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Because of the Sword
The Chosen
Back when I was but a little girl, my Father use to tell me a story. This story was about bravery, romance, and about the end of an era. You see, the story had been passed down from father to son for ages. My Father never had a son, so he told me instead. People say that the story changed over the years from being told over and over again, but I think differently. I think that the story my Grand-father told my Father, and the story my Father told me, are the story that was told the first time, the story that truly happened..
People also say that it’s simple fiction, but they’re wrong. This story is as real as I am, as you are. The things that happened in this story are as real as the sun raising every day to bring light to the darkened planet. Oh, believe me when I say that the story I am about to tell you is entirely truthful.
Now, I will tell you the story that you have been waiting to hear. You see, the story begins like this…

Back when Zarnon was King of the known world, people lived in fear. They lived in fear that he would, for no reason whatsoever, send his ruthless black knights out to raid their town. There fear was not wasted though, for this happened many times. If Zarnon decided that he did not like someone, or that they weren’t worthy to live any longer, he would send his black knights for, not only them, but anyone who associated themselves with them.
Zarnon, being human, declared that all who were not human were to be destroyed. He had plans for the world, and it did not include other species. The humans would rule the world, not any other way. He ordered the black knights to kill everyone who was not a human as he was. They were not to let anyone survive, or he would have their heads, that was a promise.
On a night, now known as the bloody eve, when all was still and peaceful and as it should be, he sent them. They fought and killed them all, every last one of them. Not without a fight though did they die. Yes, they fought, and they fought well, taking many of the black knight’s lives to the grave with theirs, but in the end, all were killed.
All were killed except a few. They were called Elves. The Elves hid themselves away deep in the forest until word traveled their way that Zarnon had died, killed by his own men. By the time the news came, the Elves’ numbers had grown. Growing from just a few who had barely escaped the grip of the black knights, to hundreds, thousands. They had worked, and worked hard. They had grown stronger; they had built an army, an army which they would use to bring down the new ruler of the humans, Neron.
Neron was twice as powerful, as evil as Zarnon had been. Those who had felt safe with Zarnon as King, trembled in the presence of Neron. He was wicked, horrible, spiteful, and despised by all who he crossed paths with. He had built a new army of black knights, whom he would use often against his own people. His people, though they wanted to, never turned on him, out of fear. They never spoke of him for fear that they were talking to one of his many spies.
The Elves, being masters of the bow, had trained for many years, planning to take Zarnon down, but willing to take out all their hate on Neron. They did not blame the humans, for the humans were wonderfully friendly to them, but they realized that no human could be on the thrown without growing immensely corrupt in the process. Being King took even the best of men, and turned them into a greedy, heartless, horrible person that did not deserve to have the crown.
With much planning, the Elves were ready to make their move, ready to fight. They, however, could not do it at the time. It was not yet time to attack. When planning to attack, one must wait until the opportune moment, or fear loosing. They did not plan to do this, they would wait. They would wait for Trace, son of Fragoo. When he was of the age to fight, they would attack. He, however, was nowhere near the right age. He was but a child, happily playing in creek with his twin sister Trancy.
Neither Trance nor Trancy were there to see the destruction of Zarnon, but they had been subjected to Neron. Though the Elves did not go out of the forest, for fear that they be spotted and killed, they knew much of the outside world. They watched from amongst the trees, and they learned about their enemies ways. They knew what they were up against.
Both Trace and Trancy grew up far from royalty, but were well known and respected. Fragoo, their Father, was a well-trusted and will-respected Elf. He had courage, strength, and he knew more about humans than most did. He was one of the few that was alive when more than just humans and Elves existed. He had been alive since before Zarnon was King, when the world was at peace.
Trace was chosen at a young age to fight. Not only was he Fragoo’s son, but he had such precision with a bow, more than most who were already full grown. Not only was he skilled with a bow, but also with a sword. This was a rare gift for an Elf. Though he was only fourteen years old, he was already twice the warrior as his own Father.
Trancy, though just a little girl, also had the skills her brother had. However, being a girl, she was not to fight, but to stay back and nurse the sick and cook for them as well. She was, after all, a girl. She was not a warrior.
This, however, did not suite her. She felt as though she was destined to fight, and as far as she was concerned, she would. Nobody could or would tell her otherwise. She was determined, and had that drive, and that would help her to excel, and to be known as more than just Trancy, daughter of Fragoo. She would be known as Trancy, the warrior girl. It sounded good to her.
Trace also had a desire to fight. He, on the other hand, could. He was almost forced too, and had he not wanted to fight, it would have made no difference to his Father. “You are a warrior.” His Father would always say. “You will fight. You will lead us to victory my son.”
This had no real effect on Trace though. He had grown up knowing that the weight of the world was on his shoulders. He had to bring his people to victory, everyone was counting on him. He knew that. It was not something he would wish on anyone else though, it was a tough burden to bare, and it was his burden, no one else’s.
Being twins, he and Trancy had always been close. He knew of her dreams to go to war, and he promised her that he would always be there when they fought. Even if it cost him his own life, he would never let any harm come to her. In his own way, he told her that he approved of her dreams. They were noble dreams. He also told her that she was not alone. He would be there no matter what.
Often times, Trace and Trancy would be out practicing. Though Trace was better with a sword, he could not match Trancy’s skills with a bow. She was direct, always hitting the mark, and she was confident. She did not have to so much as try to be the best, it simply came naturally.
Fragoo, though he did not agree, humored his daughter and let her practice. He was well aware of her dream to fight, and, though he had no intentions of letting her go through with this fool-hearty plan, thought it a good idea for her to learn to fight. Then, if anything should happen while they were away at war, he would feel comforted by the fact that all the women and children were protected against the enemies.
It was the eve of Trace and Trancy’s fifteenth birthday when everything started to happen.
“So, as you all know, we have been preparing for this war between the humans and ourselves for as long as we can remember. It is now almost upon us. In less than a year’s time, we will go to war. We have built our army strong, we have kept hidden from the eyes of Neron, we have made ourselves ready, and soon, we will fight.”
The crowds cheered. This was the time they had waited for. In just a few short months, they would leave for battle, and they could hardly wait.
“So, as it is tradition, we will now count down till Trace and Trancy Ilaya have reached their fifteenth year on this earth. Shall we?”
Everyone stood and looked at the moon. It was almost directly overhead, another few seconds and it would be, signifying that the new day had come. “Five! Four! Three! Two! One!” Everyone cheered. This was the day they had waited for for a long time. Trace was fifteen, sixteen was considered the fighting age, and that was now less than one year away.
“Alright everyone. Let us quiet our voices. It is now time to present the gifts. Trace first. Trace,” Fragoo looked lovingly at his only son. “I give you this sword. Though Elves are known for their skills with a bow, you have shown your talent with a sword, so it is a sword you will use when we go to battle my son. With this sword, you can not loose. Fragoo handed the sword over to Trace who stared at it in amazement. Never in his life had he seen a sword like this one. It was beautiful.
“Thank you Father. I will use this to defeat Neron and bring peace back to our people.”
Trace backed up and made way for his sister. Though they were twins, Trace was older by almost twenty minutes. It was for this reason that he felt so protective of his dear sister. Trancy then stepped up to her Father.
“Trancy, my beautiful, courageous little girl. I give to you this charm.” Fragoo held in his hand a glass crystal on a small chain. “With this charm, you will never be alone. When you are afraid, or in great danger, hold it tightly in your hand. When you let go, it will shine brightly, that someone might see it and come to you. This will keep you safe my Trancy.”
Fragoo placed the charm around Trancy’s neck. Trancy smiled and glanced down at the beautiful thing. It was quite lovely. It might not be a weapon like the one Trace got, but it would help her when she went to battle. Trancy leaned in close and hugged her Father.
“Thank you Father. It is beautiful. Whenever this light shines brightly, I will be thinking of you Father. I will keep it safe, and it shall return the favor in due time.”
Trancy stepped back and took her place by her brother. They would now walk down together, to the table where there was a feast prepared in their honor. This was a night to remember.
Trancy turned her head towards Trace’s. They both smiled, and knew that they would soon be fighting side by side as brother and sister, defending their people as they should. For now though, they would focus on what needed to be done before the battle. There was much preparation for a battle of this size. Many would die, many would be injured, but in the end, the victory was what mattered.
The feast was a traditional Elfish feast. Many vegetables, fish, and bread sat upon the table. They would eat and dance and celebrate the milestone for a few hours, then one by one, they would return to their homes and sleep till dawn.
Trace and Trancy sat on the small stumps closest to the fire. They had gotten their plates, Trace’s overflowing, Trancy’s almost empty, and were now enjoying the peace and serenity of the night.
“Would you mind if I sat on this stump?”
Trancy looked up. It was Pari Jiffen, probably one of the best looking Elves there had ever been. Trancy nodded slowly and Pari sat down.
“I made you something for your birthday. I made both of you something.” Pari reached into his pocket and pulled out two wooden rings. “Here you are. I know they are not much, but I carved them out of wood from the tree by the creek you always sit by Trace.”
Trancy grabbed the small ring from Pari. Once she slipped it on, she let out a faint smile. It was so very nice of him to make such a thing for her and Trace.
“Thank you,” she managed.
“It was no trouble at all.” Pari smiled back. Trancy hid her smile.
Trace noticed the interaction between his sister and friend. He had known for some time that Pari cared for Trancy, but this was the first that he noticed her looking back at him with the same feelings. Trace liked Pari, he really did, but the thought of his sister in his arms made him uncomfortable. He pushed the thought away.
Trace slipped the ring on his finger. Pari had done a good job at making the ring. It was perfect. After noticing Pari get up and walk away, Trace glanced over at his sister who continued to watch him. There was definitely something there.
After the food was gone and everyone was tired, all who attended that night went home. They all were accustom to awaking at an early hour, and would not let a party get in the way of that. By the time the sun rose, they would be up and ready to start a new day, tired or not, that was their way.

Trancy slipped into her bed and thought of the occurring events that day. She stared at her small wooden ring until sleep took her. She slept peacefully until early the next morning, when she awoke early to fix breakfast for the family.
Trace, on the other hand, did not sleep as well. He thought of Pari, a nice enough fellow, but not the type of Elf Trace thought deserved his sister’s heart. Come to think of it, he did not think any man worthy of it, but there was bound to be someone more qualified that Pari.
Trace stared at his wooden ring, thinking constantly about Pari and Trancy. He did not sleep well that night. When he finally did fall into sleep, it was not at all peaceful. He had only slept for a short time when he awoke to the smell of breakfast being cooked. Suddenly realizing he was hungry, he got up to face the day, longing for more sleep the whole time.

It was almost noon when Trancy found Trace practicing with his sword by the big oak tree. He swung it around perfectly. With such precision he aimed and jabbed it back and fourth. He was a true swordsman, as far as Trancy was concerned.
For nearly ten minutes she stood there, simply watching him, without him noticing her. When he finally did, he put the sword in his belt and walked over.
“Hello,” he said. “Is it really that much fun to watch me swing my sword?”
Trancy laughed at this. It was, it really was. “Yes” she answered. “So, you like your new sword?”
“I absolutely love it. It is a little hard, being that I am so use to my old one, but I think that I will adjust nicely to it. Speaking of” Trace bent down and picked up his old sword. “ Though it is not new, it is still an excellent sword. If you like it, it is yours for when we go to battle. I could teach you how to use it properly.”
Tracy’s smile grew. She was so glad that she had someone who approved of, and even helper her with, her dream to fight. Walking over to her brother, Trancy gently removed the sword from his hands. He was right, it was not by any means new, but it was good enough. When she went to battle, she fully intended to use her bow, not a sword, but having an option was refreshing. Trancy leaned in a hugged Trace.
“Thank you. I will use this when we go to battle.”
“Good. Now, how about I teach you how to properly use that fine sword there. It is of no use to you if you can not defend yourself with it, is it?”
“No, I guess it is not.”
Trance showed Trancy everything. He showed her how to stand, how to swing, how to block, even how to kill with it. When he was done with her, she would be an excellent swordsman, and an excellent warrior.
After Trace left her to tend to other things, Trancy practiced every move, every step, every swing, and every jab that he taught her. Though she knew that she would never reach the level Trace was at, she aspired to anyways. If nothing else, she would learn how to defend herself well enough with it. That might just keep her from certain death when it came time to fight.
After putting in several hours of practicing with her new sword, Trancy headed for home. She would put the sword into a safe, easy to reach, place, so it would never be found by her Father. If he found it, he would take it, saying that she was a girl, and as everyone knew, girls were no to fight. It was one thing to learn how to shoot with a bow, but to swing a sword with the intention of killing, that was another.
Her hiding place, tucked deep down in her trunk, was one that she could easily get to in need be, but it also provided shelter from prying eyes. It would not do to be caught with a sword. How then would she ever see the battle that would take place near the castle of Neron? She would not. Her Father would make sure of it, and that would just not do. She would fight, permission from her Father or not.
Once her sword was hidden, Trancy headed outside once again. She would prepare for the rest of the day, which meant getting water from the creek, and cleaning a little. Their house was by no means dirty, but just a little out of order. In no time at all, it would be done, and she could go outside and have fun with the other children. No, not the other children, the children, she was no longer a child, really, she had never been. Not since her Mother died anyways.
Nary Ilaya had been a good mother, a good wife, a good soul. She had loved everyone, and hated no one. Trancy thought about how her Mother went. As far as death went, hers was peaceful. She simply stopped living. One minute she was sleeping, the next, she was gone. A single tear came to Trancy’s eye. How she had loved her Mother. Though her Mother did not like it one bit, she approved of Trancy’s dream to fight, always had.
Reality gripped Trancy just then. Her Father had just come into their small home, and would soon be expecting his supper. She had not even thought of what she was going to prepare, so she, in a hurry, made up some potato stew, her Father’s favorite. Though not easy to learn how to make, potato stew could be made quickly by any who knew how to properly prepare it, and Trancy did.
The stew was almost ready to be eaten when Trace came in. He, being always hungry, would want something to fill his stomach with immediately. He always did. As he sat at the table, he watched as his dear sister poured the stew into three bowls. She then proceeded to set them on the table along with three spoons and three small glasses of water. They could now eat.
Trace savored every little bit of his stew. Trancy was one of the best cooks in the whole forest, everyone agreed on that. He had never seen her burn anything, or pour too many spice leaves in, or not cook it thoroughly. If Trancy Ilaya was nothing else, she was an excellent cook, but she was something else, something amazing. She was strong, brave, and so much more. She was a warrior through and throughout. He knew that.
Trancy got up to clear the small table and wash the plates, spoons, cups, and pans.
“No, don’t bother” Trace stepped in. “I will do them, for you.”
Trancy stepped away from the bucket of water. It was just like Trace to help her like that. It was never the job of a man to do a woman’s work, but he was willing, he was always helping Trancy with her work. Trancy was fifteen, and should not be expected to take care of her brother and Father, but she did. Trace could not help but feel pity towards his sister, so as any good brother ought, he helped her. He never cooked, or tended to the garden, those he would fail at miserably, but simple things like cleaning, and getting water from the creek, he often did.
Fragoo admired his only son. He was willing to take the burden for off of his sister’s shoulders. He was as good a brother as any he had ever seen, better even. He would make a fine solider. Fragoo could all but picture his son defeating Neron. With the new sword, his aim would be more precise, his swings harder, and he would lead them to victory, that was a well-known fact.

When the sun fell and the moon rose, and everything was peaceful, Trancy stared out her small window. She loved to watch the forest at night, it was such a beautiful sight. She could watch for hours and never tire of it. Usually, after a few moments, she would find herself falling asleep, but tonight, she could not sleep for she was not tired. She simply watched the forest.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw something moving in the bushed. Trancy squinted her eyes so she might see what it was. Was she imagining it? No, something was definitely there. It was a black knight, only one, but it was coming this way. Trancy ran to her Father’s bedside.
“Father! Father! Wake up Father!.”
Fragoo rustled in his bed and finally opened his eyes. “What is it Trancy?”
“A black knight is coming this way Father. Come, see for yourself.”
Trancy took her Father to the window, and just as she had said, there was the lone black knight, moving increasingly closer. Fragoo ran from the window and awakened Trace. The three of them watched the black knight move swiftly through the forest. He appeared to be coming almost directly their way.
Fragoo readied his bow, and with a swift movement, he shot. It was a direct hit. For several minutes they stared into the forest. If he was not alone, they need be prepared. After almost one hour had gone by, and the threesome still stood by the window. The moon was almost gone, and the sun would soon be up. Then, and only then, would they venture out to see the body, not a moment before.
“Father” Trancy managed after the peaceful silence that had been before. “What if they know about us; what if they are coming?”
“That is very unlikely. They will not come for us, but they will come for him. When he does not return, Neron will order his black knights to find him, and when they do, they will find us, and all our planning for battle, all our hiding from the humans, everything, will be for naught. We must be ready to fight.”
Trancy continued to watch the forest until it was dawn. When Fragoo gave the order, all three went out to inspect the body. Fragoo pulled his arrow from the cold, dead corpse. By now, many men and women had gathered to see what was going on.
“How could this have happened?” One man shouted.
“How did they find us?” Yelled another.
Fragoo silenced them all. “We do not know that they were coming for us. If they were, would they have sent just one man?”
The crowd was still, awaiting what Fragoo would say next.
“They did not know about us, or they would have sent many men, not one. This man, however, will be searched for. If we are to stay safe, we must act quickly. We must take him to the opening.”
Fear had placed itself on the faces of all who stood there. The opening, full of wolves, and snakes, and other dreaded creatures, was the last place any man wanted to go, but it had to be done.
“If he is found at the opening, his death will be blamed on the inhabitants thereof. We will be safe, but we must hurry, for they have already begun to search.”
Fragoo and four other men, fully armed, placed the body on the back of a horse, and began their journey. It would take a few hours to get to the opening, but if they made it before the humans did, all would be well.
Trace wished that he could go. He watched as his Father and the other men disappeared into the forest. He would have gladly gone, but it was not his time to battle, and indeed, that was a possibility. When he could no longer see them, he turned back towards his home, and went inside. Breakfast would soon be ready, and he planned to help with whatever needed doing.
When his Father got back, he would tell him all that had happened, and it would be almost as if Trace was there. For now though, Trace would go about his daily routine. He would eat breakfast, help Trancy with the cleaning, then and only then, would he go out by the big oak tree, and practice with his sword. Not a moment before would he go out there. He would wait until Trancy could come with him today.

It was a long ride, but it had to be done. Fragoo and the other three men rode on for almost four hours before reaching the opening. Before any one of them walked out into it, they all watched carefully. If there was a humans or an animal, they needed to be ready for it.
After they had carefully placed the body, they made sure nobody was near, and rode away. They rode faster than they had ever ridden in their lives. They moved swiftly through the trees, but kept as quiet as they could. They were silent and fast, a deadly combination.
They reached home in less than tree hours time. Though they did not see any black knights, they kept their guard up the whole time, even as they slept that night, they were ready to fight. For Trace, however, there was no sleep. He stayed awake, watching the window as Trancy, who was not in a peaceful sleep, did the night before.
Normally, all slept, and none watched the window, but tonight was different. What if they had been followed? What if the black knights were coming? Trace knew that many others did not sleep tonight. Sure, they were tired from a long day’s work, but they could not help but feel like there was someone there.

Trace, after a restless night, got up when the sun did, and started for the creek. He did not feel comfortable with Trancy doing this task. Knowing hat there were black knights out there, made him uneasy. He would never tell Trancy that, he would just make it clear to her that she was not to go anywhere without him. It was to much of a risk, a risk that he was not willing to take. She was his sister, and she would not be put in harm’s way, not if he could help it.
On his way to the creek, bucket in hand, Trace thought about the upcoming battle. It would not be long now till the Elves would face the humans in a battle that would shake things up. It would be remembered for ages, he was sure of that.
The humans expected nothing, which thrilled Trace to no end. They were completely clueless, and that gave the Elves the upper hand. Trace let out a little smile that not even he was aware of.
Though the creek was quite close, Trace took longer than usual getting the water. He usually walked to the creek, go the water, and returned home without a thought, but today was different. Every step he took, he looked over his shoulder, he looked in trees, behind rocks and bushes, he would not be caught.
Getting the water turned out to be easy. Trace saw no black knights. He feared for nothing, but that did not keep him from fearing. The black knights were ruthless, vicious, and just mean.
Though he had never seen one, other than the one his Father had shot a couple nights back, he had heard stories. In the stories, people died, were burned alive, stabbed, shot, and some were tortured. Trace knew of the stories, and knew that they could never happen to his people. They would be victorious over the humans, and he himself would kill Neron, King of the known world.
Those thoughts and those thoughts alone kept him going. That, and the desire to keep Trancy safe. It was a noble thing to want to go to war, and who was he to stop her? He could not tell her that he agreed with his father, it would break her heart, but he could protect her. He could watch out for her, every move she made, he could be there. Trace thought back to a few years before, the night he had made the promise to Trancy…

Trancy swung the large stick around her head. She jabbed it at the tree, in her mind, killing it. She fought off al the trees there, stabbing them, as she had done with the other tree.
”Trancy? What are you doing?”
Trace, Trancy’s twin brother, older by about twenty minutes, came up behind her, curiously wondering what it was that she was doing. Trancy stood in silence. She did not see him come up, and had not known he was watching her.
“I was pretending this stick was a sword. I was fighting the humans. I need to get ready for the battle if I want to be of any use.”
“Why would you prepare for the battle?”
“Because, I am going to go and fight.”
“But you’re a girl. Girls can not fight the humans. That is a man’s job.”
“No! I am going to fight with you and Father.”
“Why would you want to fight?”
“Have you not heard Father talking about the humans? Once we win the battle, we can leave the forest. Elves can rule the known world. I want to be apart of that.”
Trace thought. It was a noble cause, standing up and being willing to fight for your people. He glanced back at his sister. He could not stop her. Once her mind was made, there was no changing it.
“If you want to fight, I will not stop you. I will protect you. I promise, that when that day comes, and we go to war, you will come home safely. I will do whatever it takes to make sure you are safe. You are, after all my sister.. You will fight, and you will win the noble battle, and I will be by your side the entire time.”
Trancy smiled. Trace had always understood her, and protected her, and now they were going to go to battle together and defeat the humans. Though she was only a little girl, she was ready to fight.

