her to grab it.

The empty pillow provided some slight warmth, but would not last long in this weather. I waved for Maria to follow me and we traveled through the forest on a deer path. Soon we found the river and started heading north. Maria insisted on being in front. I was curious but not enough to ask why she insisted. The sun seemed to set itself behind the clouds today, creating winds that chilled my spine. My face burnt as if it was on fire, but I knew full well that it was colder than ice. We trudged onwards, not stopping for water or food. As the sky seemed to darken a little we found the path leading into town, though we were a long ways from it. We traveled east for some time, then she finally decided to stop. She plopped down on the side of the road, and patted the ground next to her.

I sat next to her, but kept my distance. She sighed and moved towards me, then rapped her arm around my waist. “If we keep together we will be warmer.”

Feeling warmer I squeezed in against her. My muscles ached and my stomach writhed. I hadn’t eaten anything in a long time.

Maria and I sat there, as if frozen to the spot. I was waiting for Maria to tell me what we were doing, but she stayed silent. It was an hour or two before she stood up.

We should get going," she said and helped me up.

Both of us stayed silent for quite some time, until at last the road lead to a familiar object.

"The wall..." I whispered, hoping it couldn't see me.

Maria looked at the wall, and then to me. She understood exactly what I meant. "Don't worry, I promise you will never have to go in there again." She paused for a moment. "Can you trust me Matthias?"

I paused to think. Why did she ask me if I could trust her? I, after all, had not questioned her up to this point. I looked into her beautiful face, and nodded approvingly.

"I'll be back as soon as I can with some food and clothing. We can't walk you past the gate with those cloths!" Maria said.

I looked at Maria and at what she was wearing. How was she any better off than I was? She sprinted off towards the wall, leaving me to myself.

I attempted to entertain myself by throwing rocks as far as I could. Soon that got boring and I laid back into the tree line. I stared up into the wide deep blue of the sky. The tree branches created more bizarre looking paintings in the sky than did the clouds. As time moved, so did the clouds and their patterns. Soon the sun touched the tip of the tree line and the clouds turned red as blood.

I was worried now. I had no idea what I would do if she didn't happen to come back, and if she did, what worth am I to her? Her beauty swept my thoughts away when she was near. It was the very passion of wanting to know her that had kept me going along this far. Other than James, no other person had given me any sort of chance at friendship. I wanted to be apart of her life.

Though I had been a slave all my life, there had been female slaves among us men. The females did not appreciate me as a someone, even when I would take their full load for them! I was nothing more than just another person in the prison.

The moon rose softly upwards into the sky. It wasn't long after that, that the crickets started to chirp. Every once and awhile an owl would coo or a wolf would howl. My eyes started to strain with the weight of the day. It had been exhausting waiting for Maria. Soon time itself stopped and all that had once been on my mind ceased to be.

A loud hum woke me up. The hum strengthened until it became a string of words, "Matthias, wake up!"

I opened my eyes and Maria stood there looking down at me. She was wearing a large coat and thick pants that made her look fat, and in her hands were another coat and pants. As I stood up she handed me the jacket and pants, which weighed a considerable amount. Quickly I put them on, and instantly felt my skin start to warm up. I smiled at Maria, and she smiled back. She waved her hand at me, asking me to follow her. I did so, happy to know that she had come back. We walked eastward to town, it was right as we were about to pass the slave pins when a guard with a noticeable face stopped me and Maria.

"Hey, you! Do I know you from somewhere?" the man asked, his gaze searching out my face.

I looked down towards the ground, trying to avoid his eye's, "No sir, I don't know what your talking about" I said.

"Sir," Maria said, "Do you know who I am?"

The man looked puzzled, "Uhh..."

"I am your lord's wife! Do you not recognize me?" Maria whispered angrily.

The guard looked stunned as if he had been stricken, "If you..." he began, but Maria cut him off swiftly.

"I will hear no more of this matter!" she said sharply.

The man seemed to be locked up for words to say, so with his hand he gestured us away. We got quite a bit away when Maria stopped.

"I'm sorry I took so long. I have found us a place to stay though, the elf is a very old friend of mine who has been guarding quite a few elf stones. He may be able to aide us," she said smiling.

I smiled at her, "Thanks for the cloths." I managed to say.

"For a human you are extremely shy!" she giggled.

I didn't know what to say. "I'm sorry." I replied, dropping my head down.

"No, don't be sorry Matthias!" she paused and lifted my chin up. "It is good to be shy."

