Authors: Gary Alan Wassner
Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy, #epic
The Revenge of the Elves:
GemQuest Book Four
Gary Alan Wassner
Although Colton and his forces have been winning battles, scattered forces still resist. Only now is the most powerful threat emerging—the Darkening, a physical emptiness, a void, which encroaches upon the very heart of the land, jeopardizing life itself, chilling souls to the bone, bringing death and annihilation, stealing memories and thoughts.
As the Twins prepare for their quest, desperate stratagems are undertaken and magical talismans change hands but the foundation of faith and society is threatened as some Lalas trees have died and the sacred bond between the surviving trees and the Chosen companions comes into question. Colton sends three abominations to the three Elfin kingdoms, exact replicas of the Elfin sons of the royal families, the children that they love and yearn for. Catastrophe and murder ensue and the stability of the world is further undermined.
Doubts continue to arise and faith is in jeopardy. The Darkening becomes frightfully powerful and none yet understand it. But, another new tree is born in Parth and Davmiran receives the 11th shard and it bursts with a powerful light that illuminates the skies once again, offering a spark of hope to all the suffering souls.
"Gary Wassner's GemQuest series is one of the great, hidden jewels of contemporary fantasy... His books have an intelligence and thoughtfulness many readers have long since accepted as a missing element... As the story progresses, the layers...are pulled back to reveal something more thought-provoking and philosophical in nature than one might expect from the typical Epic Fantasy... It is always nice to see an accomplished storyteller grow in skill as their catalogue grows. With THE REVENGE OF THE ELVES, Gary has taken his writing to the next level."
--Robert H. Bedford, Reviewer SFFWorld.com
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2007 by Gary Wassner
Published by E-Reads. All rights reserved.
The more books I write, the more people I’m grateful to.
My wife Cathy, my three sons, my daughters in law and my three grandchildren, of course have to be listed first. Without them, none of this would have any meaning.
R. Scott Bakker, a friend and colleague, who inspired me with his brilliance, and made me see that the product is as important as the process.
Lisa Rector who helped me make the product something I’m proud of.
Judy Kronish, whose constant assistance and unwavering support has been invaluable.
Justin T, Kathy S, Robb B, Dag R, J. R. M, Brian M, and all the other people at SFF World, as well as a very special shout out to my friend, Chris Billett..
The list goes on and on.
Caught between the thoughts that give
and those that take away…
A longing to go forward,
the reasons yet to stay.
Perched upon the steepest edge,
with choices still to make,
A step onto the fragile ledge…
All others to forsake.
A move that takes you to a place
from which you can’t go back.
Is it need that drives you forward so,
Or is need exactly what you lack?
What motive lures your spirit on,
Who beckons you to dance?
Is it fortune that brings you to this choice,
Or is it merely chance?
Is it destiny,
Is it pride,
Or is it simply fear,
Is it virtue,
Is it envy,
Or is it fate that brings you here?
Does a pure heart know the difference
Between the image and the dust?
Is the light so bright you cannot tell
what can be from what must?
To go, to stay…
Will you find your way
‘Tween credence and mistrust?
‘Tween a love that’s true and lust?
‘Tween the righteous and unjust?
Do you see the contrast yet
between what you give and what you get?
A bleeding heart is all that’s left
when reason turns to rage.
Within the mists can you discern
the path of peace for which you yearn,
a language they have yet to learn,
The devil from the sage?
The paper from the page?
The actor from the mage?
The payment from the wage?
The prison from the cage?
The moment from the age?
What is weak and what is strong?
Are you right or are you wrong?
Could you be the Dark One’s pawn,
Content to merely go along,
And trudge on blindly with the throng,
Do anything to just belong,
and pray this darkness yields to dawn,
Before the founts of strength are gone?
Or will you race against the storm,
Struggle for the yet unborn,
Heal the wound, extract the thorn,
Subdue your fear of evil’s scorn,
Look with hope upon the morn,
Boldly blow trust’s fearless horn,
Fulfill the noble pledge you’ve sworn,
Be all you can; be bold, be strong,
Be the herald of tomorrow’s song?
“Move your skinny asses!” the man yelled at the disheveled trio of captives trudging along the dry roadbed. He cracked his whip on the back of the closest one. “These sluggards are gonna drive me crazy, strolling along like it’s a fucking holiday,” he said to the man walking next to him. “What are you laughing about? You got nuthin’ at stake. I’m the one who found ‘em. They’re my responsibility now. My problem.” He glanced back over his shoulder down the path. Something caught his eye. A branch moved.
“It took some great skill on your part to locate ‘em, you mean?” the short, dark-haired man laughed again. “That’s a joke! So you found ‘em! Luck. That’s what it was. Luck and nuthin’ else.”
“Ain’t nuthin’ wrong with a little luck sometimes.” He turned back toward his friend. The wind must have rustled the tree before, no one else would be foolish enough to wander in these hills. His skin prickled nonetheless. “But if I don’t get ‘em all to Peltaran before two days are up, I won’t get paid and this whole damn thing won’t be worth shit.”
