The Elven King
When Sirona Cary aids the minute Tun the Cobbler and then his sovereign, Lorcan, the king of the elves, she is drawn into a web of ever-increasing peril from human and more-than-human minions of the dark evil threatening humanity’s Realm of Time. A mercy mission to release a human ghost from the sentence holding him earthbound brings a double attack that compels her to seek temporary sanctuary in Lorcan’s own kingdom.
Before she can return to her own place once more, Lorcan receives the long-dreaded command that his people and their allies must withdraw immediately from the earth, thereby compelling the Dark Ones to depart as well. Should even one of his folk remain, the Realm of Time and all living there will be destroyed.
Lorcan realizes their enemies will strive with their full might and power to prevent the evacuation. He, Sirona, Tun, and the ghost race to spread the warning to their peoples’ scattered communities, that and guard the most threatened populations against the massed assaults certain to be thrown against them. Even as they strive, they know their hope of achieving total success is slim and that anything less will render all their efforts futile.
|Title||The Elven King|
|Tags||Fantasy, Elves, Dark Powers, Ghost, hellhound, horses, fairy ride, shipwreck, combat, realm of time, time|
She knew that the dire thing had their scent and would burst upon them within the next few seconds.
So, too, did Lorcan. He ran his tongue once over dry lips. “It will come soon,” he said to his comrade. “See that you are not torn. Both fangs and claws are envenomed with a substance deadly to all my kind and doubtless to you as well as you now are.”
“Look to yourself, Elf Lord,” the other growled as he strained to pierce the shadows around them.
There was a third howl, much nearer and filled with a triumph and hate that could have risen only out of the pit of chaos, then the fearful hunter sprang into their view.
The cobbler had described it as huge, and that it was, easily as tall as the biggest dray horse Sirona had ever seen and far more massive in build.
It was called a hellhound, but the human would not of herself have put that name on it. There was little specifically canine about it save that it had the form of a predator accustomed to coursing and then battling its prey.
She could see it clearly despite the darkness of the night, for a dull, leprous yellow-white glow emanated from it, setting all its hideous form starkly before her.
The head was somewhat square in shape, the most of it casing the great, jagged fangs.
Those teeth were formidable weapons, long, large, and, by the look of them, razor sharp, all the more impressive for being visible from point to gum. The creature had no lips with which to conceal any of their length or number.
The eyes were another matter, a horror even in this monstrosity. No pupils or iris were to be seen, only two black holes like pools of the primal Abyss opening out of the thing’s huge head, yet the human could feel the alien hunger and hate behind their dreadful emptiness.
The hellhound charged into the center of the clearing but stopped suddenly when it saw Lorcan and Aidan waiting there, either in surprise at finding itself thus opposed or from some indecision.
The latter possibility gave the woman an ugly start. It indicated a greater portion of intelligence than is usually accorded a beast, and what heart she had left chilled within her. Great Lord Above, what was this thing out of the darkness that her two champions had set themselves to fight?
Whatever doubt had caused the hound’s hesitation, it was resolved in the next instant, and the mighty creature leaped forward with a bound that carried it within a bare foot of the now fragile-looking elf.
Too near for its good. Lorcan had not wasted the momentary respite granted him by its unanticipated pause. He had seen exactly from whence its charge would come, and his sword leapt up swift and sure to meet it, opening the flesh of its face from the nostril slit to the corner of its gaping mouth.
The hellhound roared in surprise and pain, but this was no injury to halt it. Its right front paw slashed out almost too swiftly for the king to meet, prepared as he was for its assault. Ten claws lashed at him, each like a dagger in size and with a scimitar’s curving shape, each sharper than a surgeon’s scalpel and glistening with the venom it had carried with it out of its living sheath. Three sliced through the sleeve of his shirt, brushing the fine hairs on the arm beneath but leaving the flesh undamaged.
Lorcan parried the blow, but the hound’s paws were covered with a substance as hard as any mail ever fashioned by elfin or human smith, and his slender blade rebounded harmlessly off it.
The hunter was devilishly quick. Aidan started to move in, but the great paw lashed out, scarcely breaking the rhythm of its assault upon the Ard Rí, so that he was forced to cast himself flat to escape being torn fully in twain by the cruel claws.
He stayed still after that, cowering well back from the furious contest, and Sirona could find no blame in her heart for him. He had no more known than had she what this horror would actually be when he had vowed to stand with the elf lord.
The human woman’s head lifted. She wronged him. That pose was for the hellhound’s benefit, so that it might believe him unmanned and harmless and no potential threat. If any opening came, Aidan was set to seize it.
That hoped-for chance was slow in presenting itself, and both he and the woman began to fear that he would never be able to move in time to help the Elven King’s battle.
Lorcan closed again and again with his mighty opponent, several times scoring its flesh so that the dark ichor that was its blood patched the pale skin, but he did no injury severe enough even to madden it. He simply did not have the length of arm or blade to reach any vital place, and every small cut he did succeed in putting upon it was given at terrible risk to himself, risk to which he must all too soon fall victim. He was badly overmatched in strength and power of endurance and in potential speed of movement, and had the hunter been able to maneuver freely, he would long since have gone down before it.
Even in this relatively confined space, the advantage was almost entirely the hound’s, and it obviously fought knowing that, fought with a cunning and purpose that showed it to be no mere beast, whatever its shape. Back and back, it forced the elf lord, so manipulating him that it rapidly gained what center there was in the small clearing.
No sooner was there open sky above it than it rose up on its hind legs and, towering over Lorcan, yet well out of range of his blade, extended and curved its great claws, ten deadly daggers poised to tear the life from the doomed elf.