Trace let out a little smile as he walked towards his home. He fully intended to keep the promise that he so willingly made as a young child. He would protect Trancy, no matter the cost.
As he neared home, he let himself feel more at ease. There were no black knights. Taking the body to the opening had worked. They had obviously found it and did not feel any more reason to look.

It had been weeks since the black knight had come to the Elf village. People were starting to feel safe again. Since no black knights had come their way, the assumption was made that they had found the body at the opening, and assumed the cause of death as an animal attack. It was, of course, the logical explanation.
Trace was back to sleeping all night, and felt more refreshed. He still did not let Trancy go to the creek by herself. Really, he did not let her go anywhere by herself. He was either with her, or close by every second of the day. Trancy did not mind though.
Trancy knew that he was around because of the black knight incident. Honestly, she felt safer knowing he was there. They still, every day, found time to practice with their bows and their swords. Trancy was getting good.
Practicing every day, helped Trancy to learn quickly, but still, she was not even close to the skill level of Trace, but she made up for it by excelling with a bow. Not even Trace was as good as she was when it came to shooting. She was a master of the bow, and he of the sword.
While Trancy was learning the art of the sword from Trace, he was learning about the bow from her. Though he had been raised with it, she was twice the archer he was.
“Hold your elbow a little higher Trace.”
“Like this?”
“No! Hold it up high. Every time you lift it up, you let it fall back down. Try to keep it held high.”
“I will do my best.” Trace let go of the string and the arrow flew through the air. It flew fast, and hit the target. It did not hit the center of the target, but it did hit the target.
“You must keep your hand that is on the bow steady. Hold It firm, and do not let it waver.”
Trace shot again. This time, he just missed the center. Trancy smiled.
“I am a good teacher if I do say so myself.”
For only a few more hours did they practice. After that, Trancy would have to make dinner. They were having a fish that Trace had caught in the creek that morning. Trancy could not wait. They did not have fish that often, and it was her favorite meal. Not sure what she would make with it, Trancy set her mind to thinking about that. Perhaps they would just have greens from the garden with their fish. It sounded wonderful to her.

Trancy lay in bed, able to fall asleep, but not willing to let it take her yet. In her hand, she held the chain with the crystal pendant on it. It was a gift from her Father, one of the best he had ever gotten her, and it was beautiful.
For long moments that seamed to stretch on forever, Trancy looked at it. Her Father had told her that it would save it, if necessary. She remembered that, still, she wondered how it would do so.
Curiosity had gotten he best of her. How could it have her. Was it not just a simple pendant?
Finally, knowing that she had a full day ahead of her tomorrow, and lack of sleep would not help her to get through the hectic day. No, she must let sleep take her, or she would not have a good day at all tomorrow.

Fragoo woke early the next morning to the sound of Trace leaving their home. The sun was barely up, where could he be going? Honestly, it did not matter in the least. Fragoo trusted Trace, and knew that wherever Trace was going, he had a good reason for going, and leaving at such early hours in the wee hours of the cool morning.
Sitting up in his bed, unable to fall back asleep, Fragoo noticed Trancy, his only daughter, lying peacefully in her bed. She reminded him so much of her mother. The way she talked, looked, laughed, smiled, and so much more made him think of his sweet Nary.
How he loved her and wished for her to come back, that, however, was not going to happen. Still, she was like her mother in many ways.
There was, however, one way they were very different from each other. That was the issue of fighting. Nary was comfortable staying back to help with the women and children, while Trancy dreamed of war.
Nary did not disapprove of Trancy’s dream to fight, but would have never chosen that path to be her own. It was not who she was, or would ever be.
In that area, Trancy was like him. She was strong and determined, and she felt it was her duty to fight in the great battle against the humans. Fragoo smiled at that thought. She was like him, only in one way, but still, there was no denying that she was his. She looked like her mother, but inside, she was him. She was him through and throughout, and he liked it.

Trace ran for all he was worth. Some days, he needed a run, and when he did, he felt like he was going so fast. It was at times like this when he swore he could outrun Trancy, no problem. Though he never would.
She liked to sleep in, though not very late considering the fact that she needed to make breakfast for him and their Father. If she was not there, they could easily fend for themselves, but now, since she was here, they had no reason to. She would take care of them, no question about it.
Though Trancy had never seen it, Trace got very mad and frustrated. He got nervous and jealous and all he wanted to do was run. Most of the emotions that he felt were concerning the upcoming battle. Running was the only way he could get back to center. It was the only way he could think about things that needed thinking about. It was where he could be alone for a while.

Trancy sat in he bed. Since she could not sleep, she thought about the upcoming battle. It was only a few months away. She thought of the party they had had when she and Trace had turned fifteen. That was almost six months in the past already.
Holding the chain in her hand, Trancy stared at the crystal charm. She could touch it, but she could not squeeze it. If she did, it would glow, and that was to be saved for if she was in danger. Trancy was not sure how one could see the light no matter where she was. If she was in true danger, nobody could see or get to her, meaning they could not see the light.
The charm, a soft blue, was one of the most beautiful pieces of jewelry she had ever seen in her entire life. It was elegant, and it was hers, a gift from her Father for her fifteenth birthday. It was special.
Trancy then took notice of the wooden ring on her finger. A gift given to her by Pari Jiffen. Trace had gotten one too, which he also had on at all times. It was true craftsmanship, anyone could see that.
Trancy let her mind wander. What would it be like to marry a boy like Pari Jiffen? It was sure to be wonderful. He was kind, and a perfect gentleman always. She had never heard him say a mean thing about anyone. That was who he was.
Trace then came into her mind. Trancy thought of how he and Pari had been such good friends until Pari showed interest in her. Trace mostly avoided Pari these days.
Trancy knew that Trace was just looking out for her, he always was, but she wished that he would see Pari the way she did. She wished that he would approve. Though it was her Father’s approval she would need to marry, Trace’s mattered even more to her. He had always approved of every dream she ever had, but when it cam to Pari, he could not have been more clear. He did not like the idea of her being with Pari, that was obvious to her.
One day, Trace would see how charming and kind Pari was. That was the day she longed for. Sure, she wanted the day to come when they would go to battle, but this day, the day that Trace told her that he approved of Pari, seemed all the more important right now. It took all she had for her not to squeal with joy.
Feeling quite tired suddenly, Trancy fell into a deep, peaceful sleep.

Trancy pulled the stubborn carrot. It would not budge. Every other carrot had come out with no problems, but this one was being difficult. Just as Trancy was about to surrender and let the carrot stay in the ground, she noticed Pari coming out of his home.
“Pari! Would you mind helping me with this stubborn carrot. It wont move; I’ve tried everything.”
“It would be my pleasure Trancy.” Pari pulled several times. It was not willing to come out. He grasped the carrot as tightly as his hands would allow, and pulled with all he had. The carrot wiggled its way free. “And here you are.”
“Oh, thank you Pari.”
“Not a problem. Just let me know if you need help with anything else and I will happily help.”
Pari walked slowly away. Trancy’s heart sang. She watched as he headed towards the creek, probably to get water. Sure enough, he grabbed his pale.
Trace watched from the forest. He had been practicing with his sword, and had a great urge to use it right then. Pari was a great guy, but not for Trancy. She, being a girl who was clearly blinded by love, would not listen to him however. She was stubborn that way, stubborn like that carrot she and Pari had bonded over.
He watched as Trancy went inside to make dinner. It was nearly time to eat, and he still had to go and get water. He would go, but only so Trancy and his Father could have a drink with their dinner. Grabbing the pale, Trace left.
The whole way down the trail, he watched Pari walking so innocently. Deciding right then that they needed to talk, Trace sped up in attempt to catch Pari. It worked.
“Hello Pari.”
“Oh, hello Trace. We have not talked in forever.”
“Yes, I know. It has been a while since we had one of our famous talks.”
“Yes Trace, remember how we use to walk every day to get water from the creek. We would race there and back. Our Fathers would be so upset at the amount of water lost in the race. They would usually send us back. Remember that?”
“Yes. I do remember that. I do not wish to race today though. I want to talk to you Pari, man to man.”
“What about Trace?”
“Do you have feelings for Trancy?”
“Wow! You sure got right to the point there.”
“You, however, are stalling. Does that mean that you do?”
Pari was silent. He stared at the path straight ahead and did not speak for quite some time. “Yes. I think your sister is lovely, kind, and would make a wonderful wife for a man like me.”
Now it was Trace’s turn not to speak. He was right, which he usually enjoyed, but about this matter, we wished that he had been wrong. “Listen :Pari. My sister is but fifteen years old, and you eighteen. She is not even of courting age, and you are already talking about marriage?”
“I know there is an age difference, but I think both of us can overlook that. Can you?” He had gotten straight to the point. He knew that Trace could not, and he used that to his advantage, only making Trace loath him more.
“I can get over the age difference” Trace lied. “I just think that there are some things you should know, for example: did you know that Trancy is planning to go to battle against the humans? She has been training with me. I have been teaching her the art of the sword. She is also skilled with a bow, more so than I.”
Pari looked over at Trace in amazement. “What? No, of course she is not planning to fight. That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.”
Both Trace and Pari dipped their buckets into the water. After they were filled, they turned and started home.
“Trancy is a woman, and women nurse the sick, cook meals, and have children. They do not fight.”
“You do not believe me then?” Trace dared Pari to answer this question.
“No, I suppose I do not, and I can not believe you would make up such lies about your own twin sister. It is nonsense.”
“It is no lie. Go, ask her for yourself. She will tell you that she has plans to fight. I made up no lies, I am only trying to protect you both. You want a woman that will do what a woman should, and she wants a man that will let her fight. There is no future for you two is there?”
“If what you say is true, no, I suppose there is not, but I know that this is just a lie. Honestly, I am ashamed that I ever befriended you. You are a liar and nothing more.”
By this time, they had reached their homes. “Have a fine dinner Trace.”
“You as well, and remember, It is not a lie. I am only trying to prevent you and Trancy from making an awful mistake. Good day Pari.”
Trace walked to his door.
“Good day to you as well Trace.” At this time, both men walked into their separate homes. Pari, feeling spiteful that his friend, yet curious as to whether it was true, and Trace, happy as ever, knowing that there was nothing in store for Pari Jiffen and Trancy Ilaya.
“Oh, dinner smells delightful Trancy.”
“Thank you Trace. It is almost ready. Did you go to the creek and get water?”
“Yes, I did.” Trace placed the pale on the table. He then proceeded to sit down and wait. Normally he would help his sister set the table, but at the moment, he did not think of that. His head was full of thoughts. Thoughts of how Pari would gently bring up the topic of the battle,. And Trancy would say that yes, she did intend to fight. That would be the end of things. A small smile leaked onto Trace’s face.
“You look happy. Something on your mind?”
“Oh, no, no. I was just thinking about the war. It is coming upon us fast. In three short months, we will fight”
“I know. It thrills me to think that soon, very soon, I will be standing up fighting for my people.”
“And no one and nothing can stop you right?”
“Exactly. Why do you ask?”
“Well, suppose you fell in love, and your beloved asked you to stay. Would you?”
“Depends. What may I ask are his reasons for me staying home?”
Trace laughed gingerly. “Well, I suppose he just thinks that women are meant to nurse the sick, cook the food, and bear children. Would you stay?”
“Well, I think that if he truly loved me, he would let me fight. He would realize that I was just as capable of fighting as any man out there. If he truly loved me, he would tell me that I could fight, and he would be right beside me the whole time, but if I changed my mind and wanted to stay home, he would be just as fine with that as he would with me fighting. He would let me choose.”
Trace smiled. She would never cave in and give up her dream for Pari. She was a girl who had a plan for her life, and had no intentions of changing it. She was Trancy Ilaya, and she would fight.
In a moment’s notice, the dinner was complete and Fragoo joined them at the table, and the threesome ate.
“Carrots?” Trancy asked Trace.
“No. I am not quite so fond of carrots as I use to be.”

In the days that followed Trancy noticed Pari watching her, and was overjoyed. Did this mean something? She certainly hoped so.
Pari watched everything Trancy did. She seemed like a normal girl, but how could he be sure? He decided that he might as well just ask. What harm could it do. It was not like they were at all together or anything. For now, they were just friends.
As he walked over to her, he contemplated the words he would say. “Hello Trancy. I was wondering if you would like to join me for a walk through the forest on this lovely day.”
Trancy’s heart sang. How long she had been waiting to hear him, Pari Jiffen, ask her such a question. “I would be delighted.”
Together the couple walked for almost an hour, talking about this and that before he brought it up. “So, Have your brother and Father been preparing for the battle?”
“Yes they have.”
“I suppose you will miss them while they are away and you are tending to the injured and the children, will you not?”
“Oh” Trancy started. “I have no intentions of staying here during the battle. I will be out amongst the men fighting for our people.”
Pari had heard it. Trace had been right, and Trancy did want to fight. “I see. You think it proper for women to fight?”
“Of course I do. Women can fight for their people the same as men. We have every right to, and I am going to take full advantage of that freedom, and fight for what I believe to be true. You think differently?”
“Yes. As a matter of fact, I do. Men fight, women tend to the injured and sick, cook, clean, and bare children. It is not their place to fight alongside of the men.”
“Well I would have to disagree. I think it is our place to fight, and we do so much more than those few things you listed. Not only are we nurses, cooks, maids, and mothers, we are warriors as well. I, along with every other woman, am capable of taking care of myself, and am capable of fighting. Any man who says otherwise is nothing but a pig-headed fool.”
“Are you calling me a pig-headed fool?”
Trancy glared at Pari. To think, not five minutes ago, she thought she could one day marry this man. He was prideful, prejudice, and very unaware of what she, and every other woman in the known world, could do.
Pari swiftly turned on his heels and headed toward his home. Trancy did the same. She was strong and did not cry until she reached her bed.
Trace stood in the doorway, completely aware of what had just conspired. Though he was not proud of what he had done, he know it was for the best. He had indeed done the right think in telling Pari. Besides, Pari would have found out sooner or later. Trace only helped to speed the process up a little.
Walking over to his sobbing sister’s bed, Trace knelt down. “Trancy, what happened?”
Trancy, through her tears, told Trace everything. She told him how Pari had told her that she was only a woman, and therefore incapable of fighting. She told him how she had been so wrong about Pari.
“Trancy, I am so very sorry.”
“Why should you be sorry? You did nothing wrong.”
“I told him of your dream to fight.” Trace knew that she would find out anyways, so it was better to hear it from him now than someone else later.
“So what. He would not have approved any more if I had been the one to tell him. He is a pig-headed, stubborn, arrogant fool, and I want nothing to do with him.”
Trace, glad that everything had gotten itself into the open, hugged Trancy. She needed comforting, he knew that. Though, he suspected that she would soon be over Pari Jiffen. He was not worth her time, and Trace knew that she could see that.. This, Trace was glad of.

Trancy swung her sword, and she swung it hard. Trace, of course, was able to block it, but not with the same ease as usual. She was getting stronger, faster, and more skilled every day.
Not only did they practice with the sword and the bow now, they also ran. They ran for all they were worth, and in the process, built up stamina, which would be of help to them during the battle.
The first time they ran, Trace was surprised to find out that Trancy was faster. She could outrun him easily, and that bothered him. Deciding that he would be the faster one, Trancy deciding the same thing, they started to run every day. They would run for miles, racing with all they had in them. When they got to where they were going, they would practice with their swords and bows, which meant during the run, they carried them both. After practicing, they would race home.
They had it down, they were gone for almost three hours a day. By the time they realized that the battle was only one month away, they were just about the same speed. They could run for an hour, practice for an hour, run for another hour, and still have the energy to work on dinner when they got back.
Fragoo could not be happier. Though he would not let Trancy fight, Trace was getting stronger and faster every day, becoming even more of the warrior that Fragoo knew he was. Trancy, had she been a boy instead of a girl, would fight, but since it was not that way, she would stay back. Yes, she could outrun Trace, but only by a little. Yes, she was almost at Trace’s skill level with a sword, but he was still better. Yes, she was a better, more precise, faster shot, but Trace was not far behind, plus, his skills were with the sword.
Fragoo knew the truth. Had Trancy been a boy, she would be twice the warrior of her brother, though being a girl, she already was ahead of him in many areas. The Elves needed all the help they could get. Even though the attack was a surprise, even though they had been training for years, they were, by comparison, no match for Neron’s black knights. Still, Fragoo would not let Trancy fight. She was, after all, his only daughter.
After getting back from what seemed like a brisk jog, Trancy began dinner, and Trace went out to fill the water pale. Trancy was faster than he, but every day when he would go to fetch the water from the creek, he would run there, building up more and more stamina. Though he had been doing this for months, he had not yet become faster than she. It was possible that he would never be.
Trace, while on his way back, heard the sound of a black-topped crow. This bird, being massive in size, was known to attack humans, animals, and even Elves if it was hungry. Trace, though he knew he had the water, which was sure to spill, ran. Suddenly thankful for his hour runs twice a day with Trancy, Trace glided through the forest, and did not stop until he reached his home. He had to warn everyone.
“There is a black-topped crow! Get in your homes everyone!”
Elves all over the small village ran into their homes, shitting the doors behind them. In a matter of about twenty seconds, the village was empty. Trace ran to his door, opened it, and shut it once he was safely inside.
“Did you run? You spilled nearly half the water Trace!” Trancy was obviously upset. This had never happened before, and she did not want it to start now. “Go back and get more!”
“No! I saw-there was- it was chasing me, and I ran.”
“What are you talking about son?” Fragoo, fearing the humans, stood on his feat, prepared to grab his bow and fight.
“It was a black-topped crow. It was right behind me. I’m sorry I spilled the water, but I ran as fast as I could, warned everybody, and came in here to hide.”
Trancy put her hands over her mouth. The back-topped crow, mean and vicious in every way, had attacked many times, but only once was the attack fatal to any Elves. Halven Crater, only a little girl, was out in the forest with her friends playing. They heard the noise, and they knew what it meant. All the children ran. Halven, unfortunately, was too slow. The black-topped crow killed the poor child that day. Since then, all lived in fear of the magnificent bird.
Trancy came back to reality. Finishing dinner, she thought of her life. What if Trace had died; what would she do? Not only was he her brother, he was her best friend. As she put the pot of steaming cabbage and the basket of freshly baked bread on the small table, her heart was gladdened. Maybe, building up stamina by running, had saved poor Trace’s life. Because of their runs, he was able to escape the claws and beak of the nasty creature.
The small family of Elves sat in silence for some time before Fragoo brought up the subject. ”I know you two have been working hard, running and practicing every day, but, for the next few days, I don’t want you running any farther than the creek. Stay near home until we are sure the black-topped crow is gone.”
“But Father, we are training. If we stop now, we may not be again ready before the battle.” Trancy looked longingly at her Father.
“I have made up my mind. Not only are you staying around here for the time being, but as we have discussed in the past, you will not be fighting. Your brother and I will be the ones going to battle, and you are to stay here where it is safe.”
“Father, you are being ridiculous. You know I am just as capable, no, more than capable of fighting. I am twice the warrior as most of the men you plan to take. You know I am stronger, faster, and a more skilled fighter, and you still wont let me go? This is unrealistically foolish of you. I can fight, nay, I will fight.”
Trancy got up from the small table and went into the shared bedroom and slammed the door. She would not be told whether she could fight or not, her mind was already made up; she would fight against the humans.
“Father, you know she can fight. I know she can fight. Yet you still wont allow it?” Trace stared at his Father, wishing an answer.
“Your sister is skilled. She is like you, strong, fast, and willing, but I can not allow her to fight.”
“Why not?”
“I can not loose her. I fear that she will be killed in the battle. I want to be there to protect her, to stand beside her. Nothing would make me more proud than to stand, facing the humans with my son on my right side, and my daughter on my left, but that can not happen. It is too dangerous.”
“Father, are you not worried for me?”
“Son, yes, I am worried for you, but I also know that you are meant to bring our people our of hiding.”
“Maybe, I am, but I can not unless I have Trancy standing beside me. We are a team, and I know that I will do anything to protect her, and she me. Father, you do not think that I worry about her? I do. I wish that she would stay back here where it is safe, but you and I both know that that will never happen. She will find a way to fight, and I would rather her fight by me, where I can watch over her, and I would rather have her learn how to fight, so she can defend herself. She will find a way to fight Father.”
Fragoo hung his head. Trace was right. That, however did not change his feelings. Looking up at his only son, he realized then how proud he was of him. He was standing up for his sister, a good quality. Still, Fragoo was not about to let Trancy fight the humans. She was, after all, his only daughter, and he would not let harm come to her. “My decision stands.”
Trace was in a state of shock. How, after all that had just conspired, could he not let Trancy go and fight? Trace headed for his bed. He needed to think and talk to Trancy if he was to calm down.
Once in the bedroom they all shared, Trace and Trancy talked for several hours before falling asleep. Fragoo, however, did not. He sat outside on the small stump by their door. He was not about to go inside and be yelled at by his own son again. Though, in his heart, he knew Trace was right, there was no getting around the fact that he was the Father and he would be the one to make the decisions, not Trace.