She pushed softly on my back, wishing me to march on with her, and I did so. The town was visible in the near distance, fire trails lit by the sun led up far into the sky. The night had been awfully cold and I was amazed that I had lived through it. The closer we got the town, the louder the sounds got. Soon we arrived at the front gate and two fully armored guards with long spears walked over to us. Their plate mail suits both had an emblem on the front of it that looked like a (to be designed later!)

"What is your business?" one of the guards asked.

Maria smiled up at the left one, "Don't you remember me?"

The guard at once nodded and they both returned back to their spots. Maria and I walked forward past the guards and into town. My heart raced and my head burned as if it was on fire. I had never before been into a town of free men. Never had I been equal with anyone but my fellow worker! This was different, and hard to fathom. Maria led me north west of town to a two story house with a shack next to it. The building was surrounded by a metal gate that bore a sign. I could not read what it said, but it had a skull on it meaning something about death. She unlatched the gate and we entered the front yard of the house. It was a large and very old wooden house that had vines crawling up its sides. It's once marvelous stone patio was in ruin. The door, however, was new and contained a hefty lock on the front of it. Maria stepped up onto the porch and knocked on the door. Nothing stirred inside, but Maria stayed still in front of the door.

"Who is it?" an old voice yelled out suddenly.

Maria smiled, "It's me, Maria," she replied back.

A huge thud emitted from the door as the lock spun around. An old man answered. He leaned heavily on an old wooden staff. He was obviously in his ending years.

"Is this him?" he asked Maria in a soft, feeble voice.

Maria nodded. "He is the one who freed me.”

“He is welcome then! We shall have a feast!” the old man bellowed.

He turned slowly, waving us to follow. The scent of old parchment filled the air. The sound of the door closing echoed through the hallway. Warm air rushed around my body as the old man lead us deeper into his home. He brought us into a newly furnished room. He sat down at a cedar table next to the blazing fireplace. He smiled and pulled out the chair next to him for me to sit at. I decided to sit closer to the fire than to him. Maria decided to stand instead of taking the chair closest the old man.

The old man smiled once again, “Welcome to my humble abode. If I remember correctly you had told me that this man released you from your imprisonment?” he said boldly.

Maria nodded, “Yes, though I do not understand how a human managed the task.”

“Neither do I.” The old man paused. “Matthias is it?” he said, looking at me.

“Yes,” I answered.

“I’m Nahado, a very old friend of Maria’s and a defender of sacred Elf Stones.”

“What do you know about Elf Stones, Matthias?” Maria asked.

“Well they are the most valuable rubies in all the world! They are said to heal even the deepest wounds!” I thought out loud.

“You are right Matthias, however, there is something deeper you should know about them…” Nahado paused and looked around. “Each one carries a life within it.”

“A life? What do you mean?” I asked

Maria looked to me with sadness in her eyes. “A life like myself.”

Nahado spoke, softly, “Long ago, Lord Dnno, king of all the elves, decided to take action against the extinction of the elves. Humans discovered black powder and used it against us, an ancient art we elves had taken for granted. Unlike humans, we were content with how we lived—”

Maria interrupted, “They used the black powder in what they called ‘guns.’ These guns shattered our defenses and laid ruin to our cities.”

“Why did humans wage war against the elves?” I asked.

Nahado looked ashamed, but continued. “Most elves, including myself, wanted peace among our races. However, a few perverse elves decided to take humans and use them as slaves. There was a time when we considered humans to be an inferior race because of their short life spans.” Nahado paused as if consumed fully in thought. “Humans did not think kindly to their race being captured and used as slaves. They broke out into war with us, and for hundreds of years they were nothing but a nuisance. Then, a man invented the gun…” Nahado sighed deeply.

“Dnno instructed all elves, except for few people like Nahado to take the form of an Elf Stone. It was our decision to become Elf Stones, but never did we think there was a betrayer amongst the guardians. Dnno, right before turning himself into an Elf Stone, found out there was a betrayer amongst his chosen guardians.” Maria explained, her voice timid with anger.

“Dnno did not know who the betrayer was, but took precautions to make sure that he would not fall under the same conditions as he thought many other elves would. It was too late to undue what had been done, and knew that the last thing the betrayer would want was to be known as an elf.” Nahado added.

“So where is Dnno’s stone?” I asked.

“It is inside the Tree of Death,” Maria said quickly.

Nahado looked up to Maria, then his eyes trailed to me.

