It is very interesting to watch the growth of a young writer, especially when that writer is myself. When I first began self-publishing books, I was finishing roughly 1 book a year. Of course, looking back on it, that may not have been such a great thing, as it meant that my books did not quite get the planning and polishing they needed.
For those of you who have been following my blog for a while, you know about my old series of books, Legend of the Stars (Also known as The Star Trilogy and its sequel, Ancient Vengeance). I wasn’t kidding when I said I still wanted to rewrite and republish them, but I may have been a little overzealous when I said I hoped to have all of them redone by this year. To be honest, the rewriting process has been slow, not just because I’m trying to make the stories and facts make sense (I tended to start up with one idea and end with another in my early books), but also I have poured a great many hours into developing the world as a whole. This includes a brand new elvish language (which is woefully uninspired at the moment, being largely based off of Irish Gaelic), and three alphabets (the progression of the elvish writing system that is mentioned in the original stories). Along with this, however, I have taken to writing short stories based around my books which are meant to fill in details and develop characters so that I can more clearly write about them in the rewrites of my books.
I finally finished the first of these short stories, entitled “Elwyn’s Daughter,” today, so I thought I would go ahead and post it here. The story is based about 10 years before The Four Stars begins, and is told from the point of view of one of the series’ minor characters, Rolf, Lord of the Forest Elves. So while I whittle away at the mess I made of the original stories, here’s a short story to get you familiar with some of the characters and plot information.
She looked so small and frightened, tears flowing like rivers from her big brown eyes.
Rolf knelt down on one knee and held his arms out to the crying child in front of him. Immediately Rayne released the hand of the villager who had brought her there and ran to the elf lord, throwing her little arms around his neck and sobbing bitterly against his shoulder. Rolf wrapped his arms around the girl’s tiny frame, and he could feel her shivering despite the warm morning air.
“So what exactly happened? I’m afraid the messenger you sent wasn’t very clear,” Rolf asked the villager as he stood to his feet, holding Rayne tightly in his arms.
“They’re gone,” the woman replied, looking sadly at the crying girl in the elf lord’s arms. “Lance, Elwyn, Cael, Delwynn…even their wives. The houses all look like war zones, and no one is left. There are rumors that the Gauls are responsible for their disappearances. There was a small group of Gaul warriors at the edge of the Kassrdy Desert, but they broke camp and disappeared about a week ago, around the same time as the four Stars disappeared. I’ve heard people say that Lance and Elwyn were acting oddly not long before it happened.”
Rolf frowned, then closed his eyes with a mournful sigh and laid his cheek against the top of Rayne’s head. If the Gauls had killed the four heroes, and if they were the ones behind the disappearance of the wives as well, it could be assumed that the children were not safe either.
“What of the other children? You said it looked like the homes had been attacked. Where were the children when this occurred? I know of Rayne. Are the others safe?”
“The other children were not in the homes when the attacks occurred, as far as I know,” the villager responded with a shake of her head. “Cael’s son and Delwynn’s daughter have already been taken in by Effie of Great Oak Valley. I have not heard anything about Lance’s son since his mother disappeared, and Rayne…we found her this morning. She may be the only one who knows what happened to her mother, but she wouldn’t speak to any of us.”
“I see,” Rolf sighed. “Very well. I’ll look into it. Thank you for bringing her to me.”
The villager bowed, then turned and walked back down the road. The elf lord watched her go, then glanced down at the small child in his arms. Her sobs had died down considerably, though Rolf’s neck was damp with the tears she had already cried.
“Banné Rayne,” the elf lord soothed in elvish as he turned to carry the child into his large mansion home. “Little Rayne, do not worry. I am here. Friend Rolf is here.”
He could feel Rayne tighten her grip around his neck.
“Would you like something to eat?”
The girl shook her head.
“Are you thirsty?”
Again she shook her head.
Another sigh escaped Rolf’s lips as he balanced the girl in his arms and reached for the door that led into his home. He wanted desperately to go looking for his missing friends. He wanted to know what had happened, and he wanted to be there when they were found. But right now? Right now, he had something else he needed to do. He needed to see to it that Rayne was comforted and safe. He owed Elwyn that much. Actually, he owed him far more.