Though they respected their Father’s wish and stayed near their home, Trace and Trancy did not talk to him. Every night, they would come in and eat with their Father, but the table was quiet. Nobody spoke a word, for almost a week.
Trace did not like this. He wished they could all get over what had happened. They could not however. Trace and Trancy were mad at their Father for being unreasonable, and he was mad at them for not listening and arguing with his wishes. Neither side would budge.
After a week had gone by, Fragoo broke the silence. “I still have not changed my mind, but it is now safe and you both may go beyond the creek. This, however, does not mean you can fight Trancy.”
“But Father, I can fight!” Trancy argued.
“You can, but you wont. Is this not clear to you Trancy? You will stay here, and I am tired of discussing what I have already made my decision on.”
Fragoo got up from the table and exited his home. Though he loved both his children dearly, he could not understand why Trancy wanted to fight, and why Trace backed her up. They were unmistakably close, and always stuck together, but never had he thought they would go against him like they did. They were his children and were supposed to listen to their father. That is how things were.
Trancy was mad. That much was clear to Trace. “Trancy, if it is your dream to fight, let no man tell you otherwise. Fight.”
Trancy looked at her brother. He was right. Why should she not fight? She was more than capable of fighting, and she would. She would, in just over two months, go to battle with Trace. There was no more discussing it for her, she would fight, and she would help to lead her people to victory in battle against the humans, she was most sure of that.
The two sat in silence for a long time. When they finally went to bed, Fragoo had still not returned. He sat on a stump outside their tiny home. Trancy was right, she could fight. There was no mistaking that she was strong, capable, and willing, but still, Fragoo could not bring himself to let her, his own daughter, go to war against the humans. She was too precious, and he was not willing to risk anything happening to her in the bloody battle.
Long ago, it had been for told that when the Elves fought the great battle, they would be lead by one who was the master of the bow, and one who was master of the sword. Fragoo knew that Trace was, of course, the master of the sword, but never had he thought of who the master of the bow was. He had just assumed that it was another who would soon come. It was Trancy. In his heart, he knew that it was his beloved daughter. Trace’s words rang in his ears.
She will find a way to fight Father.

Trace, a little out of shape, considering the time off, ran his hardest, but failed to catch Trancy. She, unlike him, had not lost what she had gained in the weeks before. Trace envied that, but did not think on it long. She was almost to the spot where they would practice, and he was far behind. He must catch her.
Upon reaching the intended place for practicing, Trace noticed Trancy sitting on a stump to his right.
“Tired?” Trace teased knowing that it was not so.
“Not at all. I was just waiting for you. You ran slowly today. A little out of shape are you?” Trancy knew the answer to that question. It was yes. Trace was the type that needed to keep on something if he was going to stay good at it. He had always been like that.
“No, just taking my time today is all. Are you ready to fight, or would you rather shoot first?”
Well, for your sake, I think shoot. You should catch your breath before I come at you with a sword.”
Trace laughed. She knew him too well, and it brought her great pleasure. Picking up his bow, Trace tried to remember all the pointers Trancy had given him in the previous weeks of their training. He shot, and hit the bulls eye dead center. “Looks as if I still have it.” Trace bragged to his sister.
“At least you still have something.” Trancy picked up her bow. She, just like Trace, hit the center. “Looks like we tie there. Should we skip this and move on to the sword?” Trancy hoped that he would say yes. Then, if he had lost some of what he had learned there too, she would be better at all three, and if that was so, Trace could never live that down.
“I think we should move on. You are most likely suffering from not using your sword in a week.”
“Is that what you think?” Trancy picked up her sword which she had set by a nearby tree. As she swung it around, Trace picked hit up and hit it against hers. Trancy blocked.
Trace, again, swung. Again, Trancy blocked. Next, Trancy swung and was blocked by Trace. This went on for nearly an hour, neither winning.
“Not bad” Trace said as they picked up their bows. “Race back now?”
“I would not miss you loosing to me again for the world.”
Both began to run and immediately, Trancy pulled out ahead. Both ran as fast as they could. Trancy, who was quite far in front of Trace, leaped over rocks and twigs, and was doing a fine job of it. As she turned back to see Trace lagging far behind, she fell to the ground letting out a small scream in pain.
Trace, noticing what had just happened, ran to his ailing sister. From the looks of it, she had sprained her ankle. After helping her up, the twosome walked back to their home so as to get some ice and a bandage on it.
Once inside, Trace got ice and placed in on Trancy’s now swollen ankle. Fragoo soon joined them, and, lucky for Trancy, determined that it was not bad at all. It would heal in a matter of weeks.
Trancy let out a sigh. After all her hard work, her training was for naught. She was not able to fight. Though it would be healed a few weeks before they went to battle, there was no way it would be as strong as before.
Fragoo saw the look of disappointment on his daughter’s face. “Trancy, I know you must be disappointed, and I am truly sorry.”
Trancy did not say a word. He was getting his wish, she would not fight. Though he probably did sympathize with her, he was most likely overjoyed at the notion that she was now not able to go to battle.
Fragoo thought for a moment. Her ankle would never heal in time for battle, and she was obviously disappointed. He had to think of a way to make her feel better, but how? He had it.
“If, and only if, you ankle returns to normal, and that means you have full strength and movement back, by the time we go to battle, you may come. I had decided to let you go this morning, but then this happened.”
Trancy stared at her Father in amazement. “Do you really mean that, or are you simply saying that to give me hope?”
“No, I am not. I really mean it Trancy. I have been thinking a lot lately about you and your brother. If you end up going, the two of you must stick together. I do not want either of you to have even one scratch.” Fragoo was dead serious. Even though he did not think she would be going, Trancy still needed to be protected, battle or not. Besides, what if her ankle did heal and he was forced to let her go?
Trancy stared in disbelief. Was this the same man that refused to let her go not even a week ago? Had he really changed his mind that fast?
A sudden knock on the door brought all three back to the moment.
“I will get it” Trace said as he stood and went to the door. Opening the door, revealed the knocker to be Pari. “Oh, Pari, what a nice surprise. Do come in.”
“Thank you Trace.” Pari walked in and immediately headed over to Trancy. “I heard what happened, and I wanted to make sure you were okay.”
“Yes Pari” Trancy said in a tone that made Pari feel very uncomfortable. ”Thank you for coming.” She, though it was a nice gesture, wished that he had not come. It was still to awkward between them, though it was nice of him to try to make things better between them, it really was.
After a few moments of awkward silence, Fragoo spoke. “So how is the family Pari? Doing well I presume?”
“Oh yes, I they are all just fine.”
A few more moments of silence went by. “Well,” Pari said, feeling very awkward suddenly, “I suppose I should be heading home. I do hope you will feel better Trancy.”
With that said, Pari exited and went back to his door. He could not believe what he had just done. It was one of the most humiliating things he had ever done in his entire life. Oh, what the Ilayas must think of him.
After closing the door behind Pari, Trace returned to his seat by Trancy who was getting tired. With the help of Trace and her Father, she made it to her bed and fell asleep. Though it was not even dinner time, she felt that she needed it. There was food left over from previous meals that Trace and her Father could eat. She was going to bed.
She slept for hours, till the next morning, undisturbed. It was not just a normal sleep though, it was a peaceful, refreshing sleep that she would not have again for quite some time.

In the weeks that followed, Trancy began to walk on her own. Though she had only hurt her ankle two weeks ago, she was already regaining her strength, and though she had not tried to run, she was walking just fine.
Things were though at first, but after a while, she was able to do a lot on her own. Quite often, she and Trace walked down to the creek to get some water, and though it was not the training they had been use to, it was still training. It was getting Trancy’s ankle stronger, and that would help her in the battle.
Every day, she and Trace still practiced. They did not go as far out to do so, but Trancy felt that she needed to keep working at sword fighting.
Trace was impressed. For a girl with a sprained ankle, she was doing just fine at defending herself when he swung he word he way. She was truly a warrior.
Fragoo, not as happy as he had been, was angry with himself. The one and only reason he had made Trancy the promise, was to cheer her up. He had no intentions of letting her fight, but how could he tell her that. He would just have to let her think she was going to fight, and at the last minute, before they left, tell her that she could not. It had to be done.
Knowing that it would break her heart, Fragoo had to think of a way to let her down gently, and fast. The battle was not that far in the future anymore.
With only one month left till the fight, things were getting crazy in the small village. Men were practicing shooting their bows and swinging their swords, and women were gathering supplies to send off with their husbands and sons. Everyone was ready for the war.
Trancy was not only ready, she was eager. By the time the one month mark had passed, she was running again. At first, she was a little slower than Trace, but in a matter of days, she was back in front of him, leading the way.
Trace, a little disappointed that she was faster than him again, still strived to beat her. This, however, did not happen. No matter the circumstances, she would always be the faster one of the two. That was inevitable.
Trancy’s ankle had almost returned to normal. In a month, it would be good as mew, and she would fight. Her Father had promised her that if it healed, she would be aloud to fight, and it had. She would be standing up with her Father and Trace come the day of the fight. The thought made her heart sing with joy.
Trancy thought about why the fight was happening. It was not to kill Neron, or to avenge those who had been slaughtered by Zarnon on the black night, it was because it had to be done. Man could no longer be on the thrown. It was time for peace, and that could not be done as long as humans wore the crown on their heads.
The war was for peace, and, though wars are not peaceful, it was the only way, peace could be attained. It was just one of those things that, try as they might, they could not escape. Wars were apart of life, without them, things would forever be the same, and at the moment, change was what was needed, so change would have to come, even if it came by war.

With every day getting increasingly closer to the fight, Trace could not help but get excited. This was the time he had waited for since he was a baby. It was finally here, and he could not believe it. In less than one month, he, Trace Ilaya, would be standing up by his Father and sister, fighting the humans.
Trace was glad that all things that had taken place in the last year had. If not, Trancy might be forced to stay back with all the women and not be able to fulfill her dream and go to battle against the humans. This, Trace was glad of. She deserved her chance, and now, she was going to get it.
As Trace ran to catch up with his fast healing sister, he thought of these things and so much more.
Though Trancy was preparing to fight, she was also collecting medical supplies and food. She planned to take them with her incase of an emergency, for it is better to plan ahead and survive than only worry about fighting and not about what one is going to eat and what one would use incase of an injury that had to be taken car of immediately.
The plans for the big feast before they left were in order, and then, once they had eaten, they would leave. No man knew how long they would be gone. It could be a few days, could be a few months. Nobody knew for sure. All they knew is that they were to fight and fight hard. It would be a long and tiring battle, but the end results were worth it.
In the end, there would be peace. Everyone would live as they did before Zarnon took the thrown. They would live as they did when every man governed himself. There was no king or queen, there was peace. Those were the days when the humans and the Elves lived in a certain harmony. It was a sweet bliss.
Trace reached the place where he and Trancy would practice. She, of course, was awaiting his arrival. Once he got there, he took a few deep breaths before even saying a word.
“You were slower today. Is there something on your mind?”
“What is on my mind is what is on the minds of every Elf, the battle. I think about it constantly. It is almost upon us.”
“Yes, I know.” Trancy had never forgotten this, not even for a moment’s time. It was just as important to her as it was to her dear brother Trace.
“Well, we should probably get to it then.” Trace raised his sword. “Swords first, bows last. Does that work for you?”
Trancy stood and grabbed her sword. “Just try to beat me.”
Trace laughed gently to himself. “There is no need to try. After all, I am only fighting you. I think I will just defend myself. Why should I waste my breath fighting you?” Trace, clearly joking, swung his sword around his head and was blocked by Trancy.
“You are not a worthy opponent Trace Ilaya. No, you are much to cocky for my liking.”
The two fought with their swords for nearly an hour and a half of another. When they were finished, they used their bows. They, for almost another hour, shot at the target set up on the big, round, oak tree. Trancy hit the target many more times than Trace did, but when he did hit it, his accuracy was astounding.
“I believe it is time to head back, and I -” Trace ran.
“Hey, that is called cheating!” Trancy yelled after her brother who clearly did not like to lose, and therefore, thought that cheating was the way to go.
“I do not believe I care. Try and catch me if you can sister!”
Trancy ran, hanging a little behind the whole way back, until that final stretch. Once her home was in sight, Trancy gave it everything she had, and pulled out in front of Trace, leaving him in the dust.
“You were letting me win?”
“Of course I was. Did you really think I was that slow?”
Trace laughed. He had been foolish. Of course she was letting him win, and he fell right into her little trap. It was for that reason that he, mockingly, hung his head in shame.
Both now headed into their home, Trace grabbing the water pale and making his daily run to the creek, and Trancy getting started on dinner.
As Trace, once again, ran to get the water, he could feel the soft earth beneath his feet. The snap of twigs, the rustle of leaves as he stepped on them, making his way to the small creek not to far from home.
Though he had grown up getting water from this creek, and was used to seeing the beauty of the forest around him, he had never really taken time to look at the dirt path as it wove through the trees, or the small woodland creatures, or the flowers, some fully open, some still buds, the sound of birds chirping, and the sound of his own feet hitting the sod beneath him.
When one really takes the time to look at such beauty, they notice the smallest details and begin to appreciate them. The forest, such a good place to do so, is full of beauty and wonder.
Trace, suddenly back in the moment, looked around at his beautiful forest, for it truly was his. It belonged to everyone who took time to appreciate its beauty.
As he neared the creek, he spotted something getting water. It was not an Elf, he knew that for sure, but it was also not a human. Trace watched as the curious creature moved. He had never in his life seen a creature like this one. From the back, it appeared to be a horse, but from the front, one would swear it was an Elf. How curious it was. Trace immediately hid.
Trace stood, crouched behind a bush, in silence. The creature ran away after it was done filling its bucket. It was fast, though it had an advantage of having four legs to carry it on instead of the two that Trace had.
Trace placed his bucket by the bush and ran carefully after the creature, making sure to be quiet. Though he was a fast runner, the creature pulled way ahead, much like Trancy did. Trace, however, did not lose the trail.
After following it for nearly ten minutes, the creature lead Trace to a small village, much like the one the Elves lived in. There were many more of those creatures. They were everywhere. Trace watched for a long while, admiring the strange creatures.
The longer he stayed though, the more uncomfortable he felt. What if someone should see him? Trace knowing he should get out of there, turned back toward the forest to leave.
“Now what do we have here?” A huge creature said. He glared down at Trace, and all Trace could do was glare back. To be honest, Trace was afraid.
Walking into one of the small huts, Trace sat down. Many of the strange creatures had gathered around him. They kept asking each other what he could be, which seemed curious to Trace. Was it not a known fact that he was an Elf?
“He is not human, I know that, but what can he be?”
“I am an Elf” Trace said to discourage them from asking each other any longer what he could possibly be.
Every creature laughed. “Elves have been extinct since Zarnon’s reign. Every creature knows that. Except you I guess.”
“We are not extinct. Am I not sitting before you now?”
The creatures, again, laughed. “What would the likes of a “non-extinct“ Elf be doing here in the midst of a whole nest full of Centars?”
Trace thought for only a moment before answering. If he did not give the right answer he cold be killed, or worse, his people could be killed.

Fragoo stood outside his bleak little home. Trace was never late, and here it was getting dark. Being that Trace was the chosen child, many men sat or stood by Fragoo. They all wanted him home too.
A sudden noise caught their attention. Every men readied their bows incase, but never had to fire a shot. It was Trace, but he was followed by many creatures.
Many of the men stared in amazement. They had never seen these creatures before. Only a few, such as Fragoo, had. Fragoo ran at a great speed to where Trace was now standing.
“Trace, my son. Why have you brought Centars to us?”
“They will fight Father. By accident I ran into them, but they are tired of hiding as we are, and are more than prepared to fight. Their village is no more than ten minutes past the creek. I was there myself. They thought Elves were extinct, and when I told them I was an Elf, they wanted to help, so, after asking them a few simple questions, I thought it best for you to meet them Father. They could help us win this battle against Neron.”
Fragoo looked at his son, smarter than most, and then up at the Centars. “You are truly willing to fight? You may loose many men.”
“I am aware, but this hiding can go on no longer. We will fight.”
Trancy who had not yet come outside, watched through the window in the small kitchen. Though she heard every word, she could not believe it. They would not fight alone, they would fight along side of the strange creatures called Centars.
Fragoo reached out his hand, as did the Centar. They, by the shaking of hands, had agreed to fight for, till the death if necessary, and protect the other creature. They would fight the great, long awaited battle, and with the odds, now more than ever, in their favor, they would win.

When the sun began to fall, the Centars went on their way home. It had been a long and tiring day, and everyone could use a bit of rest, but that would probably not happen for quite some time... In just over three weeks, the two creatures, neither knowing about the other’s existence until the recent change of events, would be standing up and fighting for their freedom. They deserved that. After many years of hiding, praying that one day they would get their freedom back, they would have it. It was to be a glorious day, one that would not soon be forgotten.
Long after the Centars were gone, there was much commotion in the small village. Excitement filled the air, and not a body was tired. For nearly half the night, every Elf stayed out of their home, talking about the upcoming battle.
It was not so much that they were excited about meeting the Centars, though they were, it was that they now had help, and they could win. That is what the people talked about nearly all night. When the little village was finally silent, there was a certain peace to it. There had always been that peace, but now, they had true peace. They had peace that when they woke up in the morning, it would be one entire day closer to their freedom.
The Centars were much the same way, but less jolly, for by nature, Elves are more jolly than just about any other creature on earth. That was a known fact. The Centars, however, also had that peace of knowing that their day of freedom was close at hand.
The forest was no longer a place of hiding, and of fear, but of hope for the upcoming war. It was now a place of hope for all the young Elves and Centars. They would soon have their freedom, a freedom they had never known, but would soon see. All in all, it was a place of tranquility and peace, a place where warriors slept, waiting until the day come when they would go to war. It was a place of eagerness, and readiness.

Trancy, as she weeded the garden early the next morning, was soon joined by Pari.
“Hello Trancy.”
An awkward silence fell upon them until Pari spoke, once again, to break the overwhelming quietness that was now present.
“How have you been?”
Trancy glanced up at him. Was he just going to make small talk? “I am fine Pari. You?”
“Yeah, I am fine as well. How is your ankle? Has it healed?”
“Yes. It has.”
“Oh, that is very good to hear. A injury like that could cause permanent damage, so it is good that it is healing properly.”
“Yes, I suppose it is.”
Pari felt another silence coming on, and decided to bring up the real reason he had come over. “Trancy, I did not come over to talk about your ankle, though I do care. I came over to tell you how sorry I was. I had no right, or reason, to say the things I did. You have the right to pursue your dream, even if I do not agree with it. I do hope that we can still be friends.”
Trancy thought a moment. It took a lot for him to come over and apologize like he did. How could she reject him? “I forgive you, and would love to remain friends.”
The two talked, but only for a few more minutes. Pari had work to do, and Trancy had to leave to practice with Trace. If by chance they happened to run into each other again, Trancy would say hello, but, as far as thins went, Trancy was over Pari Jiffen. Truth be told, she did not want to be his friend, but what choice did she have? Avoidance was the key to surviving this friendship, so avoid him she would.
As Trancy ran off to meet Trace by the path in the woods, she questioned what she had ever seen in Pari Jiffen. Thinking back, he seemed like a waist of time. Trancy was suddenly glad that Trace had told him of her plans to fight. He certainly saved her from the worst relationship ever, that was for sure.
It was obvious that Trace was a good brother, he had, after all, seen that they were not meant for each other, and thinking back, right about the time she had started to take notice of Pari was about the time Trace and Pari started to part ways. She should have seen it, but she had not, and it was for that reason that she felt so dumb.