“You both look tired and worn out from your days adventure,” Nahado said, and stood up. “Come with me, you both can sleep in the shack.”

Nahado lead Maria and me out the door and towards the shack. I jumped when I saw two beastly cats who had poked their heads out from the tall grass. The two black beasts appeared to be overgrown cats with pointed ears and black fur. Most fearsome of all were their ruby red eyes.

Nahado laughed at my shock, “They are quite friendly, so long as you are with me.”

The cats followed us as we walked towards the shack. The sun had set in the distance. The night’s chill swept over me, causing me to shake. A small wooden door lead into the shack that was only neck tall. Nahado stepped forward, opened the door, and bent over to tip-toe in. Maria and I followed him. The shacks appearance would have deceived anyone for the inside was filled with furniture and beds, as if to hold many guests. In one of the corners were several clawed on pillows, and in the middle of the wall was a large fireplace. It was not until the door that lead into the shack was shut that the warmth of the fireplace came about.

“You may take any of these beds. They are as new as they come.” Nahado said at once, then turned to the door.

“Thank you Nahado,” Maria said.

I smiled at Nahado as he left through the door.

“Which bed would you like Matthias?” Maria asked.

I walked to the nearest bed and collapsed on it. The weight of the day had indeed taken its toll. Maria took the bed, opposite mine. I closed my eyes and fell into a deep, comfortable sleep that I had never experienced before.

Something pounded onto my chest and I woke with miserable pain! As my vision cleared a large cat appeared. The beast licked my chin and purred. Hastily I threw it off of me, not knowing whether it was trying to be playful or mean. It cowered away to the pillows in the corner where another beast was asleep. I looked around for Maria, but she was no longer in her bed. I jumped out of my own bed and headed for the door. To my surprise it sprang open; Maria stared at me.

“Ready to go into town?” she asked.

I nodded and she helped me through the small door. Slowly we walked, not talking to each other, to Nahado’s house. Nahado greeted us at the front door. He wore dark green garments that matched his new staff.

“Are we ready?” Nahado asked.

“What are we going to be doing in town?” I asked.

Nahado smiled, “We must get supplies for your quest.”

“Quest?” I asked.

“Matthias, I wanted to be the one who told you, but I could not bring myself to doing so.” Maria started, but Nahado raised his old hand.

“Maria and you can discuss these matters later!” Nahado paused, “You two need supplies for your trip. Food, water, and clothing!”

Maria looked to the ground, she looked disappointed. Nahado raised his hand and set it on her shoulder. He spoke in a foreign tongue to Maria, who looked up and smiled sadly.

“Come come! We have much to get done today!” Nahado said at once.

We ventured south towards town. None of us spoke or even showed emotion. After a few minutes of talking we had entered the town and began looking for the local baker. After searching in vain through the long streets and crowded marketplaces we found the baker. Nahado spoke with the baker and arranged for twenty loaves of bread. The baker asked us to come back later that day, when he would have our order ready.

“Now we need clothing.” Maria insisted.

Nahado lead us to an old store that had very few costumers. The woman, who was taking orders, glanced over at Nahado and smiled. “Welcome Nahado! You do not adventure out here that much!”

“Hannah, it’s so nice to see you!” Nahado replied cheerily.

“Who are these two?” Hannah asked.

“This here,” he pointed to me, “is Matthias, and this,” he pointed to Maria, “is Maria. We are in need of some…” He paused and winked at Hannah. “Some clothing.” He said softly.

“Right, come with me.” She whispered.

She led us back into a broken down shack, closing the door behind her. She lit a couple of candles to light the room up a bit, then bending over, she picked a floorboard up out of the ground.

“Right this way.” She said and ducked down into the now open hole.

We followed her down into a room filled with majestic clothing.

“You have quite the inventory today Hannah!” Nahado whispered.

“Thank you, I’ve had more free time these days, however, I dislike how I must live.” Hannah sighed. “What can I help you with Nahado?” she asked.

“I am sending these two off on a quest, a quest that I should have done long ago.” Nahado paused. “They need to be ready for any sort of battle they come across, whether it is just against the cold winter winds or the blades of an army.”

“An army?” I interrupted.

Nahado nodded, “You must be ready for the unexpected, Matthias. The world as you know it is not how it seems. Underneath the government, who rules its people, is a man who rules the government and everything else that is inside of it. We elves have not the magic capabilities as does this betrayer.”

“Why…” Maria began but Nahado held his hand up and silenced her.