“Atha?” came a familiar voice as Rolf shifted position on a cushioned bench in the main sitting room of the mansion. The elf lord glanced up to see his daughter, Arin, as she stepped into the room, her sharp blue eyes resting curiously on the little girl who had, by this point, fallen asleep in Rolf’s arms.
“Father, is this Rayne? What has happened?”
“Arin, I need you to take a message to Olivek. I want him to organize a search party. They should start at Elwyn’s home.”
“A search party?” Arin inquired, tensing nervously. “Atha, what is happening?”
“They are gone,” the elf lord replied, turning his gaze toward the grey morning that lay just outside his sitting room window. “All of them, save the children. Through luck or something greater, the children remain. But Elwyn and the others…they are gone.”
“Gone?” Arin inquired, coming to stand in front of her father. “Gone where?”
“If I knew that, I would not need a search party. And the longer we wait, the harder it will be to find them.”
“You are right,” his daughter sighed, turning to leave the room. “I will dress for travel and leave shortly. Is there any other message I should take to Olivek when I go?”
“Only this,” Rolf replied. “It may have been Ceallach.”
Arin’s face paled at her father’s words. She knew of whom he spoke, and what the mention of that name implied. And then with a nod, the elf girl darted off, down the hall and out of sight.
Rayne stirred a moment later, stretching briefly before curling back up against Rolf’s chest. The elf lord glanced down at the girl in his arms. She was small, very small, in fact, for an 8-year-old. She must have taken after father, Rolf thought, for her mother had been…no, was…a tall, heavy-boned woman with a fiery temper. “Mother Bear,” the other heroes had jokingly called her. Elwyn was quieter, though he had a temper, too. Rolf had seen it once or twice before. Yes, Rayne had always reminded Rolf of Elwyn, though he didn’t know if she always would. After all, it was said that girls, elvin and human both, took after their mothers as they grew.
Rolf shook himself out of his thoughts and glanced up at the sound of Arin’s voice. She was now dressed in a traveling tunic and breeches, her long, jet black hair pulled back into a simple ponytail and held in place by an ornate metal clasp. Yes, she looked more like her mother every day, too.
“Yes, dear one.”
“I am headed out. Shall I go to King Dorrian, as well?”
Rolf paused to think about the question briefly, then nodded.
“I am sure he knows what happened,” the elf lord said, “but it would not hurt if he were to send out some search parties of his own, if he has not already done so. I also need to discuss the matter of the children with him.”
Quietly, Arin nodded, then turned and hurried out the door. Rolf watched her go, then leaned back in his seat. If anyone could get the message to Olivek and Dorrian in time, it would be her.
Rayne coughed slightly, then sat up in Rolf’s lap, tiny hands rubbing at swollen eyes.
“Do you feel better?” the elf lord inquired, brushing a stray tear off the little girl’s cheeks.
The child didn’t reply, but only looked back at him through mournful brown eyes.
“Banné Rayne,” he said, again speaking in elvish, as he cupped the child’s face in his hands. “Little Rayne, I need to know. What happend to your thaira? What happened to your mother? Can you tell me?”
A fresh stream of tears pooled at the corners of Rayne’s eyes as she shook her head.
“Mama and me were playing hide-and-seek before I had to go to sleep,” the girl sobbed. “She told me I couldn’t hide outside, but I did. Then some strangers came. I stayed hiding and heard mama scream, but I was scared. I went inside after the strangers left, but mama was gone.”
“I see,” Rolf mused, wiping at the child’s tears. “So you didn’t see what happened.”
Rayne began to cry harder at this.
“I’m s-sorry,” she cried, burying her face in Rolf’s shirt. “I was a bad g-girl. I didn’t do what mama said and-”
At this, Rolf wrapped his arms tightly around the girl, pressing his forehead to the top of her head.