By the time dinner was over, Trace found that he was more than tired from his long day. Though he had not done more than he usually did in day, he had stayed up nearly all night long, and now, he was paying for it.
As he lay in his bed, though tired, Trace could not fall asleep. The battle weighed upon his mind heavily. It usually did these days. In just over three weeks, he would be standing up with his Father and sister, and he would help lead his people to victory. They would have freedom.
Even as he drifted off to sleep, Trace thought of the battle, and soon found himself dreaming about it. He would lead his people, along with the Centars, and they would go to battle. The victory, though it would not come easily, would be worth the sacrifices made.
Many would die, many would get sick or injured, and many would remain safe, but through all that, whatever was to happen, would happen. They would do whatever it took to win the battle, and in the end, when all was said and one, he would be a hero. He would be a hero for bringing he people the freedom they had so long awaited..
A peaceful sleep caught Trace, and kept him until early the next morning. As he rose from his bed, Trace could hear commotion out his window. There was no smell of breakfast as usual, no silence, but yelling and talking.
Stepping outside, Trace saw that nearly everyone was there. Not a person, aside from him, was missing. Trace proceeded to ask what was going on.
Fragoo, upon hearing his son’s question, lead the way into one of their neighbor’s homes. Inside, though it was dark, Trace saw a small girl sitting in a chair in the corner.
“She is human,” Trace said with the sound of shock in his voice, which was appropriate for the time, seeing as this was not a usual occurrence.
“Yes, she is. Kale Jiffen found her wondering in the forest alone. He wanted to kill her, but I told him not to lay a hand on her. We will return her, but we must not be spotted.”
“Why? Can we not just let her go?” Trace thought for a moment. For what reason did they have to take her home. She was, after all, human.
“No,” Fragoo told his son with a stern sound in his voice, “She might stay around here. If the people start looking for her, they might run across us. We can not take that chance. We must take her as close to the forest’s edge as we can without being spotted.”
“Who will go?”
Fragoo looked at Trace, his only son. It was at that moment that Trace knew, but Fragoo still felt the need to say it. “You will my son.”
Trace looked up at his Father, but was not in the least surprised. “Thank you Father. When is it that shall I leave?”
“As soon as you can my son. You must remember to be careful. If they spot you, all our plans for battle will be for nothing.”
Trace grabbed the small girl’s hand and lead her out of the small home. Every eye was on her. Nobody seemed to trust her, despite the fact that she was just a little girl. Trace, though not afraid, could understand why. The Elves did not understand her, therefore, they feared her.
After setting her on the horse, Trace climbed on behind her. With his sword around his waist, and his bow across his back, they rode off into the dark, dense blanket of trees.
Trace rode fast, and he rode silently. He did not see anyone, which did not bother him at all. Though he was prepared to battle with the humans, he did not wish that. There would be to much of a mess to clean up, and he was not prepared to deal with that. No, he would try to avoid any contact with humans other than the small girl who sat in front of him that the moment.
As they rode, Trace listened to the small girl. He had learned many things about her. Her name was Bethany Gordon, she was four years old, and here family had a horse too. It’s name was Firefly.
Trace loved the sound of little Bethany’s voice. Even though she was human, she was just like a little Elf child. She was talkative, cute, and wanted to take the reigns every few moments. Trace, of course, never let her.
For almost four hours, Trace rode with Bethany talking up a storm. For such a little girl, she sure knew a lot of words, and was very good a speaking them. As they neared the edge of the forest, Trace put his guard up. He had to be careful.
Stepping down from the horse, he grabbed Bethany. “Bethany, I want you to go find Firefly for me okay? Go home now and get him will you?”
Bethany looked up at Trace with a single tear in her eyes. She knew what was going to happen. “You leave now?”
“Yes, I leave now. You go and get Firefly. Be safe Bethany.”
Trace watched as Bethany walked off. Though she did not have very good balance, she never once fell. Once he saw her exit the forest, Trace got back on his horse and rode off.
He only looked back once, and saw he standing outside the forest watching him leave. For a moment, Trace wished he did not have to take her back. She was the only human he had ever met. Sure he had seen the man his Father killed, but she was the first one that was alive, and she was much different than he had expected. She was much different than the rumors he had heard, that was for sure.
Trace could not help but wonder. Were all humans like this? Were they all as nice and friendly as little Bethany Gordon? If so, why should he attack them? What if, in the process of war, little Bethany was killed. What would he do then?
Second thoughts were apart of battle, but usually, they went away. Trace knew his would not. He could not go and turn poor Bethany’s little life upside down like that. He would not. What if her own Father fought? What if Trace killed him? Could he live with himself? He knew the answer: no, he could not.
Trace stopped his horse. As he climbed off, thoughts circled in his head. Finding a nice tree nearby, Trace sat under it to think. Why were they attacking the humans? Was it truly for freedom, or was it a long-lived grudge that would not go away until blood was shed? He had no answers.
As Trace sat there, his thoughts completely on the battle ahead, he did not even notice the swarm of men moving in on him. By the time he did notice, it was to late. They had captured him and he could not get free.
“Let me go!” He shouted over and over, but they did not listen. “Where are you taking me?” Still not a one of them answered. He would just have to face the facts, he was a prisoner.

“I do not understand Father. You said it was only a few hours to the edge of the forest. Why is he still gone? He should have returned by now.”
Fragoo, who was also worried about his son, did not know what to say. “Well, I think he will be along any minute now. I may have been wrong about how long it takes to get here. It could take much longer. Be patient Trancy. He will return shortly.”
Trancy, though worried, went back to work making dinner. Something was wrong, she could feel it. That was one of the good things about being a twin, she could always tell when Trace was in trouble, and he with her.
As she cooked the tomatoes for the stew, she could not help but feel what she did. Something awful had happened to Trace and everybody else just assumed that he was running a little late. No. Something went wrong, and something had to be done about it.
Not only was he her brother, he was her friend. They had planned to stand right by each other when it came time to fight. Who would protect her if not him? Sure, she was capable of saving herself, but it was a comfort knowing that he would always be there. Now he might not be, and that frightened her.

Trace stumbled up the stairs, being pushed every few moments and told he was not going fast enough. The only thing that kept him going was defending his people. If he could convince them that he was the last Elf, they might not go after the rest.
“Go faster boy!” A man wearing black shouted.
As Trace neared the top steps, his speed increased. They had told him that he was going to see the King of the known world, Neron. In battle, Trace planned to kill him, but now, with all the black knights around, that would only bring death to him and his people.
After walking through the tall doors, Trace looked around. He had never seen anything like it. Ceilings over twenty feet high dwarfed everything else in the room. There were statues of past and present kings, and table after table of food. Trace had to admit, he was impressed.
At the very end of the long hall-like room, there was a chair. This, however, was not an ordinary chair, it was a thrown. It was Neron’s thrown from which he called out orders to his servants. It was an evil chair.
Neron, who sat upon his thrown, stared down his nose at Trace. “You are an Elf.”
Trace, who thought this comment was much less insightful than Neron, responded. “Really? All this time I thought I was human. You Sir, have made a wonderful discovery. I thank you for doing so.”
Neron did not look happy. “Do you dare to mock me you stupid Elf boy? Do you think I am that ignorant?”
“I am sorry Sir, but being a stupid Elf boy, I do not know what the word Ignorant means. Would you mind sharing your wisdom with me?”
Trace knew how to push Neron’s buttons, and he did so flawlessly.
“Where are your people Elf?”
“Excuse me?”
“Oh, Trace, that is my name.”
“I do not care in the least what your name is. I want to know where your people are! Tell me or I will execute you.”
“Ah, you will execute me if I do not tell you. Brilliant. That will make me talk. You are probably planning to kill me anyways right? Why should I talk if you plan to kill me either way? I see no profit for me there.”
Neron, spiteful and arrogant, saw only one flaw, and took full advantage of it. “Play your silly games if you must, but there is no need. I will not kill you. I do not have the heart to. Despite what you may hear, I am actually a very nice King. I only want to know the location of your village so that I may tell your people that, after all these years, they do not have to hide anymore.
I want our two people to live together in harmony, as we once did before Zarnon took the thrown. I have no intentions of killing you or any of your people.”
Trace, who was not going to believe any of Neron‘s lies, no matter how clever they were, stared straight at him and said, “I will tell you nothing.”
“If it suites you. Until such a time as you do, you are free to stay here at the palace. You can stay in the east wing, lovely views of the forest, and ponder what you will do next Mr. Trace. I, however, will not force information out of you.”
One of Neron’s men came up behind Trace and cut the rope that bound his wrists. “If you will follow me, I will show you to your room Mr. Trace.”
“Thank you,” was all Trace could say.
Trace followed the man until they found his room. It, though much smaller than the thrown room, was large enough for five Elf families to live in comfortably. It was one of the biggest rooms he had ever seen, second only to the thrown room.
As he sat on the large bed in the center of the room, he thought about King Neron. He seemed rather nice. Were all the rumors he had heard just hearsay? If so, then the attack must be called off. In three weeks, every male Elf, and Trancy, along with the Centars, would be coming to attack for no reason if indeed Neron was as kind as he appeared.
After almost three hours of undisturbed thinking, Trace was called for dinner. After reaching the dinning room, he realized that it was not a dinner, it was a feast. There was roast chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, along with many more vegetables, bread with butter, and a large cake for dessert.
Trace had never seen so much food in his life, and it was all for him and Neron. As soon as Neron entered the room and sat down, the two ate until they were so full they could barely stand.
Through the entire dinner, they talked. Neron, who was as nice as ever, made Trace think. What if attacking the humans is a mistake?
The plans to attack never came up; Trace still was not sure what he should do, and thought it best not to say anything. If he thought that the attack should be canceled, and needed to get word to his Father, he was sure that Neron would let him borrow a horse, or better yet, take his own horse which was safe in the stables.
When he finally went to bed that night, thoughts swirled in his mind. What was the right thing to do? Trace had no idea, but in time, he knew that he would know what to do. He only needed to think about it more. The answer would soon come to him, and when it did, he would make the proper plans accordingly.

Trancy lay in bed worrying about Trace. He had not yet returned and it was nearly morning. She had not gotten a wink of sleep, but was not tired. She was very alert of every little sound and movement in the forest, and for that reason, was sitting up every few moments. Every noise made her jump with excitement, and lay back down with disappointment when she realized that it was not Trace.
Nothing she did made her fall asleep. She was restless, and it was for that reason, that she went early to get water. Not a soul was awake, but she went anyways, running the whole way there.
She could feel, in her gut, that something went very wrong. She knew that he was still alive, but she did not know if he was okay. What had happened? She did not know the answer, but she still asked it of herself.
As she ran, the soft dirt beneath her feet, she could feel rain coming on. The dark clouds hung over head, looking as gloomy as she felt. She would have to hurry if she did not want to get caught in it.

Almost a week’s time had gone by, and Trace felt more and more every day like he could trust Neron. Though he had seemed mean at first, Trace knew that if was his own fault. He had pushed him, and that had lead to anger. Anger could arise in even the nicest of men, and Trace had seen it arise in Neron.
Every day that they spent together, Trace could feel a friendship forming. He was not yet ready to tell Neron where his people were, but he felt that he could easily trust him with another vital piece of information.
Walking into Neron‘s private quarters, Trace spoke. “King Neron, I have a question to ask you.”
“What is it Mr. Trace?”
Before speaking, Trace took a deep breath. “If an attack was made on your castle, could you win with just a moment’s notice?”
“You mean if it was a surprise? No, we could not. My men, though capable, could not protect the castle if it was attacked. I would not expect them to. I would need more men and more time to prepare my men. A surprise attack is not something I ever think about. Why do you ask Mr. Trace?”
“My people, the Elves, are making plans to attack your castle.”
Neron, suddenly taken by surprise, commented on what Trace had just told him. “When?”
“They plan on making their move on your castle in just under two weeks Sir.”
“How many of them are there? Do they have the numbers?”
“Yes, they do. Not only are the Elves coming to attack, but also the Centars.”
Neron, overwhelmed with what Trace had already told him gasped. “Centars? I thought they were extinct.”
“So did we until about two weeks ago. They do have the numbers, but their biggest advantage is the surprise. I was thinking that since you wanted to live in peace with the Elves, you would also with the Centars. Maybe I can ride back to my village and talk them into not fighting. Though I doubt they will listen to me, I can try.”
“No. They want to fight. Don’t you see, there will never be peace. This war needs to happen. It is for the best.”
A wave of shock went over Trace. What was Neron thinking? “But many could be injured, or worse, killed.”
“This battle must happen. There is no alternative. Mr. Trace, you must pick your side. You can not fight for both your people, and what you think is right. There is no in between, you must choose. It is me, or them?”
Trace, though not regretful of what he had told Neron, wished that the battle did not have to happen, but he was right, it did. “I choose you.”

Trancy could not eat, sleep, or live with Trace being gone. It had been over a week since he had left on his short trip and never returned. There was less than two weeks till the fight, and she could not even concentrate. How could she fight without him by her side? She knew the answer to this question she was asking herself: she could not; she would not.
She had stopped practicing. The only time she ran was when she missed Trace, which was every second of every day. She ran everywhere, trying to escape the feeling of emptiness without Trace; trying to escape the hurt that came from being alone. She ran, but never escaped. She was trapped in her misery.
Every night, she would make dinner for her and her Father, and every night, when she set the table to eat, her Father would take his food and leave. Trancy could tell that something was wrong, and she knew that her Father knew as well. Trace was gone, and they had no clue where he was or where to look. It looked as if Trace Ilaya was gone forever, and could not be brought back.

The count down had begun. It was ten days until the fight, but not a single soul could focus. Trace was supposed to lead them to victory. The legend said: The ones who are strong with the sword, will lead us to victory against the humans.
Trancy knew that the “ones” was referring to her and Trace. They were the only Elves who could use the sword, and would therefore lead their people to victory. It would have been true, but now, now that Trace was missing, she would have to bring her people to victory on her own. It would be hard, but it would be her burden to bare.
If, by chance, Trace came home, they would welcome him back with open arms and, if, by his choice, he wanted to fight, they would allow that. He, after all, was a warrior.

As Fragoo ate his dinner on a small stump outside his home, he thought of Trace. They could still win, but now their spirits were low, and they did not have the faith they use to have. With Trace gone, Trancy had to fight. She was one of the two that would bring them to victory.
Though he had decided not to let her go, they now needed all the help they could get. She could handle it. She was, after all, an Ilaya, and they, by name and bloodline, were known for their courage and strength. This was the reason that he would now allow Trancy to fight in the battle.
When they headed out for battle, Trancy would be standing by his side, and they would fight. They had always believed they were going to win, but now Fragoo was not so sure. He, however, would not let anyone else know that. He had to tell everyone that he believed they would win. If he showed the slightest hint of defeat on his face, they would not be convinced, and they needed to be.
Through his sadness, he had to convince everyone that they could, and would, win, or they would not. He had to show them that he was strong, and they, therefore, would also be. It was how the Elves were.
Despite the hurt inside, he had to be strong. He knew Trace, and he also knew that if things were swapped, and he were the one missing, he would want them to fight. They had waited years to fight, and would not let this stand in their way. Grief had a powerful way of doing that. It would consume you in sadness and anger until finally, you broke free. Fragoo needed to break free now, before it was to late and the battle was lost. He knew they had to fight, Trace or no Trace.

It had been nearly two weeks since Trace saw his family. He missed his Father, but all he wanted at the moment was to run with Trancy. Sure she would beat him, but he loved that. He loved how she fought back with the sword, and out shot him with a bow. He missed how she, though being a girl, was far more capable than him. He missed everything about her.
Though he would give anything to see Trancy, he could not. They were now on opposing teams, but only for a short time. When the Elves came to fight, he would find Trancy and his Father, and tell them of Neron. They would surely swap sides. There was no doubt in his mind what would happen on the day of the long awaited battle for freedom.
With only ten days left till the battle, Neron’s army was preparing. Neron had no plans of loosing. Trace knew that, and thought that they would simply be there in case they did not want to live in peace. Which, in his mind, they would certainly choose peace and freedom over war.
Trace too had been preparing. He no longer ran like he did with Trancy, but he practiced sword fighting with some of Neron’s men. They never fought to the death, they simply pretended. Trance, though he was an Elf, was the best.
Neron saw something in Trace. Though his plan was to kill off all the Elves and Centars, he planned to keep Trace around for a while longer. Trace was a valuable asset. Not only was he strong and smart, he was a master with the sword, and good with the bow. He was worth keeping around for some time. He might be of use in later battles or simply in entertainment. Neron loved to watch sword fights.
When it came time to fight, Neron would go out, staying towards the back, and dare any Elf or Centar who would challenge him to come forward and fight. Of course, they would have to fight to get to him. If they survived, they could battle him. All who came would, of course, loose. There was no denying, in Neron’s mind, that he was the best swordsman there ever was, and would be. No man, Elf, or Centar who dared to fight him would win. Of this, he was sure.

Trancy awoke early in the morning. She had a lot of work to do. They would be going to battle in eight days, and she needed to get ready. She had not been training, and was only a bit out of shape, but she was determined to get back to the level she was at before Trace disappeared..
All hope was lost, she was sure that they would never see Trace again, and was beginning to move on. Every day when she woke up, it was hard to get past the fact that he was gone, but it was part of her normal routine now. No more Trace, that was normal for her and everyone else.
As she walked out to the garden, she noticed Shalai Mann, a very good friend of hers. Since she and Trace had started practicing, they had not hung out together. She, Trace, Pari, and Shalai had always been such good friends.
Shalai too noticed Trancy and made his way over. She was, after all, an old friend. “Hello Trancy,” He called out.
“Hello Shalai, how are you?”
“Oh, I am fine. I just wanted to say how sorry I am about Trace. He was a great friend, and I know I miss him, so you must really miss him.”
Trancy, though she did not like talking about it, felt that she and Shalai had always been close enough, so, sharing her feelings was not a real problem. “Yes. I do miss him, but I can not dwell in the past, we have a battle ahead.”
Shalai chuckled a bit. “You still planning to fight?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, I am,” Trancy said in a matter-of-fact sort of tone that made Shalai laugh.
“Good. I think you will make a good warrior. I have seen you and Trace practicing a couple times around your home; you are good.” Trancy humbled herself. Trace had told her the same thing, but now Shalai was. He was to kind to her.
“Thank you Shalai. I have seen you practice, and you are just as good.”
“Oh, thank you. I just hope Trace comes back. He deserves to fight in the battle. He has trained harder than any other Elf here.”
“I think we all wish he comes back. Everyone is counting on him.”
“He is a good warrior, but he is also a friend. I just am hoping that he is and remains safe.”
Shalai soon left Trancy to her work. He was a good friend. If she could not stand by Trace in battle, she would stand by Shalai.
Not to long after that, Trancy headed inside to make dinner. Tomorrow would mark seven days, one week, till the battle. It was overwhelming at times to think that, now that Trace was gone, the weight of the world was on her shoulders. She now pitied Trace. She also envied him. He had never once complained, yet he knew that every Elf depended on him. He was their source of strength. Trancy, at times, wondered how he woke up every morning, knowing that they all looked to him for the victory. It was quite a heavy burden to bear, but she had to do it. Trace would want her to be strong, so she would be, for him.

Trace looked out the window. The view was lovely. It reminded him of his home. He had always lived in the forest, never even been out until he was taken by Neron’s men. It, though fascinating, was a bit scary at first. Life among the trees was something he was use to, and now, it was something he missed terribly.
Though it was nice in the castle, he sometimes felt like a prisoner. He was not free to leave, or do anything he wanted to. He was only aloud to do as King Neron instructed, which, after a time, got increasingly boring. How he longed for the opportunity to be able run through the forest.
Thoughts of his family and friends filled his mind. He could not wait to see them, and tomorrow, he would. Yes, it was finally here. It was the day he had been training and waiting for since he was but a child.
He would stand up and fight, but not for Neron, for peace. He would fight for his people. Neron was the key to peace, and he would help Trace. Trace was lucky to have met him, for if he had not, who is to say what would have happened to the Elves. There may have been peace, but now that Neron was on their side instead of against them, there would be peace for sure.
Neron would remain on the thrown, and rule the humans, Elves, and Centars alike, in peace. There would be no more war, no more pain and suffering, and no more death. It would be a time of great peace amongst the known world. Trace could hardly wait. The time of peace was almost upon them, and the more he thought on it, the more excited he became.
His people would have peace.

Trancy awoke extra early the next morning, having gone to bed early the night before. Today, they would set out for battle. It was hard to say weather they would fight today or not.
No Elf, with the exception of Trace, had been to the edge, let alone out of, the forest in many years. No one knew exactly how long it took to get there. It could take hours, or even days. Nobody could say either way for sure, so, they would just ride until they got there. They would not make plans to fight today or even tomorrow. They would fight when the time came, and no sooner.
As she packed food and medical items into the saddle bags of her and her Father’s horses, she wished like crazy that there was a third horse, Trace’s horse.
She quickly pushed the thought away. She needed to focus on the fight ahead, not on her brother. Perhaps she would see him again some day, but if not, she was prepared to deal with it. He would not want her dwelling on his wellbeing when she was about to go to war, she knew that.
As she placed the last of the food into her saddle bag, she saw Pari heading her way. Wishing Trace was by her side to defend her against Pari, she stood up straight and tall, preparing to do it herself.
Pari, though not to happy that she was going through with her plan to fight, came over to wish her the best of luck he could offer. “Trancy.”
“Pari,” Trancy replied in a tone that Pari did not like.
“I honestly did not think that you would go through with fighting.”
Trancy knew where he was going with his remarks. “I am not scared if that is what you are referring to.”
“Well, I guess we will just have to see. Many men have made that same remark and gotten scared when it came time to fight. Many have gone home long before the battle even begins.”
“What other battle have you been in Pari?”
“None, but I have heard stories.”
Trancy laughed a little. What had she ever seen in him? He had such a big ego, and was very belittling to her and every other Elf that lived in their small, yet cozy, little village.
“Well, I have work that I must get done. If you will excuse me.” After excusing herself, Trancy headed inside. How could he be so cold? It really did not matter how, the point was that he was cold, and she would have no part of it.
After getting a few more things ready, she was ready to go. With her armor on, sword around her belt, and bow across her back, she awaited the order from her Father to head out. Once they left, the victory would be up to her. She would lead her people to victory and that was that.
Fragoo entered the home, prepared to give the order to leave, but first felt the need to say something to his daughter. “Trancy, even though your brother is not here with us, I thought we should at least celebrate your sixteenth birthday. I asked Mrs. Graccio to make us a cake, and she gladly agreed. I was going to make it myself, but then I thought to myself about the fact that we would be eating the thing, and I can not cook in the least.”
Fragoo placed the small cake of the table, and cut it into a few small pieces. Trancy, before even taking a bite of her cake, got a small container and placed a piece into it.
“Trace deserves a piece to. If and when he ever comes back, we will celebrate with him then.”
Fragoo was amazed. His only daughter, though dressed as a warrior, and heading out to fight, was one of the kindest people he had ever met.
The two sat and ate their cake in silence until it was time to leave, but that was not for quite some time.

Once given the order, Trancy climbed onto the saddle of her horse. It would be a long ride, and it did not help that she was weighted down with armor.
They would not ride their fastest, that would tire their horses before battle; they would simply move slowly till they reached the edge of the forest. Once they got there, they would attack.
Trancy wished like crazy that Trace was there, but it was good to know that Shalai was there. If nothing else, she did feel safe, which was good considering the fact that she could die in the next twenty-four hours. It shocked her how calm she actually was.
Fragoo and Trancy would lead the others to attack, as would Trace if he was with them. As they headed to the front of the army, Fragoo turned to every Elf and Centar who would be fighting with him.
“Today,” he said, “we will fight!”
The crowd cheered. This was the day they had been waiting for, and now, they would get their freedom back. They would no longer feel the need to hide, but they would, instead, be able to leave the forest without the worry that they would be caught and killed by the black knights.
“I know you may be scared, I am too, but we can not let that consume us. We must be calm, or our bravery will fail us. We can and will win this battle.”
Again, they all cheered.
“Men,” Fragoo said to the massive crowd of Elves and Centars, “let us now ride to victory!”
With that, they were off. Each Elf lady and child, and Centar lady and child, watched them ride off through the forest. It was amazing the number of warriors they had to fight. There was no doubt in any mind that they would win.
Some women cried, and some were to busy comforting another to cry. They may never see their beloved husbands or sons again. It truly was a sad day, yet it was also a happy day, for that day, they would have freedom. A mixture of emotions flooded the small village.
Trancy, the only women fighting, was determined to fight her hardest. She would bring her people to victory as was for told long before she was born, long before her Father was born.
Though she was saddened by the thought of Trace being gone, she would fight her hardest for him in battle. He would want her to. She would fight for Trace, as she knew he would do the same for her if things were the other way around. She knew that if he were fighting, he would give it his all and win the battle, securing freedom for Elves and Centars alike.

