Chapter 11: Elỳn
There was no calming these monstrous beasts with a gesture or thought, but as Brandyé braced for death there was suddenly a great flash of light from the trees, and as one the fierundé turned to look at its provenance. Brandyé thought perhaps it was a renewed storm, lightning struck once again, but there was no thunder – only silence.
And then a second great flash came, and one of the fierundé howled in pain, and Brandyé saw an arrow pierce its side, and his eyes widened as they were in an instant beset by people whose existence he could not fathom. From the woods leapt suddenly a dozen folk dressed in robes of purest white, and it seemed to him almost that they shone with a light of their own. Each bore with them a bow, and with each arrow they loosed came another flash, and another, until the very woods seemed alight with a glow brighter than day.
The fierundé turned now, enraged, and fell upon their attackers. With a fearlessness Brandyé could not imagine these newcomers stood their ground, and as the beasts came at them they laid down their bows and drew forth long, curved blades, silver and shining, and they were more than a match for the fangs and claws of the fierundé. For an eternal minute there was only the sound of growls, roars and howls as the fierundé were cut apart, and when it was over four of their number lay dead on the ground, and the remaining three had bolted into the trees.
With hardly a pause, several of their rescuers disappeared into the woods again, and to his astonishment Brandyé learned later that they had in fact hunted down and destroyed the remaining fierundé. Such bravery he had never known, and though they lacked armor he saw that these were soldiers more than any iron-clad constabulary of the Fortunaé, and perhaps more so even than the Cosari. Breathless, Brandyé remained upon his knees and was amazed, for of these people he had not reckoned the ability to do battle, and do it well.
For these were people of a kind far removed from the world he knew; they were a people of dreams, of dismal landscapes far away and long ago. From their dress and manner to the wholesome glow of their skin, he knew their saviors for what they were: Illuèn. It was impossible, of course – as his grandfather had said, as even Ermèn had spoken, the Illuèn, and all races of the ancient world, were either long since gone or never existed at all. He had begun to forget the old dreams he had had of them, of the woman in black and her companions of light, yet here they stood before him, now.
One of them, a leader perhaps, spoke to the others, and in her words Brandyé recognized the language of old: “[Aid his friend; he may die.]” At her commands several of the others bent to Elven, surrounding him so that Brandyé could see little of his friend. He was about to call out to them, ask them when they intended, when the one who had spoken turned to face him, and as he looked upon her face wholly now for the first time his mind reeled, for it was her, the very same that had stood with Schaera and the company of Illuèn and Namirèn at the foot of the broken bridge.
“It…it cannot be.”
And then Elỳn, the one who it could not be, knelt on the ground before him and grasped his shoulders. “[It is you who cannot be.] How is this possible?” She reached to touch his face, and he felt warmth and wonder pass into him. “You are ill,” she said.
Brandyé shook his head. “My friend is ill.”
“He is injured – you are ill. You have…” and she seemed struggle for the word. “Fever.”
And it was only then that Brandyé allowed himself to feel the sickness that had been plaguing him for days, and suddenly a great weakness overcame him and he swayed on his knees. “I had not noticed…” he muttered.
Elỳn gestured to her companions, and two of them came now to Brandyé and lifted him to his feet. “Come,” she said. “You are safe now. You will be well again.”
And despite the insanity of all that had occurred, despite the impossibility of this woman from his dreams being here before him, these words were all Brandyé needed to hear, and he allowed himself to fall into the arms of her companions, and knew nothing more for some while. […]
Read the complete chapter here.