“No, Rayne,” he said, this time in trade tongue where she could clearly understand him. “No, you are a good girl. This is not your fault.”
He pushed her away just enough that he could lift her chin and make her look at him.
“This is not your fault,” he repeated. “Do you understand me?”
The child looked doubtful.
“Rayne, you are safe because you went outside. Your mother would have told you to go outside and hide if she had known those strangers were coming. You are a good girl, and this bad thing that happened is not your fault.”
He could see a flicker of relief in those tear-glazed eyes, but this also set her off on another round of crying.
Pulling the child close, Rolf stood to his feet, carrying her down the hall toward a door located at the far end. He had learned long ago that sometimes children couldn’t be comforted with words. Once upon a very long time ago, he had had two children to comfort. Now, once again, he had a child to comfort despite his own grief. But at least this time, he had a better idea of how to handle it.
Rayne was still crying by the time Rolf reached the end of the hall, and gently he pushed the door open. A friendly yip was the first thing to greet him, and the elf lord had to stop just shy of the open door as 6 little bundles of fur swarmed around his feet.
Instantly, Rayne’s sobs died down as she sat up and glanced down at the puppies who yipped and jumped in greeting, licking at the girl’s feet despite the shoes they were clad in. At the opposite side of the room, two wolves, one large and jet black, the other small and fair as quicksilver, lay side by side on a cushion. Both creatures perked up when Rolf entered, and the quicksilver she-wolf, Arinya, woofed lightly at the pups who swarmed at the elf lord’s feet. The wolf pups backed off at this, but they still stood with tails wagging as they looked up into the faces of the elf and child.
“Would you like to see Randolf and Arinya’s puppies?” Rolf asked in elvish.
Rayne nodded, her brown eyes trained on one particular puppy with a coat like quicksilver and an unusually distinct white elvin dagger marking on its forehead.
One corner of Rolf’s mouth twitched up in a smile as he set Rayne down on the floor, and he chuckled when, almost as if on cue, the puppies swarmed on top of the girl. Rayne let out a surprised squeal, then giggled slightly as the wolf pups painted warm, wet kisses across her tear-stained cheeks.
“Down. Down, sillies,” Rayne giggled, pushing the puppies off her. Then she looked up at Rolf.
“Can they talk yet?” she asked.
“In elvish, they can,” the elf lord nodded. “They haven’t learned human speech yet.”
Rayne blinked back at him, then looked down at the puppies who watched her expectantly. Though she had spent all 8 years of her life in Alfedan, Rolf knew that Rayne likely was not incredibly familiar with elvish. Her mother certainly hadn’t been. Rayne could understand elvish, but she probably didn’t speak much of it. Well, perhaps learning to communicate with the elvish wolf pups would help get her mind off of other, more distressing things.
Rolf was just thinking this when Rayne bent down, propping her face up with her elbows on the floor.
“Jia duit,” she said, her eyes nearly mesmerized as she looked at the quicksilver wolf pup.
The puppies yipped excitedly at her words.
“She can speak elf-tongue!” one pup, a dark grey male, exclaimed.
“She can! She can!” the others agreed, bounding in circles around her. “Hello, friend!”
“Say! Say!” one of the females, whose coat was black as her father’s, said as she sat down next to Rayne’s right knee. “Why are your ears not pointy? Master Rolf and Lady Arin’s ears are pointy.”
“I am not elf,” Rayne giggled, sitting up and patting the pup on the head. “I am comeahn. I am human. Humans do not have pointy ears.”
“Human?” asked the little female pup with a dark, reddish-brown coat, the only one of the littler who didn’t have a grey or black coat. “What is a human? You do not look that different from Master Rolf and Lady Arin.”
“Humans are humans. We look mostly the same as elves, but not all the same.”
“I think it must be like our coats,” the male pup with a black coat said. “We look the same, but we are different colors.”
“Oh! I understand!” the last pup, a male whose coat was halfway between quicksilver and dark grey, piped up. “So human means round ears.”
“Yes! Yes, that must be it!” the black-coated female yipped. “Come, round-ears! Play with us!”