Things were not quite the same for Trace. Though he was ready, and willing, to fight, he was nervous. What if they did not want peace. Neron promised that he would give them a chance for peace, but Trace was not so certain that they would accept his offer. They did not want peace, they wanted freedom.
As far as the Elves were concerned, they did not need a king. A king was simply a man who wore a crown and sat in a big chair, ordering people around all day. He was nothing more to them than that.
Trace, however, had recently found that Neron did much more than that. He trained for the fight, for as he had told Trace, he would not let his men fight and stay inside watching when there was something he could do about it. Only a coward did not fight, and he was no coward.
As Trace put on his armor, which included his bow and his sword, his thoughts went to Trancy. She would be fighting today, and he would not be there to protect her. He was against her, but though it was his duty, he would not even take a swing at her. She was, after all, his sister, and he would not be the one to take her life. In fact, he planned to kill any man who so much as looked in her direction, whether they were on his side or not.
Trace turned his head when he heard someone enter his room. It was Serge, one of Neron’s personal servants. “Mr. Trace, The King would like a word with you.”
Trace followed immediately, close behind him. Once entering the room where Neron was preparing for battle, Trace bowed slightly and waited for Neron to speak.
“Mr. Trace, how good of you to come. I wanted to ask you if you would be willing to stand by me when we went to battle. You would be in the back of the army, but that would mean that you would only fight the strong ones. The weak Elves and Centars would be done with by the time it got back to us.”
Trace, who had really wanted to help lead the army, knew that he could not refuse. As King, Neron could force him to do it, so he might as well agree to do it instead of being forced into doing it. “It would be my honor.”
“Good. I estimate they will be here in nearly an hour, so be ready. Today, we will fight.” With that Trace exited the room and headed back towards his own. In only an hour, he would battle his own people. It was never something he planned to do, but now that he knew the truth about Neron, he would never go back. Yes, he would fight for his people, but he would fight first for Neron.

Once Trace was gone from his room, Neron thought about the upcoming battle. Without Trace there to help them, and without them having the surprise of the attack on their side, they would lose. Neron would win, but who ever had any doubt about that?
As he thought about the battle, he repeated five simple words: Whoever dares to challenge me. He would say those words when the battle began.
“Whoever dares to challenge me.”

Fragoo and his army could see the edge of the forest up ahead. They would attack very soon, but first, they took time to eat and rest. There wan no sense attacking when one was tired and hungry. It was, after all, a surprise, and could stand to wait five more minutes.
When every man had eaten, Fragoo gave the order. They would begin their ride to the castle, and before any of them knew it, they would be in the middle of a battle.
Climbing on her saddle, Trancy felt strong and powerful. She felt like no one could stop her. It was a great feeling, but she now felt a little fear. What would happen if they should lose? It was not planned for, but it could happen.
If they lost, they would never have their freedom. They would be prisoners, slaves, or they might just be killed. They would be exposed, and there would be no hope for either them or the Centars. All their planning and secrecy would be for naught. They would die under the rule of the miserable Neron. Trancy could not let that happen. They needed to win.
As they neared the edge of the forest, Fragoo called out one last order. “This is it men. We fight for our freedom! Ride like you have never ridden before!”
Elves and Centars alike broke free of the forest for the first time in almost a century. The sun shone on their faces as they rode, and the warmness filled the air. Unlike the forest, the open world was warm and dry, not cool and damp.
Trancy could not help but look up at the sun. She could see it clearly. It was not being blocked by trees, and it was shining directly on their army, as if it was giving them the hope they needed to win this long awaited battle that was now upon them. Trancy turned back to the road ahead.
Flowers all around were blooming and the trees were behind them. They rode on the lush green grass all the way through the small town. The castle was far off in the distance, but they would reach it and the battle would begin soon.
All the townsfolk, when they heard the sound of horse’s hooves, thought it was the black knights and therefore hid. When they saw the Elves and Centars ride through at fast speeds, they kept hidden, for not a one knew what these creatures were. Because they were all poor, many died young, and none of the old survived, so not a one had been alive during the reign of Zarnon. It was for this reason that they feared the massive army of Elves and Centars.
Fragoo, who was focused of the path ahead, did not stop, or even look around, for he was on a mission, and he would not get sidetracked by peasants along the side of the road in the small village. The castle, in the mountains of Garth, was visible to every Elf and Centar. It was their intended target, and they all kept their eyes squarely on it as they rode.

Trace stood next to Neron on the small balcony overlooking their army who was safely hidden behind the walls. They Elves and Centars would have to first come through the wall if they wanted to attack. That in and of itself would not be an easy task for them, but if they wanted to battle, they would have to.
It the distance, they heard the sound of thousands of horses. The time to attack had come. Trace kept his eyes firmly on the hill ahead. They would come over it any moment. Trace knew the army, and knew that its size did not compare to the size of Neron’s army.
Trace kept watch until finally, two lone horses came over the hill, most likely his Father and Trancy. They stopped, surveying the castle. They would have seen the army now, for from the top of the hill, one could clearly see over the wall. They would have known that they now had to fight twice as hard.
Trace saw his Father lift his bow into the air, and it was then that a massive army, whose size amazed even Trace, came bounding over the hill. Trace’s eyes, wide with amazement, kept a firm eye on Trancy. He knew it was her, but she, from that distance, would not be able to see him.
Trace could see Neron come up beside him. “I thought you said they had only a few hundred. There are thousands. They now have the upper hand, and they will never surrender now; they can win it if their men are strong enough.”
“I swear to you King Neron, I had no idea.”
“Yes well, I believe you boy.”
Trace was suddenly alone again. Neron had gone back over to his post, and Trace, once again, found Trancy in the crowd. She was using her sword, almost as well as he remembered, and she was taking down his men as though they were not fighting back. She was quick, and they could not touch her. Trace smiled, though they were not on the same team, he would rout for her any day.
Neron was suddenly back at Trace’s side. “It is time Mr. Trace.”
Trace followed Neron down the long stairs and out into the battle. Neron, who had been practicing, said those words. “Whoever dares to challenge me?”
The battle continued as though no one heard him. It did not make a difference to Neron, if a man wanted to fight him, let him come.

Trancy swung her sword around her head, just as Trace had taught her. She, though just a woman, was taking down Neron’s men and cutting through the crowd faster than any other.
Shalai, though a little slower, was right behind her. He had her back, and she had his. Though Shalai was using a bow and she a sword, they were a good team, though not in comparison to her and Trace.
Neron’s men were falling fast. Not a one was a skilled fighter, simply servants and farm hands from the looks of it. Yes, there were a few skilled fighters, but they were greatly outnumbered. The battle seemed easy so far. No Elf or Centar had been killed, a few injured, but not fatally.
Confidence was on Trancy’s side. She was doing well. She was fighting for Trace, and she was winning.
As she turned to jab another man with her sword, she heard a man call out into the battle. He said, ”Whoever dares to challenge me.”
The man who yelled it was Neron. Trancy looked up at his evil face. She would kill him for Trace. Trancy focused of his face, then those around him. She looked at his servants and slaves dressed for battle. She looked at their eyes, filled with fear, and knew that they were not warriors.
It was then that she caught a set of familiar eyes. They were eyes of a warrior, yet they were soft and kind. Even as they looked back, they told her that they were the eyes of one who was not about to kill unless they had to. They were the eyes of Trace Ilaya.
Trancy called out into the battle. “Trace!”
Trace heard her call, but did not respond. She must focus on the battle and not get distracted by him. They could reunite later.
Trancy fought off man after man in attempt to get to Trace. Why was he there? Was he a prisoner? It did not matter at the moment. She must get to him.

Fragoo also heard the words of Neron, and was determined to be the one to challenge him. He was, after all, the father of Trace Ilaya, the chosen one, and would gladly take Neron down.
Fragoo cut through the crowd like they weren’t even there, killing man after man. He would fight Neron today, and he would win.

Trace had determined in his mind that it did not matter who it was, whoever challenged Neron, would die, with the exception of Trancy, of course. No Elf, Centar, or human would kill Neron. Trace would make sure of that.
“I challenge thee!” Trace hear the word from a familiar face. It was his Father. That, however did not matter. His job was to protect Neron, and he would do that at just about any cause. It did not matter that it was his very own Father. he was a challenger; one who would not get through him.
Fragoo raised his bow to shoot, but did not.
Trace stepped between him and Neron, willing to do whatever it took to protect him. “Shoot me first.”
“Trace?” Fragoo stared at his son in amazement. “Trace, you need to move. Let me kill him and win the battle for us all.”
“I can not let you kill King Neron Father.”
“You are an Elf, not a human. He is not your king, he is no more than the rest of those humans down there. He must die; do you not see that anymore?”
“He can bring us peace Father,” Trace cried out, “That is all you want, and he can give it to you.”
“No, he does not want to bring us peace. He wants us to die. He wants to control us and kill us just as Zarnon did, so I must kill him before he can do any more harm to us than he already has.”
“Then I must kill you Father.” Trace began to step forward, but was stopped.
Trancy stepped between her Father and Trace. “You must go through me first.”
Trace was staring his own sister in the face. “Trancy, get out of here!”
“Kill her boy, kill her!” Neron commanded Trace. “She is in the way of completing your task. Kill her.”
Trace ignored the order from Neron and spoke, once again, to his sister. “Trancy, You must move.”
“Kill me first!”
“You know I can not do that. You must leave now! I do not want to hurt you Trancy.”
“Kill me just as you would kill your own Father. You are not worthy to be called an Elf anymore. You are a traitor and I have never been so ashamed to call you my brother. Now, kill me, and then kill your Father.”
“Trancy you do not know what you are talking about. He can bring us peace.”
“As long as there is a human on the thrown, there can never be pace Trace. You have known that your entire life and are choosing to ignore it.”
Neron lifted his bow and grabbed an arrow. This had to end. He readied himself, aimed, and shot.
Trancy fell to the ground. Neron’s arrow stuck in her shoulder. She was losing blood fast, and could not get it out.
Trace bent down by his sister and pulled. The arrow would not come lose. He turned to Neron. “What have you done?”
“I have ended this, now fight, we can win this battle.”
Trace was filled with anger. He would fight for Neron, but he had never planned on letting it cost him his sister‘s life. “You almost killed my sister!”
“Yes, pity I did not aim a little lower, or I would have.”
Trace, filled with rage, stepped towards Neron. “She was right. You do not want to have peace, you want to kill us all. You have no pity for any of us. You used me to help you win the battle, and I fell for it.”
Trace pulled his sword from his belt and swung it at Neron. Neron blocked. Trace swung again, this time harder, and Sliced open Neron’s leg.
Neron, now limping, swung back. He would not go down without a fight. He swung several times and missed. Neron pulled back his sword and this time, his Trace in the face with the handle, knocking Trace to the ground. Neron made a move towards Trace.
“You are worthless, and I can not believe that I wasted so much time on a lowly little Elf.”
Fragoo joined the fight and defended his son. The two fought, back and forth, for some time before Neron stabbed Fragoo in the chest. Fragoo fell to the ground, barely alive. The pain was almost more than he could bare, but he would not give in to death’s call.
“I hate to leave the job unfinished.” Neron said mockingly stepping towards Fragoo. Lifting his sword up into the air, Neron felt like nothing could stop him. As he began to let his sword drop, he felt a pain in his back. It was the most horrible pain he had ever felt.
The pain was almost unbearable as Neron fell to the ground, Trace’s sword stuck in his back, dying a slow and very painful death.
Trace ran to his Father’s aid, but it was to late. Fragoo was dead, lying in a pool of his own blood. Trace laid his head on his Father’s chest. “I am so sorry Father. This is all my fault.”
Trace forced himself back to the moment and remembered Trancy. Running as fast as he could, he found that Trancy was still alive, but in serious pain. Trace pulled and finally dislodged the arrow from her shoulder.
“Trancy! Trancy! I am so sorry.”
Trancy, who was barely conscious from losing so much blood, managed to reply to what he had just said. “You broke your promise.”
Trace smiled a little. “I know, and I am so sorry. I don’t know how I could have been so blind. You were right.”
Trace looked back down at his sister. She had fallen asleep. Trace, with both arms, picked up his poor sister and carried her to a nearby horse. Once she was on it, he managed to get himself up there as well.

Shalai, busy fighting, saw Trace put Trancy on the horse and came to him. ”Trace? Is that you?”
“Yes. It is me.”
Shalai, in shock replied to what Trace said. “I thought you were dead. We all did.”
Trace knew that he needed to get his sister some help, so said a few last words before he left. “I am okay. You must stay and fight. Win, for our people Shalai. I must get Trancy back to the village if she is going to be okay.”
“No. You stay and fight. They need your help. I will get her back safely.”
Trace thought a moment. His people did need him. “I will stay.”
After Trace had climbed down, Shalai had climbed up and was off. He rode faster than he ever had, and was back at the village in just a few hours.
He lifted her from the horse and carried her into his house. “Mother! Mother, are you here?”
“Shalai? Oh Shalai, what has happened?”
“She was hit in the shoulder with an arrow. I fear that she will die if something is not done immediately.”
“Yes, of course. I think I can save her, but I will need help. Go get Mrs. Jiffen and Mrs. Graccio. Tell them it is urgent.”
Shalai, after placing Trancy on the small bed in his home, ran out the door. After getting both women, he began to head back.
Mrs. Mann went to work on the wound and in no time, the other women were there. Mrs. Graccio went straight to work making soup for Trancy. It would help to get rid of the headache when she awoke.
Mrs. Jiffen, one of the best nurses in town, helped Mrs. Mann clean and sow up the wound. They then proceeded to wrap up he shoulder and before they knew it, she was awake.
Trancy looked around the small mud home. It was practically identical to hers, they all were. There were no pictures, no decorations, just mud plastered on the rounded uneven walls. It was by no means pretty, but it was nice and clean, and for that, Trancy was thankful.
She complained of a headache and said that her shoulder was in a great deal of pain, but that was to be expected. She had been shot with an arrow for goodness sakes.
When Mrs. Graccio and Mrs. Jiffen had gone home, and Mrs. Mann went back to her work, Shalai had a chance to talk to Trancy, and she thanked him. It was brave, what he had done.
“It is no problem. I offered to bring you back so that Trace could stay back and fight.” Shalai got up and grabbed a cup and filled with water. He then handed it over to Trancy who gladly accepted it.
“Oh, thank you.”
Trancy laid her head back and thought about the battle. Was it going well? She could not remember. Was it almost over, or had it just begun? Who was Trace fighting for? Was he still on Neron’s side? What had happened to Neron?
These questions swirled in her mind. She had no answers, but wished she did. Before she knew it, she was tired and falling asleep again.
Shalai remained by her side for hours before he himself dozed off to sleep. Neither awoke for several hours.

Trace, now back on the side that he belonged on, fought Neron’s men. Though Neron was dead, no man would stop fighting. They feared the Elves and did not want them to be free.
He did not want any man to die, but he had to defend his people. If they wanted a war, they would have it. He would fight to the death if he had to, but he would not surrender to them. He was Trace Ilaya, and though he had been on their side of the battle, he was not anymore. He was fighting with the Elves and the Centars, and no man could stop him.
His thoughts never went to Trancy; he knew she was in good hands. He trusted Shalai to get her home safely, and therefore, kept his mind on the battle at hand. When the time came, he would return to the village and see his sister. He would tell her how sorry he was and how wrong he had been. She would forgive him; she always did.
Fewer men were on the battle field than had been there before. Many, after hearing that Neron had died, fled home. They did not wish to die, and would not fight if they did not have a just cause. Trace was glad that many had returned to their families, but many still remained. They believed that they must still fight for Neron. They believed that it was their duty as humans to fight for the king who had so badly mistreated them. Trace sis not know why, but he did not question them; he only battled them.

After several hours of battling the humans, almost all were dead. Those who lived, either surrendered or ran away. None wanted to continue fighting for a lost cause.
Only a few Elves and Centars died, but still, Trace felt as if they were all his fault. If he had not been so foolish, they might still be alive. Though many could have still died, Fragoo would be alive. His Father, the man who raised him, killed on his behalf. Trace, though not willing to let it consume him, felt a certain responsibility now, one he had never felt before.
His Father had always been in charge, everyone knew that, but now that he was dead, it fell on Trace. Though it was a lot to bear, Trace knew that he could handle it. He had no choice. He had to take his Father’s place.
As he and several men rode back to camp, Trace thought. Why had the black knights not fought in the battle? Neron had only the servants and farmers and shopkeepers to protect his castle, but no black knights. It made no sense to him. When going to battle, one should want to put their warriors out there, not their servants.
Trace dismissed it from his mind a rode on, though not in a hurry. The horses were tired from battle, and did not need to be rushed.

Trancy, though still in a great deal of pain, decided that there was no need for her to lay around. She was perfectly capable of heading home and fixing dinner for herself. She would make enough for Trace and her Father, though she did not have a clue when they would be back.
As she headed out of the Mann household, she shut the door behind her quietly. Mrs. Mann would not approve of her being up. She would want her to stay in bed for a few more hours at least.
As she made her way over to her home, she heard the sound of horses in the distance. They were coming back, all of them.
Thinking dinner could wait a few moments, Trancy stood waiting. She soon was joined by many more women and children waiting for the return of their fathers and brothers. Smiles were on all of their faces and they watched the forest.
The smiles soon turned to looks of fear they saw the horses and their riders. It was not the men returning from battle, it was the black knights.
Shalai, being the only man of fighting age there, stood out front. Though he was alone, he would protect his people the best he could.
“Everybody get inside,” Shalai called.
Every woman and child listened to Shalai’s orders except for Trancy. She knew that Shalai could not take them on alone, and planned to fight with him.
“Trancy go,” Shalai called out to her.
“I am not leaving you to battle them on your own Shalai!”
“You must do as I say.”
“You can not win this battle by yourself. I will not go Shalai; I will fight!”
Shalai knew that he could not argue with her. She was willful and would not easily be talked into leaving.
“Fine, but be careful. If anything happens to you, Trace will have my head.”
That was it! They needed Trace! Trancy reached for the charm around her neck and squeezed it. She held it tightly until it began to glow, then, she let it go. It charm hung around her neck, glowing more brightly than the sun. If anything could get Trace there, it was the charm.
Trancy and Shalai stood back to back, and prepared to fight.

Trace Rode slowly through the forest, noticing how beautiful it was. He had not been in it since the day he was taken captive, and he missed it.
The trees were beautiful as they swayed in the wind. The color of the leaves seemed greener than ever, and the coolness welcomed him.
Though it had been less than a month, Trace missed Trancy. Sure, he had seen her in battle, but he had not really seen her. She was busy fighting and so was he. He had gotten her hurt, and for that he was sorry, but now that all was said and done, all that mattered was getting back to her. It did not matter that it was his fault, he had to see to her well being, which meant going back to his home-village.
The covering of the trees gave him security as he rode. He had not felt this safe since he had been back at his home, almost one month in the past, and being back, near the village, he once again felt that very same security.
Riding on, he began to see some familiar landmarks. He was about one hour from his home, if he kept his horse going at a simple trot and no faster.
Looking up, so as he could see where he was going, Trace saw a light. It was probably the brightest light he had ever seen in his entire life.
“Trancy,” he whispered to himself.
Trace then kicked his horse to make it run, and it did. It ran so fast that Trace thought he might fall to the ground, but he did not. He was so focused on getting to Trancy, nothing could stop him.

Trancy, her charm shinning brightly, and Shalai stood back to back. The black knights were closing in on them, but had not attacked yet.
Both were scared, but neither would ever admit that. They had to be strong now, and though they both wanted to hide inside with their families, neither could, but for different reasons.
Trancy was nervous, which amazed her. She had not been this scared when they had gone to the battle which they had, at the time, thought was the big war. Being the big war, it would make since that she would have been more nervous, but she was with her Father, other Elves, and Centars. Now, she was with Shalai, and though that simple fact made her more comfortable than being alone would, she was still scared to death.
As she looked around, all she could see was a blanket of black knights falling on the small village. Both she and Shalai raised their bows and shot. Both were very skilled shooters, so it was not hard to believe that they took out many of the black knights before they even entered into the village.
Once they entered, Trancy dropped her bow and began fighting with her sword. Shalai, since he was not as good with the sword, kept shooting his bow.
Both fought, keeping the black knights away from their homes, and killed many men. Still, they could not fight forever.
Trancy’s shoulder was not treating her well. Seeing as she was shot just a day before, she was not in good shape. Her shoulder hurt like crazy, but that could not keep her from fighting. She had to, once again, protect her people.
Though Neron was dead, he was still coming at them, and they could not stop him. He was still trying to kill them, and he was winning. He had been stabbed, but he was still coming at them, and there was nothing they could do except fight back with all they had.
As they fought the black knights, Trancy knew that it was not going to end well. There was no end in sight. Black knights were all around, swallowing up the small village. They had not gotten into the houses, Elves were good at barricading doors, but they tried. Most, however, were concerned with Shalai and Trancy.
Back to back, Trancy and Shalai stood there. They realized they were surrounded, but were not about to give up. Both stood still, as did the black knights.
Finally, after some time, one spoke. “It has been said by humans and Elves alike that there are two, one good with a bow, and one with a sword, who will lead their people to safety. Now, I presume that you are the two?”
Trancy, not about to let Shalai be captured spoke up. “I am one, but he is not. He is simply trying to protect our people.”
“Where then is the other?”
“At battle this very moment with your king. He plans to smite Neron for the freedom of every Elf. Right now, he is prepare to kill your king.”
The leader looked around and laughed. “Do you not think that I already know about the battle? We have defeated the Elf army, along wit the Centars, and have now come for the chosen one. We have come for you.”