“They need two pairs of clothing each. Can you fit them?” Nahado asked, looking at Hannah.

“Yes, but must I wear this feeble costume?” Hannah replied.

“No, you are safe here.” Nahado said.

Cracks from Hannah’s back echoed through the room. She grew four inches, and her gray hair turned to blonde. Her wrinkles stretched out and revealed smooth skin. Her appearance changed completely.

“Well that’s better!” She said excitedly. “Come here Maria, we’ll cloth you first.”

Maria walked over to her.

“Which colors do you like better, dark green, dark blue, dark purple, or black?” Hannah asked.

Maria pointed to the dark green and dark purple clothing.

“Very well, Matthias turn away.” Hannah paused, “put these on.”

Nahado and I turned around. I heard clothing hit the ground, then the sound of clothing being put on.

“Lovely, just lovely.” Hannah said.

“Your turn Matthias, come pick the colors that you like.” Hannah said.

I turned around, noticing that Maria had now changed into a dark green suit.

I, however, loved dark blue and chose dark black to go with the dark blue.

“Put one of them on to make sure it fits. We’ll turn around for your privacy.” Hannah said.

When they had turned around, I slipped off my old garments and put on the new ones. The garments were quite a bit lighter but very tough.

“I’m finished.” I said.

They turned and looked at me.

“You look very nice!” Maria said, looking me up and down.

I smiled at her, “You look great too!”

“So how much will these cost?” Nahado asked.

“You can have them if they are going to be put to use against the betrayer.” Hannah replied.

Nahado smiled. “Thank you Hannah, I owe you a great bunch.”

“I need to finish some business down here, I will see you later?” Hannah asked.

“Thank you again, Hannah.” Marie said.

Nahado led us back up out of the secret basement. The second garment felt almost weightless in my arms.

“Lets get some breakfast. I know a great place!” Nahado said.

We followed him to a smoking hut that smelled greatly of venison. Inside, four men who smelled greatly of whine sat and ate juicy meat. The meat caused my mouth to water. When I had been a slave, the guards would eat this kind of meat in front of our faces. Every time they had, our stomachs would writhe.

“We’ll take three medium pieces, tender please.” Nahado asked the butcher.

“Yes sir.” The butcher said and went into the back.

We stood there, waiting for our meat.

“Matthias, have you ever wielded a sword?” Nahado asked.

I nodded, “No sir, I’ve never been allowed.” I answered

“Nahado!” Maria whispered.

“Maria, there is a time and a place for this conversation. That time and place is not here.” Nahado said, looking away from Maria.

I was confused, what had they meant? I looked at Maria trying to find an answer in her face. It was then that I noticed two men staring at Maria. They smiled at her. A deep feeling inside my chest tried to escape. I looked away from them, and held my breath.

“Here they are Sir.” The butcher yelled to Nahado.

Three medium sized pieces stretched over an old wooden plate.

“That looks very good Nahado, thank you!” Maria smiled.

“Your welcome, here take your piece.” Nahado answered.

I picked up a piece and ripped off some meat from it with my mouth. The meat tasted wonderful, making my mouth salivate more! The four men started to exit, just as we were.

It was then that the drunkest of the men slapped Maria’s butt. I was furious and gave the man a nudge.

“Tell her you are sorry!” I yelled.

Now that I thought about it, he was a lot taller than me. In fact, he was at least a foot taller than I was! Before I had time to act he swung back his arm and with all of his might he swung at me. If I had not tried to dodge his attack he might have knocked my head right off my shoulders. Instead I was knocked down to the ground, my head stung like it had at the river. Things became a lot blacker than they had been. A second later, my body felt nothing at all and I could hear the sound of my heart beating. I jumped up to my feet and with anger that I had not experienced before I swung at the giant, hitting him plain in the chest. Again and again I hit him, my anger channeling through each punch. He tried to fight back, but his blows no longer affected me. Soon he was falling backwards, but still I threw my fists into him. My anger felt unending. By the time his back touched the ground my knuckles were bleeding furiously. The man covered his head with his 7-2-2006 2-16-05 AM_0031hands and cried out for mercy. My anger wanted to hurt him more, but I held out against it.   I stood strait up and looked over at Maria, who was being held back by Nahado. I felt horrible now. I had just made a fool of myself in front of her. In spite of all my anger towards this man I gave him my hand. He took it and stood up. Slowly he trudged off with his three friends. They gave me bad glances, but I understood why.

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