The other pups yipped their agreement, then bounded off after random trinkets scattered about the room that they could play with. Only the little male with a coat like quicksilver stayed beside the girl. He watched his siblings run off, then turned and looked at Rayne.
“Why were you crying?” he asked.
Rolf could see Rayne’s face become pinched, and he stiffened. He wondered, too, how the pup knew what crying was.
“Young one, will you go find Little Rayne a toy to play with?” Rolf asked, kneeling down and stroking the pup’s back.
The little creature looked at him quizzically, then turned back to Rayne. The girl bowed her head as warm, wet droplets spotted the hands that lay fisted in her lap.
“I…I lost my mother and father,” she cried softly. “I do not know where they are.”
Rolf sighed. He had hoped to get her mind off that fact.
For a moment, the silver pup watched the tears fall from the girl’s eyes. Then he stepped forward, his forepaws on Rayne’s leg, and licked a tear that rolled down her cheek.
“If they are lost, then we will have to find them,” he said, looking up at her and wagging his tail. “But can we play first?”
Rayne blinked back at the pup for a moment, then a smile came to her face.
“Yes,” she nodded, wiping away the rest of her tears with one hand and petting the wolf pup with the other. “Yes, we can. Then we will find my atha and thaira. I like that. What is your name, puppy?”
“I do not have one yet,” the pup replied. “My future master must give me a name.”
At this, Rayne looked up at Rolf. Perhaps she thought him to be the pup’s future master, but a smile came to Rolf’s lips as he thought about it. He had a better idea.
“Well, then,” he said in elvish, placing one hand on Rayne’s shoulder, “I suppose you will have to give him one.”
The little girl’s mouth dropped open in surprise and the pup yipped excitedly.
“Will Little Rayne be my real master, Master Rolf?” the pup asked.
Rolf could see the hopefulness dancing in Rayne’s eyes, and softly he smiled.
“I believe Little Rayne would like that, yes?”
The girl nodded her head vigorously, a wide grin spreading across her face.
“Then it shall be so,” Rolf nodded, standing to his feet again. “What will you name your talking wolf, Rayne, daughter of Elwyn?”
For a moment, the child sat with her hands in her lap, looking at the wolf pup thoughtfully. Then her eyes brightened and she said in trade speech, “Kadin. I will name him Kadin, since that means ‘best friend’ in elf-tongue. Right? That’s what it means?”
Rolf smiled slightly. The word meant “companion,” but it was a term Elwyn had always used with affection when speaking of those he was closest to, especially when speaking of the other 3 heroes who had been his best friends since childhood.
“Yes, that is a good translation of it,” Rolf nodded.
“All right,” Rayne smiled, leaning down toward the pup. Then in elvish, she said, “Little elf wolf, I name you Kadin. Will you be my best friend?”
The puppy yipped happily in reply.
“Yes! Yes!” he barked, bouncing back and fourth before bouncing right into Rayne’s arms. “And when I get big, I will protect you like my atha protects Master Rolf! I will be the strongest warrior wolf of all time!”
“Good!” Rayne giggled in reply. “Well then, warrior wolf Kadin, let us play!”
And with another yip and a laugh, the pair took off after the other 5 wolf pups. Quietly, Randolf, the big black he-wolf and father of the 6 pups, stood from where he lay next to his mate and came to stand at Rolf’s side.
“Would you like me to look for him, my lord?” the black wolf asked softly. “For the human girl’s father…your kadin?”
Rolf smiled sadly, then turned toward the door.
“I would appreciate that,” the elf lord nodded as Randolf followed him down the hall. “Though it may be too late, if it is Ceallach who orchestrated all of this.”
“All the same, you wish me to try.”
“For Elwyn’s daughter, yes.”
“For Elwyn’s daughter.” Randolf almost chuckled as he trotted ahead. His tone implied that he might have rolled his eyes if he could. “And for you.”
Rolf paused in the middle of the hall and watched as his long-time companion left to do his bidding. The elf lord closed his eyes as a solitary tear trailed down his face. Yes. And for him.