Trace rode through the forest faster than he had ever ridden. As he neared the village, he heard noise, but the light, Trancy’s charm, was gone. There was no bright light. There hadn’t been for quite some time, but still, Trace rode on.
As he came to a stop in the center of the village, he saw only women, children, and Shalai.
“Shalai, where is she?”
Shalai, obviously not well at the moment, looked up at his good friend with a look of horror on his face.
“The black knights, they rode through here and, Trace, they took her. I tried to stop them, but I could not.”
Trace, though worried about his sister now more than ever, climbed down from his steed.
“Shalai, It is not your fault. I should have never told Neron anything. I was wrong. You must not get upset. You tried to save her, but could not. Now, however, you will.”
Shalai looked up at Trace. “How am I to save her when I do not have the slightest clue where she might be?”
“We will find her. When we see the light, we will leave.”
Both men went inside the small hut and ate some potato stew cooked by Mrs. Mann. She had prepared it for all the men returning from battle, and when they got there, they would eat it as well.

Trancy sat in a dark, dirty, smelly cell. She did not know where she was, but she knew that it was heavily guarded, and it was for that reason that she was scared to hold her charm.
She wanted to signal Trace, but did not know if she should. If they saw the light, they would take it away, and mislead Trace. They would no doubt set a trap for him upon his arrival. That, she could not handle.
Still, the thought of having Trace with her was overwhelming. The more she thought, the more she decided that it was worth it to hold her charm until it glowed brightly.
Holding it in her hand, she saw the first gleams of light seep through her fingers. Taking a deep breath, he let go, hoping that nobody would notice. To her advantage, they did not.
As she sat in the cell, lonely as she had ever been, she hoped that Trace would come to her aid soon. It was all that she needed, all that she wanted, and she knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he would come and rescue her.

“Shalai, Shalai, wake up. The light from her charm, I can see it.”
Trance stumbled over to his horse and climbed on.
“Trace, I see nothing. There is not light.”
Stumbled, Trace, once again, pointed to where it was. “Do you not see it? It is more bright than the sun.”
“I still see nothing.”
Trace did not know why Shalai did not see it, but decided to leave anyway. “Are you coming to save Trancy, or are you staying here with your family? The choice is yours alone.”

Trancy sat alone in the small room. Though it was no longer dark, considering the fact that her charm was now lit up, she still felt like she was in a small, dark cell.
Her Father had once told her that whenever she needed help, she could hold the charm tightly in her hands, and help would come. She did not doubt what her Father had said, but still, she wondered if anyone was coming. It was, after all, the time of the great battle. Trace could very likely still be at war.
Nothing scared her more than never getting out of the small room. It was freezing cold, it was lonely, and she knew that at any minute, one of the black knights could come in and kill her. That was the most terrifying thing in the world to Trancy.
As she sat there alone, she thought. This whole time, coming back, healing, and being, once again, taken away from everything she loved, she assumed that Trace had rejoined the Elves and Centars. What if he had not? If he was still fighting for Neron, the Elves and Centars would definitely loose. Without either her or Trace, there was almost no hope of winning.

Shalai, though he still saw no light, hopped on his horse, prepared to follow Trace to all ends of the earth to find Trancy. It was his fault that she was gone, and he had to do something to bring her back. He had been right there, fighting along side of her, and when they had taken her away, sure he fought back, he even killed a man in attempt to get her back, but he had failed.
As they exited their small village, they could see people coming out of their homes. Many still remained inside, fearing what the black knights would do if they were still there. Still, many came out and watched the two ride off together into the dark lonely woods in their search of poor Trancy. Though the chances were slim, they would not give up all hope of finding her and bringing her back to the village safely. They could not give up, no matter what the circumstances.

As Trancy sat alone, as she had been doing for what seemed like days, but was most likely just a few hours, she thought of many things. She thought of the battle and how she was proud to have fought, even if it was only for a short time. She thought of how she had thought Trace was dead, but he turned out to be quite alive.
She thought of her entire life. She thought about her birthday over a year ago. It now seemed like only a few weeks or months ago, but in reality, it was quite a while in the past.
Looking down at her hand, more specifically the ring that sat upon it, she thought of Pari. She thought about how she once swore she loved him. Now, however, she could not even picture herself close friends with him, let alone being married to him.
Trancy slowly slipped the ring from her finger and held it up to the light. It was a good ring, nicely crafted and all, but the more she looked at it, the more she realized that she could not wear it any longer. Pari gave it to her back when he thought he loved her, but now, considering all that had taken place between then and now, how could she war it? She could not.
Trancy placed the small wooden ring in the barred window. She shared at it for quite some time, though if one was to ask her why, she would not know the answer. Maybe it was boredom, maybe it was the fact that for almost a year, she had not taken the ring off, though which, she did not know.
Looking down, away from the ring, Trancy noticed her charm starting to fade. Grabbing the thing, she held it tightly in her hand to bring back the glow. It worked. Though she did not know when, Trancy knew that Trace would come. No matter what side of the war he had been on, and was currently on, he would come to her rescue. He had promised.
As she sat back against the hard wall, she slowly drifted off to sleep, though it was not a peaceful sleep. It was the kind of sleep one gets when they are taken captive and put into a small cement room. Though sleep would not entirely take her, she would at least be rested, and that was what she needed most, besides rescuing of course.

Shalai rode faster than he had ever ridden, but he still found it hard to keep up with Trace. Trace was fast and determined, just like Shalai was, but Trace had a guilty conscience.
Though they had taken Trancy while Shalai was there, Trace was the one that had told Neron about the attack, and that made him responsible for anything that happened as a result, good or bad.
As they rode, Trace kept his eyes firmly on the light, not taking notice of anything else. At the moment, other things were not important to him.
Shalai had told him that he did not see the light, which Trace found odd. It was the brightest light he had ever seen. They had been following it for more than three hours, and still, it shown just as brightly as when he had first seen it.
As it got darker, Trace began to keep his eyes of the forest as well as the light ahead. If there were black knights there, he needed to know. He did not want to be attacked, and knew that it would be better to see them before it was to late.
Though they were riding at speeds that Shalai had never been at, he still was able to think. What if Trancy was not alright? Though Trace would have a big responsibility, so would he. He was the one that went back with her, and he was the one that did not protect her like he should have. Trace would never blame him, but he would blame himself.

Nearing the edge of the forest, though nowhere near Neron’s castle, both Shalai and Trace slowed down. They could not come racing out of the forest, that would look conspicuous. No, they would simply ride out slowly.
They would come out near Halven, known for thieves and drunkards, and start asking questions. For a good enough price, any man would talk. Though they might not get a lot of information, someone had to have seen something, and would surely share what they knew.
Once they got the information they needed, they would go wherever they needed to in order to find Trancy. Of course, they would have to be careful, considering what kind of place Halven was, but they needed information.
Trace knew that they could follow the light all the way there, but they would not know exactly what they were up against. How many black knights were there? They had no idea, but that was something they could find out in Halven. Another thing they could find out is: did they have Trancy with them, or did they discard her sooner? The people of Halven may not know everything, but they had to know something.
As the twosome emerged from the dense trees, they soaked in the sunlight. The grass was not quite so green in Halven as it was near Neron’s castle. It was more of a bluish color, but still, it was plush, soft, and it also enjoyed the sunlight.
There were flowers that neither man had seen in their lives. They were in shades of purple, blue, red, white, and so much more. If nothing else, Halven was beautiful.
The smell of the air was fresh, not stale like the air of the forest, though both knew that that would all change one they got into the city. The smell would be dirty. It would smell of alcohol and tobacco, which neither was use to.
The sights would not be pretty. There would be men, passed out from their heavy drinking, lying in ditches and roads all over town. There would be nothing nice about the inner city, but it would give them information, and that was worth going in.
Coming up on the town, both Shalai and Trace looked at each other. This was it. They were ready to get information, but they had to be careful. When in Halven, there was only one rule to live by: Watch your back at all times.
Tying their horses on the posts, both men went inside the tavern. Though not the most pleasant place in the town, if was the source of all knowledge and gossip. That was the place that they would get information.
The tavern was rather large, but then it had to be, considering the amount of people in the town. It was rather full on this day, and that was a good thing. Information was here, they just had to find it.
Sitting down at a small table in the corner, they scouted out the place. Neither would drink unless they had to, but they still had to blend in, so they ordered drinks.
Once the drinks arrived, they first headed over to where an older man, small in size, and sat down.
The older man looked up, not dazed at all, meaning that he had probably not had to many drinks, and welcomed them to his booth.
“Name’s Vant, what can I do for you boys?”
Shalai looked him straight in the face and answered. “Truth is, we are looking for some information. We hoped you could help us.”
Vant leaned forward, obviously curious to what they wanted. “What kind of information are we talking about now?”
Trace, though cautious, was not about to hold back information from this man. “Black knights, you see them ride through here lately?”
“No, I did not, but I heard a rumor that they came through here a couple days back with a girl. I heard that they kidnapped her as a bride for Neron, but that is all just hearsay. I can not be sure if any of that is real or not.”
“Who did you hear it from?”
Vant set his drink down and pointed over to a small table where a lone young man sat. “If anyone knows anything about it, he will.”
“Thank you for your time,” Shalai said before standing up and heading over to the lone man. Trace followed.
“I will introduce you,” Vant called to them from his seat.
Trace and Shalai sat across from the man. He appeared to be in his mid to late twenties, but they could not be sure.
The man across the table, when they had sat down, took a sip of his drink and turned to them. He did not appear to be that friendly, but then again, they were in Halven. Nobody was friendly.
Vant, appearing to know the man, talked to him a little before turning the conversation over to Trace and Shalai.
After turning to them, he did not speak, just listened to what they had to say. After hearing them out, he spoke. “I saw a group of black knights come through here, and yes, they did have a girl with them. I heard that she was to be Neron’s wife, poor thing.”
“How many were there?” Shalai asked.
The man looked at him. “I am going to be honest with you. There were more than I could count. I have never seen that many in my life, and I have seen quite a few. I think that girl is pretty special if Neron sent out most, if not all, of his black knights for her. They looked as if they were headed out to Mount Kismet.”
Trace, wide-eyed as ever, stared at the man. They could never take on that many black knights with just the two of them, only a fool would try. They could go back and get the Elves that they had fought alongside of in the great war, but that would mean adding almost four more days onto their already long trip. They could not do that.
The man was curious. Who would wonder such things? “Why are you searching for the black knights?”
Trace only stared at him.
“Who is that girl?”
Again, Trace only stared.
Shalai took that moment to speak. “The girl whom you saw is named Trancy Ilaya. She is Trace here’s sister.”
Shock took hold of the man’s face. “Ilaya? That is an Elfish name.”
Now is was Shalai’s turn to stare.
“You mean, you are Elves?”
Trace, after a long silence, spoke. “Yes, we are Elves, and we need to find my sister. It is because of me she was taken. I made a promise that nothing bad would ever happen to her, no harm come to her. That promise has been broken, and now I must save her.”
The man was taken by Trace’s willingness to fight the black knights for his sister. It took bravery, something most men only dream of.
“Thank you for your time,” Shalai said to both men as they stood to leave.
Though he knew he might regret it, the man stood as well and followed them.
Trace turned to the man. “Was there something else Mr.….?”
“Gilron, my name is Gilron, and yes, there is something.”
Both Shalai and Trace stared at the man again.
“I would like to come with you.”
Trace, though grateful someone was willing to help, was not sure he could be trusted. “No thank you Mr. Gilron. We will be fine on our own.”
Shalai pulled Trace to the side. “We need him Trace. We can not take on the black knights on our own. We need help, and he can get us that.”
Trace thought a moment. They did need help, but they did not even know him. Who was he? They did not know. “Are you any good with a sword Mr. Gilron?”
Gilron smiled. Pulling his sword from his belt, he demonstrated his skills. Though they were not as good as either his or Trancy’s skills, they were some of the best Trace had ever seen.
Trace turned and began to walk down the road.
Gilron stood in amazement. He knew that he was good with the sword. How could this young Elf turn down his help?
Trace, after a few moments, turned back. “Are you coming Mr. Gilron? We can not wait all day for you?”
Gilron, after putting his sword back at his side, quickly caught up the them. The threesome walked until they reached the spot where Trace and Shalai tied up their horses. Unfortunately, they were no longer there.
“What did you Expect?” Gilron stated plainly. “You are in Halven. Did you really thing you could tie your horses up and they would not be stolen?”
“Apparently so,” Shalai replied.
So, with no horses, no food, no anything, the tree set off to find Trancy. Neither Shalai nor Gilron could see the light emanating from Trancy’s charm, they trusted Trace to get them there safely.
Gilron, who at first thought in crazy that only Trace could see the charm, did not question them. It had been his choice to come, and he would not complain.
Leaving behind his old life was something that he never thought possible, but now that he was leaving Halven, possibly forever, he felt as though is was possible all along. He had just never been in the right place at the right time, until he met Trace and Shalai.

Trancy sat, hour after hour, day after day, in her tiny cell. It was cold, wet, and gross, and that made her want to leave. She could wait for Trace, but how long in would take him to get to where she was, she did not know. For all she knew, he could have been killed in the bloody battle against the humans that she remembered so little of.
Still, she would not give up hope that he was alive. Somehow, she knew he would see the light and come to her. He would find her and rescue her.
Though she knew all of that to be true, the longer she stayed in the tiny cell, the lonelier, hungrier, and worse she felt. Since the cell was by no means clean, Trancy knew that she would most likely get sick if she did not get out of it.
For the last few days, she had been watching. The only way to escape would be to wither try to pick the long, or escape while one black knight brought her food. They did that every day, and though it was very little, it was what got her through the day.
The more she thought of getting out, breathing in that fresh air, the better the idea seemed to her. She would try to escape, even if it meant death came to her in the process.

The first few days, Gilron had a hard time keeping up with Trace and Shalai. Trace walked toward the light, the one that Gilron did not see, with great speeds, and Shalai had grown accustom to it. That meant Gilron lagged at all times.
Trace knew that it would be a long journey, and the black knights had the advantage. They were on horseback, and they had almost two days advance. This put them on higher ground that Trace, Shalai, and Gilron.
Trace followed the light with great persistence, almost never stopping. Each night, they got almost four hours of sleep before he was waking them. Neither minded. They had agreed to come, and they knew that Trace was getting less sleep than they were.
Though they had no food, they stopped when they could, enjoying barries, greens, and the occasional fish. Each was very hungry, but ate little. They did not have much, so sparing it was a good idea. Trace, however, almost never ate. It was for that reason that both Shalai and Gilron were worried about his health.
He still looked good, not getting sickly, but he did not act well. The longer they went, the worse he got.
“Try and keep up will you?” Trace shouted from the top of the large, grassy hill.
Shalai and Gilron did their best to keep up but failed. Trace walked so fast, and neither could catch him without running, and that they could only do for a short time without being tired.
Trace, standing at the top of the hill, wished he could go ahead, but it was to risky. He knew there were many black knights, and he knew that he could not fight alone. He needed them, but still, he wished they would keep up.
They had been following the light that came from Trancy’s charm for days, and they had still not come upon it. It was still in the distant. It was at times like this when he wished they still had horses to ride.
Though he wanted to get to his sister, he tried to be understanding. Neither of the others felt the burden he did. Neither wanted to find her so much. Neither felt the responsibility that he carried on his weary shoulders day after long, exhausting day. Still, they could be a bit faster.
Trace pushed the thought from his mind and continued on when Shalai and Gilron reached the top of the hill. He would not dwell on that, he would dwell on Trancy. She needed him to.

Trancy woke up from a long sleep, though not a peaceful one, and prepared herself for what the day would bring. “Today,” She whispered to herself. “Today, I will escape.”
She readied herself for it, but she admitted several times to herself that she was nervous. She had to take down at least one, maybe more, black knight and escape without being caught. More importantly, she had to find Trace before he got to where she was. That would not be an easy task.
All night she had worked and was able to break off a small piece of the stone wall. It was no bigger than a man’s fist, but it would suffice.
As the broad-shouldered man walked in with her food, she began to shake. The black knight took her food over to the small bench and set it down. That was her chance. Since his back was turned to her, she went over and his him fiercely in the back of the head. The man fell to the ground.
Turning around, satisfied with the job she had done, she saw another black knight coming at her. Before she could hit him, he hit her, knocking her to the ground, but she was still okay. Standing up, she slammed the chunk of rock against the man’s wide face. He also fell to the hard ground.
Making sure to grab their swords, she ran out the small doorway. Seeing no other black knights around, she ran for the forest. Not until she was out in the open though, did she realize that many black knights had spotted her. She ran for all she was worth.
Now, since humans are masters of the sword, no the bow, they only used swords, which meant if Trancy stayed ahead of them, she would most likely be safe. So stay ahead of them she would.
Trancy was in her element. Running for all she was worth was something that she had trained for alongside Trace. She could and would outrun the black knights. Of that, she was sure.
Once she hit the forest, Trancy knew that she could hide amongst the trees if she was not able to outrun them, but unless she had to, she would not stop to hide.
Trancy ran, only looking back once, which served as a mistake. She fell, but that did not stop her. Seeing the black knights gaining, she quickly got up off the ground, not caring if her clothed were now soiled, and ran.
As she hit the trees-went into the forest-she kept running. She, of course, had to avoid tree roots, holes, and other things that might cause her to, once again, fall.
These woods, however, were not like hers. The trees were different, along with everything else. It was darker, colder, and it was like a swamp. She avoided the deep ones, but running through puddles of water was inevitable.
She also noticed quick sand, which she was careful to avoid. If she fell in, she would most likely die. That did not sound as good as getting freedom.
After running for quite some time, Trancy saw that they were no longer following her. She could not see them, and she could not hear them.
Putting her hand over her heart to calm her breathing, Trancy realized something. Her necklace-the one with the charm-had disappeared. “It must have fallen off when I fell back there,” Trancy said.
Deciding that it would be best to wait a few moments, just to make sure it was safe, Trancy decided to sit down and rest her legs before going back to look for it. Picking a nice looking tree, she sat down against it, but not for long. Next thing she knew, she was falling.
After falling for only a few seconds, she landed, hard. Thankful to see that she landed on grass and not rock, Trancy looked up. There surrounding her, were creatures that she had never seen, never heard of.
One of the small creatures looked down at her before saying, “Welcome to Theldore.”

Trace, Shalai, and Gilron walked on. Their journey had been almost five days, but it seemed much longer than that.
Trace could tell they were nearing the light. He saw, in the distance, mountains, and the light which Trancy wore around her neck was in them, but not to far up.
“Another day’s journey and we will be there,” Trace told his two companions, who, by this point, were accustom to walking at Trace’s pace and had no trouble whatsoever keeping up with him.
A sigh of relief shook Shalai. They were almost there, and even though that meant fighting some of the most skilled fighters there were, it also meant they were closer to rescuing Trancy.
Trace told them that the light was in the mountains, and before long, the three spotted small buildings deep within them. That ensured that it would not be much longer before they could save Trancy and go back to the village. Those two things, and them alone is what kept Trace and Shalai going.
Gilron, on the other hand, was in is for the adventure. Sure, he wanted to save the poor girl, but this was the token he needed. Twenty-two years he lived in Halven, waiting for adventure to come his way, and now, after all those years of waiting, it had come to him.
It did not mean that he had no intentions of saving the girl and helping Trace and Shalai, but it meant that after, he would have stories to tell, stories like the ones his grandfather use to tell him. He would tell children everywhere of this journey, and how he fought the black knights and saved a girl from their evil clutches. That is what kept him going. That is what made him take one more step than the last even though he felt too weary to go on. That is what made him follow Trace and Shalai to the ends of the earth, following some light that neither he or Shalai could see. That is why he went.

As he neared camp, Pari heard the silence. It was uncommon for an Elf village to be so quiet, and immediately he knew something was wrong.
Dismounting his horse, Pari found his Mother and went to her. She, after a few moments, explained what she knew. Pari was stunned. How could this have happened?
Immediately he knew that something had to be done, but what? They did not know where they went, but there might be a way they could find out. His Mother had told him that they headed towards Halven.
“Maybe someone saw them and could tell you where they went,” She told her son.
Knowing that was the only way, Pari and many other soldiers-though more like dozens-headed in the direction of Halven. Though he was always as nice as he should have been, Trace, Trancy, and Shalai were his friends, and he planned to help.

Trancy, not knowing who or what the small bearded creatures were, was more frightened than she had ever been. For almost a minute, she sat in silence and watched them. They, however, watched her back.
“Who are you? What are you?” Trancy asked, her voice a bit shaky, but that could have just been from the fall.
“My name is Burly. I am what one might refer to as a Dwarf. We, however, find that name condemning and prefer to be called Minutants, seeing as that is our rightful name.”
“Where am I?” Trancy asked, but was a little afraid of the answer, remembering the one he had just given her.
“Did you not listen? I said ‘Welcome to Theldore’.”
“Theldore? I’ve never heard of it.”
“Well now, you have.”
Both stared at each other until Burly broke the silence with a question. “You mind telling me what it is you were doing sitting against our door?”
“I did not know it was your door. I simply thought it was a tree. Well, I did until I fell that is,” Trancy said. Looking up to see where she had fallen from, she saw that it was not very far, yet she was now sore, and knew she would be more so later.