“If I was you, I’d be more concerned about what’s gonna happen to me if they should get away than I would be about the money. If you lose ‘em after all this…”
“She don’t scare me none,” the big man lied, kicking at the dirt. The thick, gray fabric of his pants was worn and fraying at the hem and it flapped around the ankle of his boot. Catching these prisoners was the best thing that could have happened to him. Or so he hoped. “Hmpff,” he grunted. “She’s lucky it was me who found ‘em. It could have been someone from Tallon. They were damn close to that town when I spotted ‘em, and you can be sure no one there would have helped her get ‘em back to Peltaran.”
Tallon and Peltaran were as different as two towns could be. One was a refuge from the darkness, the other a sorry adjunct to it.
“You know who she is, Madar. Don’t fool yourself. She gives orders and people jump. And now that you’ve dragged me into this, I probably got to worry too,” the smaller man said, shaking his head. “How the fuck did I let you do this to me again?”
“Go then if you want! I didn’t force you to join me and I ain’t forcing you to stay. I can do this alone.”
Teren was content to scavenge things from the abandoned homes and shops around the countryside. And when Madar wasn’t looking, from the countless corpses they saw everywhere. “Sure you can. Just like you did the last time,” Teren sneered. “Remember the last time?” That adventure almost got them both killed. Madar was too soft. He didn’t have the stomach for the things they needed to do. Teren, selfish to the core and wily as a fox, knew better how to survive in times like these.
“That wasn’t my fault!” Madar replied red-faced, his hands shoved deep in his pockets like a sullen kid. “You really piss me off, you know that? Why do I ever give you a chance to help me.” He turned away in disgust. Something shiny dropped to the ground as he pulled his hands free of his pants.
Teren’s eye caught the copper’s glint and he subtly placed his foot over his friend’s coin. “Give
a chance?” he exclaimed. “Fuck me with a spiked club, you shit-faced son of a bitch! You’d be dead by now if not for me.” Madar scoffed and looked into the bushes. Teren would as soon betray his mother if the payoff was big enough. And as the times grew darker, he grew harder. He bent down to scratch his leg and with two fingers, lifted the coin, concealing it in his palm. Before his friend turned back around, Teren slipped the copper into his own pocket.
As they toyed with each other, one of the three captives eyed them from behind. His blue eyes glistened in the morning sun, watchful and alert, missing nothing, He straightened up and sniffed the dawn’s air.
Madar dug his boot heel into the ground. A branch caught on his leg and he slapped at it with a meaty hand. His skin went cold. He could swear the bush moved again. He turned his beady eyes back to the path ahead. “These people must be pretty important if she wants ‘em so bad,” he said at last. He tried to look through the dense brush, but couldn’t see anything.
“You think?” Maybe they were worth more than Teren realized. Who they were had not even occurred to him. “You know my friend, you never told me how much she offered you.” His eyes flashed.
“No? Well, what’s it matter to you anyways?” he replied, feigning indifference and sighing like he was bored. “You’re leavin’.”
Teren ignored his friend’s remark and leaned in close to him. “Come on man. How much?”
Madar cupped his hand over his mouth. “Twenty pieces of Gwendolen gold!” he whispered. His eyes darted left and right.
Teren’s face lit up.
“Like I said, they must be pretty damn important for her to offer me King’s gold.”
“A dead King’s gold,” Teren reminded him. A murdered King’s. “What does she want ‘em for anyhow? They don’t look like much to me.” He leered at the prisoners. “That pale haired bitch wouldn’t fetch more than a few coppers at Caitlin’s place, and look at that other one! Best she keep her head covered lest she scare off the snakes.”
“It don’t matter none to me who they are. The less we know about ‘em the better.”
“I wonder if the Mayor of Denton would have any interest in ‘em,” Teren said, raising his hairless brows. King Garold’s gold was cursed, everyone knew that, though plenty of people would kill for that much of it.
“Oh, no ya don’t!!” Madar jumped on his words. “You wanna go and sell ‘em out from under the witch woman to a higher bidder? Are you fucking crazy? You’re the one who just said…”
“It was only a thought,” Teren said quietly. Madar couldn’t see an opportunity if it smacked him in the face, simple as he was. Besides, Teren had nothing to lose. The witch woman didn’t even know he was here.
“It was a bad fucking thought,” Madar bristled. “Twenty pieces of King’s gold ain’t nothing to spit at. It’ll set us up nicely.”
“Fifty fifty?” Teren asked. He’d let Madar carry the coins. He’d like that, and Teren didn’t want to walk around with them in his own pockets.
“Sixty forty!” Madar replied, avoiding his partner’s eyes. “I found ‘em.”
“Fuck you! You got me into this mess and there ain’t no way either of us can walk away now. You’ll screw it up without me anyways.”
“Fifty fifty then,” Madar scowled. He really didn’t want to do this alone.
“Partners is partners!” Teren thrust out his grimy hand, pleased.
“Partners is partners!” Madar replied, offering a gnarly palm in response.
Neither of them noticed the slender youth chained behind them nodding to the other prisoners. With his sinewy back to his captors, he raised his shackled arm and extended his index finger northward. The air around it crackled and sparked, enveloping his intricately mottled hand in a glove of pulsating blue light.