Pari and many other soldiers rode through the forest and reached Halven in a matter of hours, same as Trace and Shalai.
Pari knew stories of Halven and knew that if one wanted information, they should always go to the tavern. Someone always knew something, and that would be the best place to start.
Tying their horses up, Pari and two others went in while the others stayed outside and watched the horses. Pari knew that Halven was a place of thieves and knew that one must never leave anything unattended for fear of it being stolen from them. It was for that reason that many stayed outside.
Pari, along with Rosha and Nero, entered the tavern and started asking questions. It seamed that nobody knew anything about Trace, Trancy, or Shalai. All was beginning to look hopeless.
Seeing a young man sitting in the corner, Pari, along with the two others, made his way over. They started questioning him immediately, but learned that he knew nothing. Deciding they would leave and try another place Pari got up from the table and headed to the door.
“Did I hear you were looking for Trace and Shalai?” A small timid voice called out.
Pari turned to see a small old man sitting at a table by the door. “Yes you did Sir. Do you have information concerning them?”
“Call me Vant,“ He said. “Anyways, they were hear a few days back. They were asking about black knights. I guess they wanted to save some girl, Trace’s sister I think.”
“That’s right. Do you know where they went?” Pari asked, eager to get any information he could.
Vant scratched his head. “They talked about that with Gilron.”
“Yes,” Vant told Pari. “He is a friend of mine, quite young, though not as young as you. Anyways, he went with them. He wanted to help I guess.”
Pari quickly diverted back to the question had asked. “Did you hear where they were headed?”
“Yes.” Vant thought a moment before continuing. “It was Mount. Kismet. They were headed there. I heard them say that there were so many black knights they could not could them. I think they are planning to fight.”
Pari thanked Vant for his time and started towards the exit.
Vant quickly stopped him. “If you are a friend, you better ride fast. They stand no chance against those black knights.”
Pari, again, thanked him and went on his way. It would be dark soon, but they could not stop. They had to get to Trace and Shalai before they got themselves killed. That was their mission, and they would do nothing less.

Trancy, though she was still not totally comfortable, found that Theldore was a rather nice place. The Minutants were growing on her. They were friendly, and nothing like the Dwarves in the stories she was told.
After talking with Burly’s wife Vinnie, she was certain that the black knights would not find her, but then, neither would Trace. It took some time, but she decided to wait a few days, and then head out to look for Trace.
Only a few hours after entering Theldore unexpectedly, she ate dinner with Burly, Vinnie, and their two children: Hullen who was eight and Lilan who was five-Hullen being a boy, and Lilan a girl. The entire family was so kind, and Trancy simply adored both children.
She ate a lot, though not more than the others, for by nature, Minutants eat a lot. The dinner was fish and potatoes, no greens though. Trancy, however, did not care. It was food, and she did not have to eat it in a cell.
When it was time to retire for the evening-almost three hours later-Trancy fell asleep almost immediately on their tiny spare bed. They had apologized many times for how small it was, but Trancy did not care. She had been sleeping on stone in a small, stinky cell. Having a bed, though it was a little small, was a treat.
After a long day, Trancy was glad to have somewhere soft to sleep. She hated the thought of sleeping in someone else’s house, especially someone who she did not know well, but it was better than sleeping in a cell, or out on the cold, hard ground. Besides, Burly’s family seemed like they were very nice. Honestly, she trusted them.

Awaking early, only about three hours after he fell asleep, Shalai stood up. He did not want to disturb Trace, who desperately needed his sleep, so he wandered off a little bit.
The threesome had gotten about halfway up the mountain side, and had just a little bit left today. Shalai decided to scout ahead.
Peering over the edge, he saw directly into their camp. Nobody was awake yet, except for the guards, of course. They stood, very alert, sword in hand, and watched. Luckily for Shalai, none spotted him.
After determining where Trancy was, he snick back down to where Trace and Gilron lay. Trace did not stir, but Gilron did. The two talked for quite some time before deciding to go out and get food. Shalai stayed with Trace while Gilron did that.
Once they had eaten breakfast, they would make their move. It would not be easy, but they had no choice. It had to be done.

Pari rode on. He had not slept all night, none of his men had. Yes, they were tired, but they could sleep when they got back to the village.
In the distance, they could see mountains forming. They would be there by sunup. Upon arriving, they did not have a plan, but they would figure it out when the time came.
Though he knew it would not be easy, he had once loved Trancy. He still did, just not in the way he had before. She was still his friend, and he would rescue her, or at least help in the rescue. He knew that much.
Pari quickly pushed all thoughts from his mind and rode. He would have enough to think about when he got there, besides, even though they were in the forest, they still had to be careful. If they were spotted, all plans made would be ruined.

Trace awoke to the smell of fresh berries. Though he did not want to waste time, Shalai and Gilron had convinces him that he needed his strength, which meant eating. He was not about to argue. If it would help rescue Trancy, he would do anything.
The sunrise was beautiful that morning. The reds and oranges and purples blended beautifully with the bright blue sky. This was not the sky that usually settled when a battle was about to begin, still, it gave Trace hope. The light could no longer be seen, most likely because of the mountain rock in between him and it, but he knew it was still glowing.
Trace looked up at the sky one more time. He hoped that Trancy was looking at it as well. She would think it was beautiful. He knew that much.

Trancy watched the sunrise through a small window that appeared to be just a small hope from outside. She saw its beauty and immediately thought of Trace. If he could see that, which she was sure he could, he would love it.
He loved that sort of beauty. Sure, she was fond of it, but he had always been the type to stop if he saw a beautiful flower, stream, or even a sunrise. He loved nature more than anyone else she knew.
It was then that she began to, once again, miss him. She knew that he was coming for her, but still, she longed to see him.

Pari and his men reached the bottom of the mountain just as the sun rose. Because of the torturous rocks, and the steep slopes, they were forced to leave their many horses at the bottom, but once tied to a tree, they could retrieve them later.
As the men began to climb, they quickened their paces when a black knight fell off the cliff above them. Many were forced to dodge it.
The fact that he had an arrow in him, meant that the battle was still going on, and at least one was still alive.
Hoping that they would not be to late, the men climbed faster than they had ever climbed. They climbed over rock and sharp edges and small cliffs before they reached the small campsite.
“This is where they spent the night. We are getting close,” Pari said to the men that followed closely behind him.

Shalai, after shooting a black knight in the chest, watched him fall over the edge. He, Trace, and Gilron had just attacked. It was barely light, and many had not woken up, that made it a good time to attack.
Trance, though wanting to rush directly over to where he knew Trancy was, fought. He took down black knight after black knight in attempt to rescue her.
His mind, however was preoccupied with her, and he was not concentrating, which was a bad idea. He took out several men before he tripped over a large stone and fell on his back.
Shalai and Gilron never noticed. They simply kept fighting. Trace on the other hand, had several swords pointed at him, and could not do anything. He just lay there, hoping that Trancy would make it out okay, even if he did not.
Suddenly, many of the men were taken down by arrows, to many for Shalai to shoot at once. Looking up, Trace saw Pari Jiffen. Many of the Elves fought, but Pari came immediately over to help Trace up.
“What are you doing here?” Trace asked.
“You did not think I would let you fight alone did you? We were best friends Trace. I am not going to let bad judgment on my part ruin that. In truth, Trancy and I are meant to be friends, and that is all. I should have never let that come between us.”
Trace, though the battle was going on, held out his hand. Pari grasped it and shook.
It was not until they were almost hit did they return to the battle. Both, fighting back to back, took down man after man, until there were very few left.
“Go!” Pari yelled. “We can finish them off. Go and get Trancy and let’s get out of here.”
Trace nodded and ran to the small cell. Once he had it open, which took some time, he ran in. Unfortunately, she was not there. He looked around frantically. Where could she have gone?
After a few moments of pure panic, Trace noticed the small wooden ring in the window. He ran to it. She had left them a clue.
Pari fought off the black knights, and did not stop until every last one was dead. After that, he looked up to find Trace walking toward him, but Trancy was not with him.
“Where is she?” He asked.
“Not here, but look.” Trace held up the ring. “I found this in the window of that cell over there. She was here.”
Pari took the ring in his hand. It was the one he had made her for her fifteenth birthday. “Do you think she got away?” Pari hoped so.
“I am not sure,” Trace admitted.
“Did you find her?” Shalai called out as he walked over to where Trace and Pari were, Gilron right behind him.
Trace held up the ring. “We have to assume she got away. It is possible you know.” They all agreed. “We will continue looking for her. Be on the lookout though. If she did get away, there will be black knights out looking for her. Do not run into them unprepared,” Trace warned.
All nodded and Trace knew they agreed.
“If she went anywhere,” Pari told the others. “She would have gone into those woods there. There is nowhere else to go from here.”
Trace knew that was true. If she did not go into the woods, she would have had to go up or down the mountain, and that, would not be so easy.

Trancy woke the next morning refreshed. She had a better night’s sleep that she had in almost a week at the Burly household.
Breakfast was already prepared when she woke up. Sitting down at the small table, the family, plus Trancy, ate. They simply had flat bead for breakfast, and Trancy enjoyed it. She was use to fruit or greens for almost every meal, so the flat bread was a nice treat to have.
Trancy complimented several times on the breakfast. Vinnie was a good cook. The family, especially Vinnie, thanked her.
It was during breakfast that Trancy told them of her plans to leave. She would leave first thing after breakfast, and make her way home. Burly would have none of it.
He told her how dangerous things could be, and insisted that someone go with her. She reluctantly agreed. She did not want to take someone from their family, but Vinnie told her it was going to be alright.
Vinnie said that Grimond, an old friend, should accompany her. She even suggested that they take the shortcut that lead to the bottom of the mountain to avoid and confrontation with the black knights.
After Vinnie packed a satchel of food for each,-Grimond’s much bigger than Trancy‘s- they would leave through the small passageway that would lead them to the bottom of the mountain where they would make their way to the small village.
It would not be an easy journey, but they would be okay in the end. Grimond knew the passageway better than anyone, and could easily return her to her village safely.

After instructing the men to tie up any soldiers that were still alive, the foursome left the camp and headed for the woods not to far off. They would get there quickly if they hurried.
As they ran, Trace saw something up ahead and ran to it. Bending over, he picked it up and knew instantly what it was. “Trancy’s charm,” He said. “It’s not glowing. No wonder I could not see the light any more. On top of that, she is no longer wearing it. Why?” He asked.
The three did not know how to answer. They simply watched Trace as he held it in his hands. “You were right Pari,” He told his friend. “She did run.” They watched as he placed it around his neck and then began to move forward.
Before they knew it, they were entering the forest. Almost every one of them was nervous. What if black knights were in the forest searching for her? Trace, however, did not worry even a little bit. He had fought black knights before, and he would gladly do it again. If it meant getting Trancy back, he would do anything.

Trancy, after saying goodbye to Burly, Vinnie, Hullen, and Lilan, went into the secret passageway. It was dark, cold, and just as gross as the cell the black knights kept her in, but still, she was willing to enter it. It would take her home, and that is what made her follow.
Grimond lead the way through the large cave-like tunnel. They went mostly straight until they came to the stairs. The stairs, though not terribly steep, were windy and narrow. The journey down them did not seem like very much fun, but it had to be done.
Giving Grimond a few steps before she took her first one, she stepped down on the narrow step. She was by no means afraid of heights, but the stairs certainly frightened her. They were so high that she could not see the bottom. All she could see was stair after stair after narrow stair. At the bottom, was fog, so it was hard to say when exactly the stairs ended, so she did not try to guess. She only climbed down them, hoping the whole time that neither she or Grimond would fall to their very painful deaths.
Pushing the thought of death from her mind as quickly as she could, they both continued down the winding stairs.

Trace, Shalai, Gilron, and Pari walked through the forest at a very slow pace. They were not use to these kinds of woods. Everywhere they looked, there was a sharp, jagged rock, or a tree root sticking up, just waiting to trip some lost soul.
These were not pleasant woods. They also noticed the quick sand, and tried to avoid it. None of them wanted to fall in, so it was just better to stay away from it all together.
They had walked through the forest for almost half a day before they heard or saw anything. “Did you hear that?” Gilron whispered.
“No,” was everyone’s answer.
A sudden movement in the bushes near them startled all four. “I told you!” Gilron said.
Shalai pulled out his bow, as did Pari, and pointed it at the bushes. Trace did the same. The bush, after a few moments, shook again.
“What do you suppose it is?” Was Gilron’s question.
Pari was the first to respond. “Maybe a black knight.”
Shalai contradicted him when he answered. “No, it is just an animal.”
“No it is not,” Was all Trace said. They all stood there watching as the bushes moved, none willing to shoot. “Who are you?”
“It is just an animal,” Shalai said.
Trace ignored the comment and walked a bit closer. He pointed his arrow right at it. “I said who are you! If you do not answer, I will be forced to shoot you!”
The bushes once again moved, but this time, opening up so Trace could see what was inside them.
“What is it?” Gilron asked. He feared what might be in them, but still wished to know.
Trace lowered his bow. Once he did, a small child popped up. Soon, all lowered their weapons. They all knew it to be a child, but it was certainly not human or Elvish.
For a long while, the four just stared at him, and he back at them. None moved until they heard a voice behind them.
“Drop your Weapons!” Was the command. They all did so before turning around to see who it was commanding them to do so.
Once they turned, they could clearly see that it was the child’s Father. Gilron was the first to speak.
“Are you not a Dwarf?” Was his question.
The creature pointed his sword straight at Gilron. “I am not a Dwarf! I am a Minutant!”
Each of the four looked back and fourth at each other, none knowing what he was talking about. “We are very sorry, but none of us knows what a Minutant is,” Gilron said.
Looking frustrated, the creature spoke. “A Minutant is a Dwarf. We just hate being called that. Now,” He said. “Who are you?”
Trace spoke up. “My name is Trace and these are my friends Shalai, Pari, and Gilron. We did not mean to point out weapons at your son.”
“Excuse me?” Trace asked.
“His name is Hullen. Mine is Burly.”
Trace listened, and when Burly was done talking, spoke. “Again, I am truly sorry, but we did not know. For all we knew, he could have been a black knight.”
Burly nodded his head in agreement. There had been many black knights in the area lately, most likely all looking for Trancy.
Trace, after hearing no response, explained himself more. “I beg your pardon Mr. Burly, but did you happen to see which way the black knights went?”
After thinking a moment or two, Burly answered. “No, I did not.” After a few moments of silence, he once again spoke. “Why, may I ask, are you in search of these black knights? There are but four of you. There is a great possibility you will die when you find them.”
Trance knew this to be true, as did the others, but still, he would not turn back. “We must find the black knights Mr. Burley. For in finding them, we may, in turn, find my sister who was stolen away from me by them.”
Burly, completely taken by surprise at this, noticed a slight resemblance between the young man and a young Elf he had met just yesterday. “What are you?”
Trace, though he thought the question odd, answered. “Shalai, Pari, and I are Elves. Gilron here, is a human.”
“You said your sister was taken and was being chased by the black knights,” Burly said. “What might her name me?”
“My sister?” asked Trace.
“Her name is Trancy Ilaya, daughter of Fragoo and Nary Ilaya.”
Burly’s eyes widened. So he was Trancy’s brother, the one she had spoken of. “Follow me,” was what Burly said.
The foursome, all curious, followed Burly and Hullen. They lead them through the woods, but not far. Soon, they found themselves at a small door, too small for any of them to enter without crouching down. Once they had entered, they found themselves in the midst of many Minutants.
Without any questions or hesitation, Trace followed. The others, however, were a little more reserved. They did not know why they followed, they just did.
After a short time, they all sat around a small table. Burly, Hullen, and two others sat around it as well. After introductions were made, Trace learned that the others were Burly’s wife Vinnie, and his daughter Lilan.
“Now,” said Burly. “You said your sister’s name was Trancy. Did you not?”
“Yes. I said that.”
“We have seen her. She stayed with us a day, but she left early this morning, before the sun had fully risen, and she headed through the cave to the bottom of Mount Kismet. My friend Grimond promised that she would return home safely.”
Trace nearly jumped out of his seat. Burly and his family had seen Trancy. “How do we get to this cave?”

Trancy and Grimond, after journeying half a day down the winding, narrow stairs, reached the bottom. By that time, the layer of fog had dispersed and things were as clear as day.
“How much longer till we reach the bottom of Mount Kismet Grimond?”
Grimond looked at her dumbfounded. “Did you think it would be such a short journey? First we must go further into the mountain, then, and only then, can we find our way out.”
Trancy did not understand. “Why should we go further into the mountain? Should we not find a shorter, easier Way?”
“There is no other way. I have traveled these mountains many times in my years, and believe me when I say that there is no other way to reach our destination.”
Trancy wished that it would be an easier trip, but if there was no other way, she could not argue. Grimond knew the mountains better than she, so who was she to argue? “How many days will it take to reach the bottom?”
“I do not know. I have only traveled into the center. From there on out, I do not know. I have never left the mountain, not ever.”
Trancy paused in her step. “Never? I thought you said-”
“I said what I mean. I know the way out, my Father told me, but I have never been there myself. No Minutant has. I simply do not know how long it will take to get there.”
Trancy began to walk again. Sure, she was a little mad. He had told her that he knew every bit out the mountain, and she had thought that meant he had been in all of it, but no, he had heard stories. Still, she would follow. She did not know a better way, and to turn around now was a foolhardy plan. No, she would continue.
“It is going to get really low in a few moments,” Grimond called out to Trancy. “Watch your head.”
Trancy did, and he was right, it did get low. Bending low to the ground, Trancy had trouble getting through the small opening, but once through, the cave opened up into one much bigger than the previous one. For that, she was thankful.
Knowing it would most likely be a long trip, Trancy prepared herself for the long walk ahead. She would be tired, she would be hungry, she would be miserable, but in the end, she would be home. She would be back in her village, where she belonged.

Trace wanted to leave immediately, so Vinnie packed each a small satchel of food and sent them on their way. Since Grimond, the one who knew the caves best, was already gone, Burly went with them. Though he did not know the caves as well, he knew them well enough to get them safely there.
When they were all ready, which was only a few hours after arriving at Theldore, the five left. It would be a long journey, and what they hoped to find might not be there when they found it, but they would go anyways. They had to, for Trancy.
They exited through the small door that Grimond and Trancy left through and went on their way. Trace knew that at the end of their journey, they would be tired, but when they all got back to the village, they could and would sleep to their heart’s content.
Trace then thought about the village. He had grown up in the village, grown up trying to find a way out, but now, now that he was out, all he wanted was to go back. He had fought so long, so hard, for a freedom that he no longer wanted. All he wanted was his home.
He then thought of his Father, Fragoo Ilaya. He had killed him for the freedom that he no longer wanted. The thought of it repulsed Trace. He did not know how he could have been so blind to the situation. They already had freedom, and they never once saw it. They were so busy trying to get out, that they never realized that out was not quite as good as in.
Moving along, not wanting to fall behind, Trace did not push the thoughts from his mind. Those thoughts, the thoughts of what he had done, would stay with him forever. He could not change that.
Without any warning whatsoever, thoughts of his Mother, Nary Ilaya, swept in. She would be disappointed in her son, her only son. He had failed her, he knew that. Though he knew the look of disappointment that would come from it, he wished to see his Mother’s face, even if only for a moment’s time.
If he could see her face, all would be better, but he could not. Still, he could see his Mother every time he looked at his twin sister Trancy. She resembled her so much, yet she was like her Father. She was the best of both, and just like he had done with both, he had let her down.
The promise that he had made her as a young child hung in his mind. He told her that no harm would come to her, that she would be safe, but he felt that he failed her. Harm had come to her. She had been shot in the shoulder with an arrow, and it was his fault. There was no denying that.
Pushing all the thoughts to the back of his mind, Trace walked on. They had not been walking for very long, but it felt as though they had been walking for days.
Looking around, Trace saw that the caves were beautiful. If he had not been in the situation he w as currently in, he would have taken the time to enjoy the beauty of them, but he could not. He would not let himself see the beauty in anything until Trancy was safely home. Not until she was back in the village.

When drinking water straight from a stream in a cave, on must be careful. Bacteria, bugs, and other things that should not be digested are in it. That however did not stop Trancy and Grimond from drinking it.
They had walked for a long time-exactly how long they did not know-but they had not come across water until now. They sat by it and drank like they had never seen water, or tasted water before. They drank heartily.
For nearly an hour, the twosome sat by the small stream. When they finally did leave, they headed through a small passageway in a rock formation in the rather large cave. That lead to a room-most likely carved out by the early Minutants-filled with treasures.
Trancy was curious about it all, but had been told not to touch it.
“Everything you see it cursed!” Grimond had told her upon entering the room. She did not by any means believe in curses, but did not touch it. She had no reason to.
The room seamed to stretch on forever. The walls were stone, but had small paintings and drawings on them. Trancy looked closely at each. The ceilings were tall-about twenty feet in height-and were smooth. Carving it would not have been easy.
Most of the “cursed” items in the room were gold, jeweled, or in some other way valuable. Each had some special significance, which Trancy did not know, but still, they were priceless to look at.
The door at the other end-most likely the place they were headed to-was large and curved at the top. On the interior of it, there were writings-ancient writings that no man could translate-that were faded in spots, but like new in others.
On the wall facing east, there hung a picture, a portrait of a Minutant from the looks. “Who is that?” Trancy asked.
“That is Foremont. He was the original Minutant in these parts.”
“Where are all the others?”
“Dead. They were all killed by the black knights. We, on the other hand, were safe because we hid in the mountain. We are the only surviving Minutants, the last of out kind.”
Trancy listened intently as he told the story of Foremont. She found it fascinating that he, his wife Chesta, and his three children, Prima and Gorsha, his daughters, and Frealdon, his son, were the original settlers of Mount Kismet. Foremont was the Father of all living Minutants.
After Grimond finished his story, the two continued through the door and on their journey. Grimond told her that soon, they would reach the Black Cave, a place where there was no light. He, however, knew of a small torch nearby, and lit in when they arrived.
There was a small fire, one that never burned out, by the entrance. That it how he lit the torch. Nobody knew how the flame kept, for there was nothing to burn but stone. Many thought that it was a magical flame, others thought that there was a flame keeper that lived deep in the cave. Neither could be confirmed, but still, neither denied as the truth. It was a mystery, and would forever stay that way.
There was, located near the exit, another flame, or so they were told, nobody knew for sure.
As they entered through the small doorway to the Black Cave, Trancy stayed close to Grimond. Though she saw nothing, she was still nervous. It was dark, damp, cold, and most of all, it was a strange place.
Trancy, though frightened, kept moving. They would be out in no time, and before she knew it, they would be back at the village, and she would see her family and friends again. That is what made her move.

It was almost an entire day later when Burly brought Trace, Shalai, Pari, and Gilron to the windy staircase. Burly went first, followed by Trace, then Shalai, and then Pari. Gilron, however, would not follow.
“I do not think this is a good idea.”
Trace, looking back, spoke up. “We must continue. If you do not wish to go down the stairs, you are free to turn back, but I do not intend to.”
Gilron, looking, once again, down the stairs, knew that he could not go back, at least not on his own. Knowing that he had to go on, Gilron took a step down the first stair. This, however, was not an easy task, considering the fact that he was afraid of heights.
Once they were past that obstacle, they kept heading down the narrow, winding stairs. Though the air was clear, and they could see down them for a while, the bottom could not be seen from the top. It was just not possible
They all new it would take a long time to get to the bottom, but none knew exactly how long. They just knew that it would take time, not a one questioned that.

When, after quite some time, Trancy and Grimond finally were able to exit the Dark Cave, they went into a much lighter room, one that had a small hole in the wall. From the hole, Trancy could see the bottom of the mountain, unfortunately, they were not even half way down.
Though that fact disappointed her, Trancy kept walking. She had come so far, and to go the other way meant more of a chance of running into the black knights, and she was not prepared to deal with that. No, she would keep going.
“You seem to be getting tired. Would you like to rest a while before continuing?” Grimond asked Trancy.
“Do you think we should continue?”
“Well,” Grimond said. “Just up ahead is a nice place to stop. We can rest there.”
“I suppose that will work just fine. I am a little tired.”
“Then we will stop,” Grimond told Trancy.
The two walked for a little while longer until they came to the place. There was another small stream, and a few rocks-less pointy than the ones she had been seeing-and most of all, a nice place to rest.
Grimond told her to sleep, and while she did that he would keep a lookout, in case anything should go wrong. Minutants, you see, did not need to sleep. They did, but it was not necessary. So, as he told her to, she slept, and slept well. It was a well-needed rest, and it served her well.
Upon waking up, she felt refreshed. After being there for nearly three hours, the two left and continued on their journey. It would be a while, but soon, they would be out of the caves and on their way to the village.

Gilron flinched as Shalai wrapped his ankle. In just the last few steps of the long staircase, he had fallen. Lucky for him, Vinnie had packed a few medical supplies. Shalai, after looking at it, determined that it was broken and felt the need to wrap it.
“Ouch! Try to be more gentle Shalai!” Gilron yelled.
“It needs to be wrapped up tight or the bandage will just fall off.”
“Well,” he replied. “You do not have to do it quite so tight. You seem to be cutting off the blood flow.”
“The blood flow is fine,” said Trace. “We need to keep moving. Who knows how far ahead of us they are. We can not waist more time.”
Gilron got up, and with the help of Shalai and Pari, was able to walk. Burly, still leading the group, was getting hungry and demanded they stop to eat. Trace, however, refused to stop. “Once we have made it further,” he told Burly. “Then, and only then, will we stop to eat, no sooner.”
Burly, though not happy, knew that Trace was right and kept walking. They would wait and eat later in their journey. There was not much food, and they had a long journey ahead of them. The longer they could make their food last, the better off they would all be in the end.
Continuing down the long path, they came upon a small stream. All five stopped and ate there. They also drank. The water, though not what they would ordinarily drink, any of them, would suffice for the time being. It would put water in them, and that is what they needed.
Once sitting down on the small rock, Pari removed the small wooden ring from his shirt pocket. He remembered it so well. It was carved out of oak, the oak tree that Trace would always sit by. It was a special tree.
He ha spent many hours of tedious work on the ring, and in the end, it paid off. Trancy had liked it and that was his intention. When he had given it to her, back when he swore she was the girl for him, it had meant something, but now it meant something different. It was a sign of hope and friendship. Friendship because he and Trancy would always be friends, not matter what, and hope because Trace had found it in the window of the small stone cell she had been in and escaped from. It was hope to him because he knew that he would find her; he knew it in his heart.
Dropping it back into the pocket on the front of his dirty blue shirt, he grabbed on more drink from the stream before he, along with the five others, continued their journey.

Vinnie knew that her husband would be fine, but she still felt uneasy about him being gone fore so long. He had never been away over-night, and there it was, night, and he was not with her.
Knowing that he did not know the caves as well as others did not help her to feel at ease at all. Sure, he had been in them, but not that far from their home in the mountain. He had never been to the bottom of the mountain, and she worried. If something should happen, they might never be found. Many smaller caves, passageways, and tunnels went off the main way. If they had gotten lost nobody would ever know.
Not only did she worry, but so did Hullen and Lilan. Though she told them over and over that he would be okay, they were not easily tricked and knew that things might not go as well as they wanted.
Anger then came over her, but soon passed, yet while it was there, she could not help but think. He had two children at home. He did not need to be journeying through the mountains with such small children. Still, certain things had to be done. Trace needed him. Trancy, who had been with them only hours before, was in there, and they needed to find her. It was something that had to be done.
Settling back in her chair, she contented her heart with the thought that he was with three Elves, masters of the bow, and a human, warrior by nature. If nothing else, he had protection. He would be safe. Of that, she was sure.

The five seemed to move slower. That, however, is not a big surprise considering Gilron’s broken ankle.
After leaving the stream, they continued on to a large room, a large room filled with gold. Pair, knowing it would be worth a fortune should they sell it, bent down to grab a large golden vase, but was quickly stopped.
“Do you not know the tales of the cursed treasure?” Burly asked. “If you touch anything, there will be a curse, greater than any other curse, laid upon us all. We will forever walk the caves, never getting out, and never dying.”
“You do not believe in that do you?” Pari asked.
Burly, moving close to Pari said, “This tale is not just hearsay. It is a fact. If anything is touched, or worse, taken, we will never find Trancy. We will be stuck, in these caves, forever. Do you want that?”
“Then we keep moving.”
Pari, though he did not believe in curses, thought it better to listen than to be unexpectedly cursed. He quickly stood up and stepped away. It was then that the five continued their journey through the room.
None asked any more questions, they simply looked around. It was a fascinating room, unlike any of them had ever seen. It was definitely the biggest room Trace had ever seen, even bigger than Neron’s throne room.
Though it was long, narrow, and all together big, they passed through it quickly. Burly wanted to get out of it quickly. He feared one of the four touching an item that would forever curse them, so they walked quickly.

The caves in Mount Kismet were cold, dark, and damp. The dwellers of the cave-the Minutants-grew accustom to it, but never truly loved it, for how could one love a place of cold stone?
There was nary grass, nor flowers, nor trees in these caves, except for the Tree of Sorrow. It was planted by Foremont, the original Minutant to live amongst the rocks. He planted it in honor of his family, Chesta, Prima, Gorsha, and Frealdon. It was planted as a symbol of the journey made.
The tree was large, but then it was over one thousand years old. It stood the tests of time, never withering. It grew with little water, and almost no sunlight. Without those, most trees would die, but not the Tree of Sorrow. It stood for all who had made the journey to find it.
It was named the Tree of Sorrow because it was in sorrow that they planted it. It was in sorrow that Foremont and his family found that spot. It was in sorrow that they fled to Mount Kismet, hiding forever from the evil that lived outside it. It was in sorrow that the tree came to be.
It was also by the Tree of Sorrow that Trancy and Grimond sat. Three days had their journey lasted, and still, they were not anywhere near exiting the caves of Mount Kismet.
In that time, Trancy and Grimond became close. They learned much about each other, and Trancy began to think of Grimond, who was only eight years older than her, as an older brother. Though for the two to be brother and sister would be impossible. He was a Minutant and she was a Elf. It would simply never happen.
Still, she liked to think of the possibility. Grimond was kind, offering to stop whenever he noticed she was getting tired, and letting her take the first drinks from the streams in the caves-most likely all springs that flowed from beneath the surface and kept going down the mountain.
As the two sat by the tree, Grimond told her the story of Foremont and the tree. Trancy loved to hear it, for Grimond was an excellent story-teller.
“So why did they plant the tree Grimond?” Trancy asked.
“Well,” replied Grimond. “They planted it as a sign of hope. It was a sign of hope for all who came that path, this path, and felt the sorrow of it.”
“The sorrow of it?”
“The path is a long one, a hard one. It is one that most would not take unless they were forced. The sorrow of the journey. When this path is traveled, as you may know, tiredness comes, hunger comes, thirst comes, and one thinks that they might never get out. That is what I meant by ‘The sorrow of it’.”
“Oh. I see,” Trancy told him, still curious about many aspects of the story.
She had questions, but they would have to wait. Grimond was ready to go, therefore, they would once again walk in silence. They did that. They never talked unless that were resting. Neither knew why, it had just happened that way. When they walked, both thought, but of completely different things. Grimond thought of the feast that would be prepared in his honor once he returned from the dangerous journey, and Trancy thought of Trace. How she missed him.
Every day that she did not see Trace, reminded her of the tie before the war. The time when she thought he was dead. The thought pained her. She could not think that way. He was not dead. Of that, she was sure. If he was, she would be aware of it. She knew that.
As she and Grimond quietly walked along, she thought of what Trace might, at that very second, be doing. She wondered: was he out looking for her? Most likely, he was. She had rubbed the charm, and that was sure to bring her help.
Knowing that she was over-thinking things, she pushed the thoughts away and continued to follow Grimond. In no time at all, they would be back in the forest, and not to long after that, she would be home, in the small Elf village with he family and friends, and she would be there to stay.

With the Black Cave behind them, Burly, Trace, Shalai, Pari, and Gilron continued on their journey to find Trancy. It had been hard to get through the Black Cave. They had no light, the torch obviously taken by Grimond and Trancy, but they made it through safely, and in no time at all.
Seeing sunlight made them feel, once again, at ease, but al darkness does make one feel saddened, and looking out and seeing that they were only about half way down did so too.
Gilron, though he did care about rescuing Trancy and getting her safely back to her home, was all about the adventure. He thought day and night about the storied that he would one day tell. It thrilled him.
He would tell about the Elf girl that was stolen away from her family, and how he, along with several others, rescued her, if in fact that is how it should end. He would tell them how, even with a broken ankle, he traveled through the most inner parts of Mount Kismet. He would tell them how he, Gilron Montoya, was a hero. The thought of it send an electric-like pulse that swept through his body like a current. The thought of it excited him
Though it would be a long time before the story would be known by all, Gilron knew that one day, it would be told to sleepy children by their parents and grandparents. It would be a story that all would know and love to hear. He would be well-known and respected by all. He would be a hero.

Trancy breathed in the fresh air. She took in the sunlight. She and Grimond had finally reached the bottom of Mount Kismet, and they had made it out. She was standing, looking straight at the mountain she had been trapped in for almost a week.
They had traveled to the innermost parts and back out. They had traveled from top to bottom, and were now headed to the small Elf village.
“I can not believe we made it,” Trancy said as she looked up at the bright, cheery sun that hung overhead.
“Only one other time have I seen the sun. It is beautiful. Do you not agree?”
“I do agree. From where I live, one can see it shinning through the trees above, but only a few times have I seen its beauty shine so bright, but it may just be that we were in the mountain for so long that it seems brighter to us.”
Both stood looking at the sky for quite some time, neither moving until Trancy mentioned how much she missed her home. It was then that they went on their way.

It was almost three days later that the five emerged from the mountain. They were tires, sore, and hungry, but they never gave up, and finally, after nearly a week of being in the mountain, they got out and breathed the fresh air of freedom. It was a good thing to breathe in.
Though they were out and could now relax, they did not. They kept moving. In no time, they would be back, and if Trancy had not yet retuned, they would head back out in search of her. They would do so until she was found.
Trace, missing his sister, reached for the charm around his neck. He would not rub it, he had no reason to, but he would look into its beauty. It was Trancy’s, the only thing of hers he had, and it was precious to him. She was precious to him, more so than anything else in the world.
As they all continued into the forest at the base of Mount Kismet, they left something behind-all except Burly, who would return to the mountain soon. They left behind the feeling of loneliness and sadness. They had left it behind in the caves, determined not to let it overtake them. They had given up on sorrow, and would not return to it, no matter the cause.
As they continued, the three Elves thought of two things: home and Trancy. Gilron thought of Trancy, but he also thought of the heroism. He thought of the praise he would get, and it served him well. Burly thought of his family. He misses Vinnie, Hullen, and Lilan more than he ever thought he would, and he knew that he would miss them dearly. He missed them almost as much as Trace missed Trancy.
The longing to see his sister made him almost emotionless and silent. He thought constantly of her, and when he was not thinking of her, his mind was on his Mother or Father. He never thought of anything other than those things before mentioned. There was nothing else to think of.

Though she had ridden through Halven on her way to Mount Kismet, the trauma of it all left that part of her life a blur. She could not remember a thing, and it scared her. Halven scared her.
She had heard rumors, storied about that place, and from what she was told, it did not seem like the place for a homesick Elf girl to be. It seemed the place for drunken thieves to live without being caught. It was not the place for her, she knew that well. It was for that reason that she begged Grimond to go around.
“It could take a few more days. By going on around, you will not get to go home fore a few more days, nor I.”
Trancy was okay with it. The though of going through Halven was not one she wanted to dwell on, and when Grimond had told her that they could, she quickly agreed. So, go around they did.

Upon entering the forest, her forest, the one that would lead to her home, Trancy grew excited. Soon, very soon, she would see her Father, and she would see Trace. It would be a wonderful celebratory time for all who played a part in her journey that would soon come to an end.
Looking up at the sky, she remembered how she use to look up at it, through the trees. Though the trees blocked most of the view, she was alright with that. It kept the forest cool on normally hot days and nights, and it kept the forest warm on those cold winter days and nights. It was a nice thing to have.
Knowing that home was just ahead, she and Grimond sped up. She wanted to see everyone, and she knew that they would be overjoyed to see her.
Looking down at her hand, Trancy notice the wooden ring was not in place. For a few moments she thought about where it could be before remembering that she had placed it in the window back in her cell on Mount Kismet. Though she and Pari had had an argument, and though she did not feel the same way about him as she use to, she missed it. It was still a gift from a friend, and she wanted it back.
Lowering her hand, she sighed. She would never again go to Mount Kismet, therefore, the ring would be lost forever, and she was content with that. It did mean a lot to her, but there was no use whatsoever crying over it. It was gone, nothing could be done to change that fact.
As Trancy and Grimond walked, she started to recognize a few familiar landmarks. She would be home before no time. That made her feel excited inside. Soon, she would be home fore good. Nobody could change that.
Knowing that home would soon be in her sights, Trancy contented to a slower pace, not wanting to tire before reaching her destination.

Trace knew Halven was just ahead, he could hear the shouts, smell the undeniable smells, and taste the alcohol that was in the air. The city was not a pleasant one, but they would go through it.
Gilron, though he could stay back in the city he had grown up in, decided not to. He would continue with the other four until Trancy was found.
Trace did not know if Trancy was in the village. She and Grimond could have taken a wrong turn and still be stuck in the caves of Mount Kismet, but before they checked every single one, possibly getting lost forever in them, they would return home, and, if nothing else, they would get more food and they would get horses.
Still, Trace hoped beyond hope that she had made it home, to the small village, safely. If so, there was a good chance that they would never leave the safety of it again. They would very likely stay in the village forever, not caring about the outside world one little bit.
In the distant, he could see Halven peering over the hill. They would soon be there, and, with the village not to far from that place, they would be home in not time at all. That excited Trace more that words could describe.

Trancy barely had a moment to breathe. She did not even know half the people who gave her hugs, but that did not matter. She was home. She was safe.
Seeing Mrs. Mann coming her way, she called out to her. “Where is Trace? Are they still in the great battle?”
Looking up at her, the older woman answered her questions. “He went out looking for you. He took Shalai with him. Pari came back from battle a few days after and he, along with his men, set out as well. All of them headed in the direction of Halven, and we have not seen nor heard from them since.”
“How long have they been gone?”
“Trace and Shalai left for you the day after you had been taken, and Pari and his men just a few days after that.”
Trancy let out a small sigh. Trace was still out there. He was looking for her and she was safe, back in the village. She could not help but feel sadness, but did not express it. She simply asked another question. “Where is my Father.”
“He and many men did not return from battle. That, however, does not mean anything other than they are still in battle. Not a one of us knows if it is still going on or not. We have not gotten word yet. Trancy,” she said in a reassuring way. “He could be alive.”
Trancy knew that. Last time she saw him, he was alive. He was challenging Neron and Trace was between them. Trace, however would not kill his Father. No matter how much Neron had gotten to him, he was still the Trace she knew. He would never hurt his Father, nor anyone else he loved. He could not, for he was not like that. That was not Trace.
Heading inside, Trancy intended to prepare a small meal for her and Grimond. The next day, Grimond would set out for home, but tonight, he would eat and sleep, nothing more.
Setting to work, she prepared a small pot of potato stew, which Grimond loves, contrary to what he thought at first. They ate the whole thing, almost never speaking,. Then both went to sleep. Trancy was exhausted and fell asleep immediately. Grimond on the other hand, thought of his family until sleep caught him. Then, and only then, did he find a peaceful sleep.

“Goodbye Grimond, and thank you, for everything,” Trancy said as Grimond prepared to leave for home.
“It was my pleasure Miss Trancy, but I do not wish to do it again, so no more getting captured by black knights you hear?”
Trancy laughed a little at that. She was going to miss Grimond. She was going to miss all the Minutants. Still, she was quite happy staying in the village for the rest of her days on earth. She not, had not reason to leave, unless Trace was in trouble, but she somehow doubted it.

Trace, looking up, could see the small village ahead. He was almost home. Though it was not clear, he could see many Elves in the town.
Hoping one was Trancy, he pulled out the charm. After holding it tightly in his hands for a few moments, he released it, and the brightness of the light that emanated from it was magnificent. Surely Trancy would see it.

Trancy, suddenly overtaken by the brightness of the light looked up. It was her charm, and Trace was holding it. No other seemed to be bothered by the brightness of the light, but then, her Father had told her that it would be a help to both her and Trace, no other.
As Trace neared, Trancy ran to him. They embraced in a hug so strong that no other person there could break it. Trace was finally back with his sister and she with him. It was a wonderful day.
“I am so very sorry Trancy,” Trace said as he looked into his sister’s face. “I promised that nothing would ever happen to you, and it did. For that, I am terribly sorry.”
Once again, looking at his sister, he felt how wonderful it was to be home again. This was the place he had fought to be free from, and was not coming back to. It was his home, and it would always be.

After returning home, Trace had to break the terrible news to Trancy that their Father was dead. It killed Trancy, but not literally. They had a large gathering to mourn over Fragoo Ilaya, but it did not last long. He would not have wanted them to grieve about him forever as he had done with his loving wife Nary. He would want them to move on, so they did.
Burly and Grimond made their journey back to Theldore, but not without a stop. As it turns out, Minutants like Halven. The two stayed there for almost three days before heading their, now drunk, bodies home.
Pari never married. His Mother became quite ill not to long after that and he was forced to take care of her for almost thirty more years. When she died, he was to old to marry, so he did not.
Trancy and Trace never did leave the forest again. They did stray from their village, but never for long. It was there home, no matter what any other would say.
Trancy, many years later, married Shalai, making her name Trancy Ilaya Mann. They had six children: Feredlon, their eldest son, Greanda, their eldest daughter, Horron, their next daughter, Grimond and Burly, the twins, and Fragoo, named after her Father who had died in war to save his son.
Trace married an Elf by the name of Jezibella Treak, and they had four children: Grissel, their eldest son, Gorshani, their next son, Vera, their eldest daughter, and Bethany, named after the little girl who Trace had helped rescue long ago.
Trace did not know it, but Jezibella was already expecting another who she hoped to name Nary, after his Mother that he had lost as a young child.
Now, I know this story is not a normal one. It may seem strange, and you may not believe it, but let me tell you, it is true. The story of Trace and Trancy has been told for ages, and I know it is true. How, you might ask?
My great-great-great Grandfather was there. His name was Gilron Montoya, and he was a hero. He was one of the men who rescued Trancy Ilaya, now Trancy Ilaya Mann, and he was the one who told the story.
This story, though not an ordinary one, should never die. It is a great story of heroism, and romance, and everything a story should be. The story of Trace and Trancy is one that should never be forgotten. It should be told to men and women and children everywhere.
My Father once told me, “A great story must be kept alive, and the mystery of it, never exposed.” He was right, and I hope one day, that I might go on an exciting adventure just as the great Gilron Montoya did. I hope that one day, my story will be told everywhere.
I know that the story of Trace and Trancy will never die, for great stories never do. It will live on forever, being told to all, and it will become a legend, one that will be told for ages to come.
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